In my 14yrs career as a matatu driver, I have met and served hundreds of Thousands people from all walks of life. In my simple public service job, I serve on average, 200 people a day; inside my 14 seater van for the 8 return trips I make from Rongai to Nairobi. I am not alone; there are hundreds of drivers in my route others who drive even larger capacity vehicles. It is estimated that 40.000 Matatus serve Nairobi and its environs on daily basis and casually employs over 100.000 workers. This are among the mostly overworked and underpaid workers in this country.

As a blogger for the last four years; I’ve used this platform to advocate for better working conditions and improved wages while at the same time exposing corruption. In my campaign, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with persons I would have otherwise believed to be far above my league. Although matatu drivers are not locally recognized or even considered as important players in the transport sector, International organizations like UNEP-ITF and ILO, vehicle manufacturers, writers, Policy makers, researchers, film makers and journalists from across the globe and also students {Social cultural Anthropology and Urban Planning} from united States of America and England’s universities recognize our importance and seek our opinions when writing reports and/ or thesis.

It is through the eyes of this scholars that I have looked at our transport system especially passengers transport and seen the vacuums that needs filling. It is a sad reality that most workers after serving in this informal sector for tens of years ends up living in poverty. Poverty does exist:- and as a famous scholar would put it; It is a physical matter , those afflicted have such limited and insufficient food, poor clothing, live in crowded, cold and probably dirty shelters. This is the situation with most matatu workers; although there is quite a significant number that manage to escape poverty, majorities are caught in this web and suffer greatly for it.

Matatu workers are not poor because they are lazy or don’t have jobs to keep them occupied. People are poverty stricken when their income even if adequate for survival fails radically behind that of the community; when they cannot have what is regarded as minimum necessary for decency. Poor wages and long working hours affect most workers both financially and socially. They spend more hours away from their families leaving the responsibility of bring up children in the hands of women. After working for years, they find that they cannot adequately provide good education, sufficient food for their families, decent clothes, and better shelters. Negative media publicity and punitive laws shows how the community including states agencies regards them. The judgment of the larger community is that they are indecent and must be condemned.

Since Matatu industry in Kenya is a sub-sector of our economy that significantly influences the day to day lifestyles of the populace, ignoring such a huge population can be detrimental. Indeed, documented evidence indicates that 80% of Kenyan population utilizes this mode of transport daily. This industry is a major player in our economy and has a significant bearing in our social life. Although it is supposed to be a source of livelihood for many, it has failed to provide adequately for those already employed in the sector.

Dr. Jackie Kropp: center for sustainable urban development; Earth Institute Columbia University. Is a friend of the matatu industry and one of the people who have inspired me in my campaign for improved standard for matatu workers. Our first meeting was at Bishop Garden Towers Nairobi; the Head office of Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis ;{KIPPRA} during a forum on smart sustainable transport for Nairobi. We’ve met several times on different platforms including one at UNEP headquarters in Gigiri for Kenya civil Society Partnership Forum.  She is involved in various projects in Nairobi including the Digital matatu Route—

In one of her reports on our public transport system; She attempt to explain why the policy dialogue around paratransit in Nairobi tends to be so limited, often confined to attempts at punitive paratransit regulations without sufficient or convincing information on costs and impacts- and most often without any success in implementation.

Paratransit has become the backbone of public transit in Many African Countries. “Massive urbanization in places like Nairobi and the failure and sometimes even sabotage of formal bus and train services has propelled paratransit to be the dominant mode of public transport besides walking. Over the years, despite the entrepreneurial energy, flexibility and importance of paratransit operations, concern over congestion, crashes, violence and poor conditions of workers in the sector has grown alongside with the expansion of the paratransit system.”

Dr. Jackie Kropp is on the opinion that; A need persist to systematically address five key factors within the current system around paratransit:

1) Entrenched cartels with links to politicians and civil servants that make money off poor regulation and institutional weakness

2) Institutional fragmentation in the transport sector, both in the government at both levels and among operators, which enables this poor regulation and creates avoidance of responsibility for the system

3) The profound need for a drastic overhaul of the traffic police and implementation of the Public Officers Ethics Act (2009) within regulatory and enforcement bodies

4) The historical predominance of policy biases in favor of auto-mobility which leads to the neglect of paratransit in infrastructural development

5) Poor collection of basic data by government and operators; (related to the lack of interest by powerful parties in regulation) which might be addressed in part by the use of new technology to collect data from below.

Jennifer Graeff; a Project Coordinator; also from Center for Sustainable Urban Development – Earth Institute Columbia University, In her report; – The Organization and Future of the Matatu Industry in Nairobi, Kenya.; compares matatu industry in Nairobi to other African countries.

“In African cities, the paratransit industry is generally described as dangerous, profit driven, environmentally unfriendly but also necessary to be mobile and to maintain a daily routine of going to work, to school or to market.

For Nairobi to successfully come out of the chaotic matatu madness there is need to analyzing the informal paratransit mode by understanding the specific networks within the matatu industry, avenues to reform and strategies for bringing key industry stakeholders into a policy network advocating for a reformed system.”

We have ignored a very vital ingredient; that of recognizing potential pitfalls and engaging with key stakeholder including workers. This; can help foster transport policies, networks and an overall framework that can leverage the matatu industry into being integrated into a larger public transit system.

I personally wish and hope to see a more organized transport industry that meets the customer’s needs as well as minding the welfare of the workers. We the workers who operate the actual business of transporting people have no objection to positive reforms.  We all want what is best for Kenya.

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Posted by on December 1, 2014 in Matatu matters


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Being a Matatu Driver In Nairobi: An Interview with James Kariuki

Originally posted on Nairobi Planning Innovations:

Nairobi Planning innovations had a chance to interview the experienced matatu driver James Kariuki who is also an avid blogger on matatu industry issues and the need for reform (See his blog at James is also a writer, an actor and a father who has been profiled as ‘the reluctant outlaw” by Al Jazeera. We asked him a few questions to get his views from inside the matatu industry.

imagesNPI: How did you start in the matatu industry?

After dropping out of school in form 2 in the year 1992, I stayed at home for about two years. I later joined my mum at her food kiosk in Nairobi’s industry-area. This is how I interacted with matatus on a daily basis and I fell in love with the way the business was conducted. Around 1993, I became a conductor for a family van that used to…

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Posted by on October 17, 2014 in Matatu matters


Our persistence is proof that we have not been defeated.

Working in the public sector for the number of years that I have served in the Matatu industry has taught me very hard life’s lessons that I’m sure would have earn me a certificate in an institute of learning. I have talked about gross violation of almost everything about our job. Extortion; detentions; long working hours; low wages; Violence and myriads of other problems faced by operators of this very important public transport industry.
Since complaining is not the only thing I do in my service to my country, I joined other like minded persons from different counties for a three days seminar sponsored by the International transport federation ITF/FNV EAST AFRICA NORTHERN CORRIDOR STRATEGIC CAMPAIGN SKILLS SUB REGION SEMINAR. It was a great experience and quite encouraging even imagining that matatu workers are recognized and qualified to enjoy benefits enjoyed by drivers all over the world.


The matatu fraternity which was represented by two independent unions benefited with a lot of attention from all the participants including top-level ITF officials who contributed ideas and possible partnership in resolving some of the issues and also advice on the best approach and possible tactics for addressing them.

The seminar helped to bring together different players in the transport sector in Kenya, {including Kenya LONG DISTANCE TRUCK DRIVERS AND ALLIED WORKERS UNION {KLDTDAWU}- MATATU WORKERS UNION- PUBLIC TRANSPORT OPERATORS UNION {PUTON}- AND TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION.{TWU}. It served as a catalyst for the formation of new network and partnership arrangements among the participating organizations for effective collaboration and support.

The matatu industry is probably the largest informal sector in this country; employing thousands of workers; sadly; with very little systematic management for employees affairs. The introduction of matatu Sacco’s was seen as pointer to the right direction in terms of, creating some form of employment/ job security for matatu workers but the results tell a different story.
Individual Worker’s hardheadedness, gangs and cartels controlling different routes and also corruption by higher authorities has been the biggest hindrance to bringing meaningful and beneficial reforms in this sector. Workers in this industry have had to put up, and for a very long time! Accept harsh working conditions and exploitation, in return, the industry has become a reserve for a special character of players; THE RELACTANT OUTLAWS.
Unlike other workers in the wider transport industry anywhere in this country, matatu workers have never, at any time in the past been unionized or represented by workers unions like COTU and others. The absence of shop stewards and other relevant officers to campaign for workers rights and privileges; has also opened avenues for gross violations of labor laws.
The seminar was aimed at equipping transport workers unions with skills and strategies on how to approach various issues and the right tactics including campaign materials. Under the stewardship of international federations like the ITF; matatu workers will soon see strong unions coming up to campaign for better working conditions, better pay, reduced working hours, paid leaves etc etc. Public transport operators Union. {PUTON}; has already started recruiting matatu workers to the union and has opened the way for other matatu workers based organizations and other civil society groups to follow.
The biggest challenge that these matatu workers unions with have to overcome is convincing their members that they indeed have a right to what pertains to their working environment and deserve better than what they are getting. For many years, matatu industry has been viewed by the majority as the black sheep and has enjoyed a lot of media attention although most of it negative.
With an estimated 30.000 Matatus that server Nairobi and its environs every single day, we can approximately put the number of workers; “drivers and conductors” at around 100.000 for the capital city alone. The number can rise to up to 300k if we include stage workers/ managers/ mechanics/ call boys and loaders. To win such a large following, Workers Unions need to work closely with the government, private sector and the media in carrying out civic education.
Currently there are no defined structure/ mechanism to communicate with workers across the country. We will need to develop and implement a joint user awareness program for members to work with and engage with other members from every part of the country to sensitize and educate them on issues and benefits of trade unions. For a sustainable urban mobility, we need a defined job description for public service vehicles drivers. We need to remove the name informal and create permanent jobs for these very important drivers of our economy. It’s time for Kenyans to work together and bring the change they want to see in the public transport sector.


Posted by on October 7, 2014 in Its life, Matatu matters


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It’s a new dawn for matatu workers.

I have heard people talk of the  GOOD OLD DAYS when things were different and presumed  better. That cannot be said about the matatu industry. There is nothing good about them days that we drivers would wish to look back to. It’s a reality that Change has come and with a lot of adjustments too; which we are happy to embrace. This is the best time to be a matatu driver. For most of us who are probably out of the game, we can only wish that these changes had happened much earlier. So much has changed for the better- overloading – over speeding- gangs- cartels- abusive language- untidiness- drunk driving- the list is endless; but all this is now water under the bridge. Anyone joining the matatu industry today especially as a driver can be proud to say he/ she is going to work.

It is quite amazing to see the number of women investors who have come on-board in this sector; we can say it is at an all time high- more women have become our new bosses and this should be an indication that the passenger transport sector is heading in the right direction. Barely ten years ago- this was not the case. matatu investment was a reserve for men and mostly the risk takers. Systematic managements by sacco’s and transport management companies have transformed the industry for the better. it is not very correct to refer the entire matatu industry as informal anymore; what we are seeing today is different- Drivers are hired/ Employed on permanent/ contract basis- given medical insurance cover- pension contribution- leave- and other benefits that most of us could never have imagined. the government has done a great job in securing jobs by forcing the matatu owners to take care of their workers.

Corruption has refused to let matatu industry be, and it is sad that some of these gains might be short lived. The National Transport and safety Authority has done a recommendable job in creating an environment that should secure employment for matatu workers; but some officers at the headquarters are colluding with corrupt sacco officials and helping them get licenses without  showing prove of employing the workers. I was interviewing the chairman of one of our Sacco in Kajiado north about the new regulations and he was not a happy man- he accused NTSA officials of engaging in corrupt deals where newly registered transport management companies that don’t even have the minimum 30 vehicles are allowed to operate and also poach already registered matatus from the other Sacco. according to the set rules,- Any vehicle that wishes to change route or join another Sacco must obtain a letter of recommendation from the current Sacco/ company and present it to the NTSA office at TIMES TOWER before it is given a license to operate under a different name. This is where corrupt officials are coming in and helping indebted vehicle owners to escape paying fee owed to these Sacco’s.

The introduction of cashless fare system is a good gesture but whose time is not yet. According to the National transport and safety Authority It was supposed to have started in July this year but it didn’t have the backing of majority. The idea was noble but the timing was not right as it was seen by many as a dubious way of helping some manufacturers get an edge in the matatu billions. Many in the sector and also a great number of users {passengers} had not been educated on how the system works and many felt that it was a violation of their privacy. The rates that the gadgets providers were charging was also on the higher side- for instance BEBAPAY were charging 5% per transaction. that is to say; a bus carrying 50 passengers for one hundred shilling per person would have a gross income of 5000 ksh- the cashless agent would take 250 shillings for that one trip; if the bus was to make five such trips, the agent would make a cool 1250ksh from one bus. Our Sacco has 60 vehicles; so, you can imagine the amount of money vehicle owners will be forced to pay to these companies in the disguise of fighting corruption. This idea as noble as we may be persuaded to believe is any obstacle and unnecessary burden.  Since corruption is in the traffic department of the police, we matatu operators should not be forced to go cashless in order not to bribe police officers.

We cannot say that we are in Canaan just yet but at least we have left Egypt. The conditions of employment are better, we have medical cover, pension- and for the first time ever,- a pay slip. Some of us have been employed in the management based not on our academic qualifications but proven experience.




Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Its life, Matatu matters


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what is the way forward for the matatu industry?


During the recent UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENTAL ASSEMBLY {UNEA} held at UNEP HQs in Gigiri Nairobi; which I must add} was attended by his Excellency president Uhuru Kenyatta and UN secretary general his Excellency Ban kin moon,} I was honored to be part of what was going on. A Non Governmental Organization called SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT AFRICA had put a matatu in their stand and visitors and delegates from across the globe had an opportunity to ‘’STEP INTO THE MATATU’’ and watch a 25 minute documentary by Aljazeera on the life and times of this matatu driver.

This was the first time I was coming face to face with the upper class; {people who very rarely use or may have never used a matatu in their life although they live in Kenya.} Majority were local and foreign expatriates who came for the Assembly; although they may be working or studying in the country.

I had the opportunity to interview some of them on camera and also gave them the opportunity to share by way of writing their thoughts on public transport in Kenya; on the freshly painted 14 seater Matatu’s body.

By the time the exhibition was over, I had corrected over 50 signatures and hundreds of views from those who graced our stand{ although I could not read some comments as they were written in Arabic, Italian, Germany and Dutch among our languages.]
Here are some of the comments and my take on the issues raised.


Use bike and cars that use less fuel. This came from a non Kenyan- it is a positive pointer toward encouraging use of Non Motorized Transport {NMT} and a very economical view too. The problem with Kenyan roads and especially Kenyan Drivers is failure to observer, implement and understand the rights of pedestrians and other non-motorized road users.
A bike rider is more at risk than a passenger in a matatu. On using cars that use less gas, that’s for the matatu investors to make the switch and increase on the profits.

Bring Eco-friendly Matatus.The industry itself is still informal; we are still strangling to learn how to organize ourselves into groups, companies and Sacco’s. This will become an option when the government declares war on black carbon emissions and pass laws to caution the same.

Bring better conditions in Matatus. This I can promise you, we are working on; the Sacco’s and management companies are all geared to bring order and structural management in passengers transport including comfort.

We need to ensure we do not leave our youth jobless in the process.This comment was one of the few positive one’s. This came from a Kenyan who knows that change always comes with lots of adjustments. As we push for change in the matatu industry, we should also bear in mind that the industry is the major employer of mostly those who have no credible academic qualifications. The industry should be given time to evolve and for the workers to adjust gradually.

Stop the madness on our roads.Matatu madness has been with us and it has refused to go no matter how many laws we pass in parliament. The problem has to do with individuals who for one reason or the other, decides to ignore traffic regulations and lack of proper training. Corruption has played a very big role in fueling the so called madness by allowing dangerous drivers on the road despite accidents records and convictions.


Reduce Radio volume.I agree with this comment and a know 80% of passengers would want to see the volumes governed. Matatu workers, especially the souped-up manyangas can be even health hazardous to be honest. Sacco’s and management companies must do something or else the government can enforce the existing law barring load music in public service vehicles.

Please work For the earth; from the heart and for no heat.An Australian advice: clearly stated. We should really be concerned and work hard to make mother earth a better place; we must do this from our hearts; come up with ways to reduce heat/ global warming.

Please matatu drivers and conductors respect other road users; the road does not belong to you.I don’t know if this was a request or a reminder, but this writer [a female Nairobi motorist] must have seen enough madness and arrogance from matatu drivers and only wish that matatu workers could at least show respect to other road users.

POLICE to stop taking bribes and enforce order.Corruption is to blame for the slow progress in the transport sector’s advancement and in obedience to traffic rules and regulations by matatu drivers. It is not surprising to see a conductor asking passengers in a fully loaded 33 seater matatu for loose change to give to a police officer. If the police did their job and prosecuted the guilty, we can hope the magistrate would punish them by application of the law. If only the fines were realistic. Setting high fines encourages corruption; lets punish drivers by withdrawing their licenses.

Avoid over speeding.Point noted! Although I would like to add that; Matatus don’t normally over speed since they all have speed limiters/ governors, what they do is drive carelessly / dangerously within the permitted speed..

If you change everything but not your attitude, it will be all in vain. Change your attitude.This is meant to reach all the stakeholders, government, operators and passengers; if we- all- have positive attitude and willingness to bring the change we want, nothing will stop us. But as long as we have the same attitude we have had all along, all efforts will be in vain.

Take hygiene matters seriously, especially makangas and reduce rudeness.The idea of introducing informs for matatu workers and dustbin in all public service vehicles was designed to address hygiene in mass transportation but unfortunately it did not achieve the desired goal. Personal hygiene should come from individuals and saccos and management companies should ensure tidiness in their vehicles. Workers should also be given some training on public relations to enhance interactions between providers and users.
The use of moneyless payment.(from 1st July 2014)is a violation of my private data. personal opinion/ concern. i don’t have the facts so, no comment.

The matatus should be safe, should be taken for service like any other car to avoid emissions which affect even the ones walking. Sound maintenance of motor vehicle should be insisted and inspections conducted after six months instead of annually. Any vehicle that emits more that the allowed level should be grounded and registration number retained by the police until the vehicle is repaired and certified by the relevant body.

Clean, neat, good uniformed matatu touts; No torn clothes, No bad language. Matatu touts are constantly pointed for untidiness. They seem to care less about their public appearance and also belittle their uniforms. You can find a makanga wearing two pairs of clothing’s- a neat civilian cloth set and a dirty maroon uniform on top. This is a tell sign that the wearer does not value his job and bad mouthing customers cannot be ruled out.


We need eco-friendly transport. Yes we truly need eco-friendly transport; Kenya being a developing country has a chance to putting this measure in place. It should be one of the vision 2030 goals.

Kenyans roads will be safer with more training for drivers and conductors. I share the same thoughts with whoever wrote this comment. Education is the key- and training matatu drivers through seminar and workshops would go a long way in changing the current game plan used by matatu operators. Most of us have never had any kind of training before we joined the industry.

We need bigger matatus which respect other road users. Bigger matatus are coming soon in urban centers since the law does not allow new registration of 14 seaters. The problem of violating other road user’s rights still stands with the drivers. Let’s hope the new system which requires drivers to be permanent employee will tame them.

Light rail, pedestrian’s path. This probably came from a visitor in the country who might have seen how effective light rails have been in other countries and wish we could do the same. I wont comment of that but as for pedestrian’s walks; this should be given top priority. We continue to lose hundreds of pedestrians every year through accidents. Building a safe area for walking while we are constructing our roads can greatly reduce these casualties.

Check the Jamaican Public Transportation System, . One of the delegates; a logistics Assistant from Jamaica/ working with United Nations took me a side and we held a lengthy discussion about how kenya can transform our transport system toward sustainability the same way Jamaica did.

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Posted by on July 28, 2014 in Matatu matters


Your Questions on matatu investment.

1)      In one of your blogs you said the government is no longer registering new 14 seater matatus. From my observation I have seen the new 14 seater Toyota matatu models having new number plates i.e. KBX, KBY, KBZ… though most of them function as shuttles carrying 11 passengers. Is this what you were referring to as it leaves me confused?

You can still import a newer Toyota, but only for long distance routes; and mostly a shuttle. The facing-off of 14 seaters was aimed at decongesting the cities especially Nairobi. Short distance routes/ saccos that operate within Nairobi and surrounding areas are not allowed to register new 14 seaters.

2)      Is the income from a matatu operating as a shuttle between let’s say Nairobi-Nakuru/Nairobi-Eldoret/Nairobi-Thika same as matatu operating as town service within Nairobi ?

It is tricky but the sums do add up in terms of income per month. What I mean is-A matatu plying the Nairobi- Ngong- Kitengera- Rongai or Ruiru route makes about 4000 shillings daily, while as, A shuttle makes three return trips in a week and makes a net of between 8000 and 10.000 per trip.

3)      Which one would be more preferably, in terms of vehicle maintenance, minimal wear and tear, profitability between a matatu covering long distance lets say Nairobi-Nakuru/Nairobi-Eldoret/Nairobi-Thika and one operating as town service within Nairobi?

A matatu plying a town service route is more expensive to maintain since it spends more time on the road. In most cases once you start the car in the morning, in will run from 6am to probably 10pm. But for shuttles, the flow is controlled and they have systems in place on how they regulate their operations.

The longest a trip can take is 4hrs- Nairobi to Eldoret. Meaning, less wear and tear which is = to low maintenance cost.

4)      Apart from the costs involved in importing the new matatu Toyota model and having it registered at the port (i.e. getting number plates) what are the extra costs that I will incur to have it run as a shuttle supposing I want it to be managed may be under North-Rift Shuttle/Eldoret Shuttle/Mololine Shuttle.

Once you import the vehicle, it must be registered before it leaves the port: you may probably change things like battery, Rims and tires, Fit the recommended seats depending on the route of choice- 14-11 and, you must have joined a Sacco or a transport management company which will cost you between 10 and 150.000 shilling registration fee.

5)      Are there scenarios whereby a rogue shuttle driver/the shuttle company remove/steal new parts from a new vehicle e.g. oil/fuel filters, tires, music system, plugs and replace them with old spare-parts thus in the long run I end up spending more on servicing and maintaining the vehicle?

This is just a myth and if at all it happens, it is in very isolated cases and most likely a collision involving a trustee or a manager who is most likely a relative of the vehicle owner.

As for company managed vehicles, there are various avenues to get some extra cash from a clients car and we try to keep the vehicle on the road most of the times.break-down means less revenue for the company and that is what we try to avoid.

6)      How much money would I dedicate per annum for servicing the 14/11 seater matatu and comprehensive insurance?

The insurance will depend on the value of the car, the number of passengers on board and things like that.

Servicing is per kilometers covered and like we said earlier, it will depend on the route. 6.000 Ksh per week is the maximum you can spend on servicing and that is enough to keep a town service vehicle on the road at all times. You might spend more at a single servicing {8.000} but in the long run you will equally spend less.

7)      What is the approximate payback time to recover my initial investment when I import the new matatu Toyota model and have it run either as shuttle or town service.

We approximate about 2.3m as the amount you will need to fully comply with all the requirements to put a new Toyota 7L on the road this include buying, importation, registration, fittings and all the necessary papers and also Sacco membership. If you would say, make 3500 every day, you can clear the loan in two years.

8)      I want a SACCO/Company to be managing the day to day affairs of running the vehicle, which one would you, recommend?

I can only vetch for the one I work with- Ongata Line transporters, although this is a town services provider- otherwise you need to make a date with your preferred Sacco and see what they are offering. Some companies like Mololine are more established and sell shares for membership. Although this is not to mean they are more profitable.

9)      I also have the option of teaming up with my friend and approaching General Motors for financing of the 33 seater NQR Bus. I have confirmed from GM that it’s going for 4.7M inclusive of branding, seats, seat belts, speed governor. You had mentioned in your blog that on top of this I need 500,000 comprehensive insurance and 200,000 for extras like TLB, Music System among others.

Going with this, at what point do I pay for the number plate?

Number plate is paid for by GM as the law only allows selling of registered vehicles. The price GM quoted include registration and inspection sticker valid for one year. General motors’ sells you a fully complied vehicle ready to start transporting passengers. The additional expenses are for optional, you can choose to just insurer your ride -as is-. This are just marketing tools we use to attract customers.

Are there any other government taxes?

Yes there is the advance tax which goes at 720 per seat. You multiply this by the number of seats in your vehicle. As for brand new 33 seater; I guess this tax is paid for by the seller either at your expense or part of the purchasing price. Confirm with General motors.

10)   Suppose I commit the maximum possible monthly income towards loan repayment is the bus able to fully service the loan or at times I will need to top up from my pocket.

If we are talking about a brand new minibus, the soaped up type {manyanga} the income is more than enough to service the loan and give you a monthly salary after paying for servicing and spare parts. At an average of 8000ksh per day which in this case is the minimum, you make around 240K in a month. The income can only be higher than this up to 270—300K.

11)   How much money will it cost to service the 33 seater per annum?

The first service is on General Motors- so there you have 11 months left maintenance cost will Depend on the distance and the trips the vehicle makes in a day. Some buses are serviced after 3–4 weeks while others may go for 6 weeks or 2 months. The recommended mileage is 35000Kilometers.

Regular servicing [brake lining, greasing, alignment etc.} cost around 15—20K but normal is around 10.000. ksh.

12)   I want a SACCO/Company to be managing the day to day affairs of running the 33 seater, which one would you recommend?

Come to us; pay us a visit at our office in Rongai and see what we are offering. A management company is not a Sacco, so we give you full control of your money. As for a Sacco, you have to be a member contributing and saving with the organization plus lots of paper work but, it also has its advantages for those who want to be financed after some times.

13)   What is the approximate payback time to recover my initial investment when running the 33 seater?

Two years is the longest- if you are fully dedicated. Suppose you buy a minibus worth 5.2 million and it brings home 10.000 ksh per day; you keep it on the road for 300 out of 365 days in one year; it will have made 3.6 million. That means you can recover your initial capital in less than 2 yrs.

14)   Between the 2 options above i.e. the 11/14 seater matatu and 33 seater buses, which one would you recommend as a viable business/investment?

I would advise you to buy a brand new minibus, it requires more capital but the returns are good and they have a long life span. 33 seater Minibuses will soon take over the matatu business as they are cleaner, comfortable and safer.

15)   What is your opinion between investing in the matatu industry and investing in car-hire business?

Car-hire is more of probability unless you give your car to an established tour and travel group. Most of the taxi companies gives you a fixed amount for unlimited use of the vehicle while as, you can control where a matatu goes and be assured since the income is guaranteed as long as it is on the road.

16)   In your opinion, what is the future of the Matatu industry in Kenya, especially with the upcoming railway projects within the Nairobi metropolis and the Standard Gauge Railway project?

The demand is still high and it is not going down anytime soon. The railway can only ease the demand but will not be a blow to matatu industry.


Posted by on July 14, 2014 in Its life, Matatu matters


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I Have been burning midnight oil late in the evening after a tiring day behind the wheels of a matatu, trying to find a workable solution to most of of the problems that makes my job so hard and not to mention quite risky. Most of the times I’ve come across stories to do with road carnage or recklessness on our roads, it can not end without matatus and the people who work with them taking most of the blame.
Kenyans are very good at complaining and playing “the victim” role in most situations. Majority use the social media to air their dis pressure and are heard always calling on the government to come to their rescue, “TUNAOMBA SERIKALI”. what most of them are forgetting is that, even the ones they call for help are also Kenyans who are also calling on the government.
I came up with some points that i believe will help the new cabinet secretary in charge of transport to bringing down the number of accidents on our roads, reduce if not; eradicate corruption and also improve service delivery in the transport sector.
1. Abolish Kenya police traffic department.
This will definitely not go down well with a good number of the corrupt side of the police as, it has been a source of wealth for many of them. The corruption within the police force especially the traffic department has become a normal occurrence in our daily life and even on national television. The media has tried to expose them but it all ends there. even those who are suspected to be the architects of corruption are so daring to an extent that there is a case still pending in court where some traffic policemen stationed at a weigh bridge has sued the Inspector General of police for recommending their transfer to other areas that are not as lucrative as their current position. The corruption in this sector can not be easily eradicated as it has involved some- if not most; of the top cops in this country and probably 99.9% of the junior cops.
But there is a solution. The Government through the ministry of transport and any other concerned ministry can abolish the traffic department of the Kenya police and replace them with the NATIONAL YOUTH SERVICE personnel. The NYS has been around for many years and i have reasons to believe that it has well disciplined force that can take up and perform traffic duties. The Government needs to train this youths on traffic control and give them the power to prosecute traffic offenders in the courts of law or alternatively, the judicially can set a side a special magistrate court and judges who will only handle traffic cases.
2. Abolish TLB Licence
This will also not be well received by the perpetrators of corruption in the matatu industry; but, If it was to be tried out, It will be a blessing to matatu operators {drivers and owners} especially those who operate, within Nairobi. TLB Limitation is one of the Michuki rules that did not achieve its objective as it was grossly abused and used as a tool for corruption and is also responsible for deliberate traffic snarls ups.
Police can cause heavy traffic jams in order exhaust the patience of matatu drivers because they know through experience that matatu drivers will use alternative roads not within their TLB limitiation and are willing to part with money if only not to burn gas and waste time caught in traffic jams.
I still don’t know why it is a crime for a matatu plying route 125 Rongai—– Nairobi to use Ngong road to access Langata Road through Mbagathi way. It is also a traffic offense for a matatu to use bypasses even if the road is completely blocked. The only option for a matatu to use a connecting road {not described in their TLB application} is to drop the passengers and drive a empty vehicle. The ministry concerned should look at this and allow fair competition in the public transport sector. This would also be beneficial to passengers as any Public service vehicle can take passengers to any destination across the country which in the other hand will increase the supply of our services and lower the demand which translate to lower prices or lower bus fare as with the transport sector.
The government can then re-introduce Road license which was very helpful in identifying vehicles. Today all you need to drive a private car on Kenyan road is an insurance sticker which is not even issued by a government agency. This has fueled theft of motor vehicles.
3. Lower Traffic offenses Fines.
This will be very tricky to explain to majority of Kenyans and the media because they have come to believe that jailing or putting away matatu drivers or making them pay hefty fine is the best punishment they deserve. many a Kenyans believe that matatu drivers are only after making money by what ever means necessary including hiking fares, refusing to give change and killing people in road accidents.
You would be surprised {but we would not} to see a factory employee, who has worked for 30 yrs, in a company situated in Industrial area; 21 kilometers from where he resides,The same person will be heard Calling on the government to ban all matatus; while as; he has never owed a car in his life and never missed a day to work. This attitude of –hate them anyway– is the same law-makers had when they drafted the 2012 traffic amendment bill which raised court fines for traffic offenses and recomnded longer jail terms for “specifically” matatu drivers.
I can witness to this; that, corruption in the Kenya police traffic department has reached a level we have never seen before. This has been caused by hefty fines in courts and encourages traffic offenders to seek for out of court settlement with the custodians of the law. If for instance you are a matatu driver and you are caught picking a fare paying passenger in a not designated area, wouldn’t you rather give the cop a whole 1000 kshs note he is asking for than pay 10.000kshs at the magistrate court? It makes more cents to settle out of court.
If then; one matatu, can part with 1000 bobs for a small offense like that, how many thousand will the cop have made by the end of the day. If the fines where affordable, most of this cases would end up in courts where the magistrate would have the power to cancel licenses for repeated offenders, but unfortunate, most of them never get that far.
The idea of having M/V registration centers at county level is to discourage theft of motor vehicles. If for instance all vehicles bought in Nairobi had identifying number plates with initials like; “NRB 001A—-Z” and those from Kajiado county had “KJD–001A—-Z” and so on, it would be easy to recognize vehicles from other counties and the police would have an easy target if they were to track the vehicle. it would also be hard to register a stolen vehicle or use it in a different town as questions will surely be asked. This would also give county commissioners control over the security of their jurisdictions where theft of motor vehicle is concerned.
Another advantage is in drafting traffic laws and enforcing them. It is not reasonably possible for a Kajiado drivers to be submitted to the same laws governing Nairobi Drivers as their area of operation differs in very many different ways. For instance, there is probably two or three pick up tracks that carry residents of Ewaso Kedong from their village to Ngong township. The journey is about 80 kilometers with no clear cut roads, The drivers have to keep on changing tracks after every rainy season due to damaged bridges and other reasons. I don’t think any investor would buy a minibus, put all the necessary papers, put safety belts , not carry excess passengers, not allow animals to share the ride with passengers and submit it to the mercy of the jungle. Some of this mode of transport can be allowed to continue in some hardship areas but not in the cities. Every county would be allowed to evaluate the traffic acts and decide on which would be beneficial to their jurisdiction. That is to say, there are things you can do in kajiado but you will be arrested for the same if you are caught doing them in Nairobi.
This will receive a lot of criticism from the multimillion shillings body builders industries; court battles will surely make headlines in our media houses but, if we were to put the interest of the consumers first; which in this case are the operators and the passengers, we will have prevented many accidents which are caused by mechanical failures.When the engine power cannot sustain the weight of the body or the load it’s designed to carry, thus the brake system might fail to respond to the drivers intentions.
we have buses which were assembled locally a few years ago; but due to wear and tear, the buses can no longer carry the same weight they did when they were new without endangering the passengers or other road users. There are also other injuries; cuts and bruises which are caused by loose screws on the seats or the car body. Public service buses and minibuses should be assembled or imported custom-made to carry passengers and also specifically made to operate in particular areas; depending on the structure of the roads and the size of the vehicle. And thus the need to have registration at the county level.
MITSUBISHI minibuses {the ones we call ROSA} have few cases of being involved in accidents as compared to other minibuses with locally assembled bodies. A ROSA minibus is different. Its spacious, comfortable and easy to control for the driver as the vehicle is customarily built for passengers transport. This bus has been assembled for this very purpose; the engine can handle the weight, braking will not require extra measures, the seats comes fully with safety belts which are firmly mounted, tested and proven to handle the task; unlike our local assemblers who fits the gadgets because the law requires them.
The government should take it as a crucial responsibility; to protects it’s citizens from unnecessary deaths and injuries caused in roads accidents and also save hundreds of lives;lost because of human error.
One way of approaching this is, to be sure that only competent drivers are allowed on the road. Driving schools are known to train drivers in groups and then apply for their licenses in bulk; this is where corrupt trainers are aiding, third parties who have not been properly trained to get this vital driving tool; at an extra cost; hundreds of Kenyans are got their licenses through this avenue.
Kenyans are said to have peculiar habits and bad driving seems to be one of those they all have in common. About 60% of the drivers have no idea that they drive badly. You will find a motorist breaking the law, right in the eyes of a traffic police, and when he is stopped, he/she claims that kenya police are corrupt and all they want is cash bail. The new regime should look at this particular area with great interest and recommend and go as far as implementing measures aimed at sealing all loopholes in all driver’s licensing departments. A unqualified driver is more dangerous than a terrorist; much worse than a suicide bomber. He can kill people en-mass and get away with a fine or a short sentence.
The ministry of Transport should look for ways to work with county governments and re-introduce government owned passengers service vehicles. This will help to control bus fare as passengers will have an option or an alternative means of transport in-case of matatu strikes and also exploitation by matatu crew.passengers across the country complain of hiked fares whenever there is a down pour or heavy traffic; this can be tamed if passengers had an optional means of transport that is fixed. It will also help those who are employed at a fixed salaries to plan their budget at the end of the month. this will be healthy competition to privately owned matatus and will improve service delivery.
I have witnessed several cases where passengers get injured, especially during rush hours when they have to scrabble for a seat in the few matatus. Matatu passengers also fall in the category of NMT{ non Motorized transit]. This group of road users is very common on our roads every morning and evening and contribute to about 20—30% of accidents victims who are hit while crossing the roads or just waiting for a matatu on the roadsides. The recently completed Thika super highway has proven that it is possible to reduce this incidents if, passengers and the buses had specific locations or area of operation. Matatus are forced to stop on the roads to pick thousands of passengers who require their service every morning and eve to get to work and back home respectively.This contribute greatly to slow movement of motor vehicle on the roads. A separate lane should be included in major towns where the demand for matatu services is high.
For as long as we still have untrained and illegally acquired drivers and licenses, we will not be any safer on the roads. One way of making sure that we have the best hands behind the wheels of our public transport is to weed out the bad ones. We can achieve this in just under three years as all those who currently have PSV drivers licenses will have to renew them in the next 12 months time. All this drivers will go to the revenue authority at one time or the other and at varied dates to get renewal. The government can take this as an opportunity to retrain and test public service drivers on their competence before allowing them back on the road.
The objective is to have an audit of how many drivers we allow to carry passengers and how good they really are; verify the licenses they are currently using and issue them with new certificates of competency.
within a 3yrs period all matatu drivers will have the new licenses and all the fake ones kept out of the roads.
Over to you Cabinet secretary. Ministry of transport.


Posted by on June 13, 2014 in Its life, Matatu matters


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