Monthly Archives: November 2012

The pro’s and con’s of Investing in the Matatu Industry.

{This article has been re-posted to answer some important questions raised by readers and those interested on venturing in to the passenger transport business. see questions and answers on the comments section.}

Matatu business is one of the most profitable transport investments that have escaped foreign investors for many years; this can only be said to have been attributed to/ by the risks involved in running the business; among them corruption and cartels. I had an -off the record- chat with one senior police officer and he told a story about how he had seen a business opportunity and went for it. Back then; he was two steps below the rank he currently holds, meaning; he had more spare time to manage a side business and still be able to provide- service to all- as the police slogan indicates.

He took a loan from a Sacco within the force and took another loan from his bank; with the money he bought a 14 seater matatu. It was a step in the right direction for the officer of law and four years later, he owned seven 14 seater Matatus. His success in the transport business seemed to go hand in hand with his job performance and at the prime of building his business empire, he was called by the state to serve in a more demanding position. His new position took most of his time and as much as he would have liked to continue running things in the matatu business, he could not find the time.

He hired a manager to run thing for him and in less than a year he had sold the last of his seven vehicles. Although my friend the police officer did not make a loss considering the amount of money he had invested and how much he had in his account at the time of wading up; it was not his desire to close the business. Would he put his money in the matatu industry if he was sure the manager would do his job? His answer was yes. He still dreams of owning a transport company with a fleet of more than thirty vehicles. His story is one of many that have tried their hand in the business and ripped the fruits.

 The chairman of familiar transporters  is another success story. He has been in the matatu business for over 15yrs.  started his business in kikuyu town in the early 90s where he owned two Mitsubishi colts T120. He sold his two mini Matatus popularly known as Tung’othi and bought a new Nissan matatu. He moved his investment from the village and came to the city where he managed to build an empire and a trademark that still sells today. He personally hires staff and manages his fleet on a daily basis.

A prominent Nairobi lawyer is also a beneficially of the transport business; he started with one bus not very long time ago and has managed to build one of the most respected transport service provider in Rongai town. The chairman of Premier transport services has succeeded where many have failed because of his understanding of the laws and a dedicated manager. Mr. Mbugua is probably one of the most despised managers Route 125 has ever seen. He is hated by many and mostly discussed in the jobless corners but this has not stopped him from earning his position as the most successful matatu manager ever seen in the sector. He came in the picture when the lawyer bought his first bus and today he commands over ten buses and over 30 employees. His success is plainly attributed to his dedication to his job and a no nonsense approach to corruption and the rule of law.

  There is another upcoming management team of ex-matatu drivers that has taken the matatu market by surprise;- Rongai matatu welfare. agency is a new entry in the business and for the first time in Kenya; it has attracted foreign investment from our brothers in the new republic of Sudan. The company took over the management of two buses belonging to a Sudanese investor after he terminated a contract with city hopper complaining of not making any profit after several months. Two years later the young entrepreneurs have turned the investor’s dreams of making money in the transport sector into a reality; he has added two more buses and there is talk in the industry that more are coming with two already with the body builders.

It is not the same story with some of the investors as we have seen very many would have been successful business men go under because of poor management. Cardinal transporters was quite a big name in Roingai town. The private investor from Nakuru came to the busy town with a fleet of over ten Toyota 14 seater’s Matatus. He was in for a rude shock after the people he had hired to manage his investment turned to have merry with his earning and became popular at the local bars as the biggest spenders in beer and nyama choma. His investment was in the break of going under when he fired the managers and relocated to another .town.

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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Matatu matters



The photos with a story.

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Posted by on November 25, 2012 in Its life, Matatu matters


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Expand the prisons; matatu drivers coming soon.

Our politicians never seem to amaze me as they are very predictable; They pass bills and then go home leaving us to carry the burden of the laws they pass without properly consulting with the people to whom they have imposed those laws..

most of them have been to foreign countries, studied there and even own properties there. when they come back home, with their wealth and all that. they see us as obstacles to their peace and habitation and the best thing they can do, is to kick us like polio out their dwellings. but sadly, we have nowhere else to go.

I wasn’t surprised when a new traffic bill seeking longer and more expensive punishment for traffic offenders {read matatu} I was passed. The new bill will make it legal for a court to fine a driver 30.000 shillings for overlapping; driving through a petrol station to cut traffic, not wearing the right uniform and Badges and all the other ******

It is a good idea though but whose time has not yet come; it might sound very meaningful to anybody hearing this from the media and those from outside the country or those who don’t/ have never use-d/need-ed matatus/ public transport in their life. But on the ground, where the actions takes place, things are different. I don’t agree with their line of thoughts and the decision they came up with in regard to the new act.

The way they specified the offenses is clear indication that matatus are the ones targeted.

1} Overlapping. 2} Driving through a petrol station to cut traffic.

3} Driving on the sidewalks. Etc. It is very sad that the people who support the economy of our country and; the one’s who see to it that every worker gets to his or her place of work and back home; Those who should have benefited from a reformed judiciary are the ones who will sustain it financially.

Matatu industry has suffered many injustices in the past and the way things are now; I don’t think anybody will address our issues or even seek to have our views before passing any laws that govern our business and our livelihood. I am simply saying that; I suspect the idea behind the new bill was financial gain rather than bringing any meaningful reforms on the roads. Many drivers I know will be jailed. I was in prison for less than 30.000 and since I’m not the least in our industry, many matatu drivers cannot afford the fine. But will this stop overlapping and those other offenses? My guess is no. It was reported in the papers that the judicially will see their annual income grow from 80 million to over 100 million Kenya shillings.

I believe our leaders need to change this outdated practices and borrow from Machiavelli the prince

; ”Above all- A leader should abstain from the property of others; men soon forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony; A true leader should avoid being hated by his subjects if he abstains from the property of his people and citizens”

The current government has been very strict with matatu operators since the year 2003 when they came to power. Michuki rules came and interfered with our properties; many of us were rendered jobless or sent to prison; it took the intervention of the president during the 2007 campaigns to cool things a little. Telling the police to allow us conduct our business in peace but it only lasted until after the elections.

The scenario can be closely explain like that of a mother who serves food to his family of ten and then gives them only two spoons and warns them not to touch the food without the spoon. The government is registering more vehicles on the roads everyday adding more traffic on the roads;- more people are moving to the city increasing the demand for transport and yet the best our leaders can manage is to cash in on those seeking to make the best out of the current situations.

Our hope now lies with the police as they are the ones who will make the arrests. This will most definitely fuel corruption as the easiest way will be to bribe you way out. It will also put a lot of pressure on the courts as many drivers would prefer to deny the charges and bet on the courts to set them free or put them in remand rather than prison.

While speaking to a senior assistant commissioner of police and also the police spokesman ; I was relieved to know that; the police have their own ways and formulas that they use to foster a more professional approach to dealing with matatu operators and they don’t necessarily depend on what bills politician pass in parliament. The police boss advises matatu workers to form unions that can negotiate their working conditions and define their jobs to avoid being overworked and misused by their employers.It is the only meaningful advice we have had so far and i guess the only way for us to survive through this hard times.

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Posted by on November 17, 2012 in Matatu matters


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The daily Nation published a very frightening article on November 1st about Radical Changes to upgrade city bus terminus.  The writer was referring to a notice published in the same paper earlier in the week. According to the notice aimed at testing the readiness of matatu operators to comply with rules designed to improve Kenya’s chaotic transport sector, “Matatus plying the 11 routes that end their journey at railways bus terminus will have to apply for a special sticker that will enable them to go past barriers manned by city council of Nairobi staff.

 Currently, all 14 seater Matatus that enter the terminus pay 2.200Ksh parking fee every month; buses and mini-bus pay a much highier fee; with the new requirements, they will now have to pay extra as they have been asked to “source for alternative holding ground for vehicles waiting to access the terminus.”

There has been too much attention been focused on the Matatu industry lately; and it is sad to know that a bill has been signed that will most likely do more harm than the good it is intended to. The new set of traffic laws that were passed the other day can win donor funding; but on the ground, it also shows how our leaders are willing to sacrifice most of us to the gallows, if only to look good in the eyes of international community. As much as the elite have the opportunity to civilize themselves and their dependants, it’s not the same for millions of us who have to do that EXTRA hard work, to stay in the race.  The new laws are good especially for those who own vehicles but have hired the drivers to do the dirty work for them.

One law in particular says that- any driver found driving a motor vehicle without a driving license will be jailed for 10yrs or fined 500.000 [6250 US Dollars]or both. I don’t know if this will include those who forget to carry or those who lose them to carjackers like is the case with most of us in the transport sector. Police officers also hold on to our licenses as security that you will come back and clear some illegal debt. I wonder how we will explain that to the next cop who wants to see the paper before we paid the first one.

On a Televised interview aired by Citizen TV, the deputy spokes man of the Kenya police admitted that there was a higher possibility that corruption will increase within the traffic officers as they will be the ones to implement the laws.  He did not seem to agree if not see much sense in the new acts; He said much of this will be worked on when they have the Inspector General as some of the issues still need a lot of deliberations before they can be fully implemented. I’m happy with the current policing of the industry especially during the past 2-3 yrs as many laws have been passed that could have otherwise choked the industry but the police have ignored them or translated them to fit the real focus which is safety and smooth follow of traffic.

I sincerely hoped that the government will  focus more on upgrading the roads to meet international standard i.e.- build pedestrians walks, bicycle lanes, bus stops and most important mark the roads and put up road signs before bringing in international traffic laws. Meaningful change will only come when we stop blaming the Matatus for all the road carnage and focus on the real cause of this accident; which in my opinion is the ministry responsible for building roads and also the transport ministry. Private developers have built commercial houses on road reserves encroaching sidewalks forcing pedestrians to walk the roads- instead of the government reclaiming the land and building a safe passage for pedestrians, they have allowed the developers to make their kill and warned motorists that they will be jailed for life if they hit the pedestrians walking on the tarmac.

 That brings me to my question: Is the truth too much to handle?????  Why not forget publicity and impressing foreigners for a minute and really take responsible steps that can bring meaningful results? All this noise and politics about Road carnage and road safety will not make any difference; it will only popularize sponsors brands for their commercial benefit. What we need is the ministry to fix the roads-mark them and put road signs. And then let the government only license competent drivers.  We are not the problem- we are the victims of the situation.


Posted by on November 6, 2012 in Matatu matters


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Music and Matatu;Is there a positive side or just noice?

Music is known to do much more than just entertain; it is a means of conveying messages and also a tool for instilling knowledge. I know this as a fact after twelve years sitting behind the wheels of a matatu. My job description involves entertaining my passengers with lots of music.

I have used the word–  lot–  because what I have in my office is not just music; A Sony car stereo –A JEC equalizer- 2 KENWOOD sound boosters- 6 KENWOOD  mid range speakers: 2 sub-woofers and not forgetting about six Sony  twitters.  This is the kind of music system that is fit for a disco hall, but all the same a matatu is not really a matatu if it does not have something close to this.

My job as the driver cum DJ, puts me in control of the sound booster. I choose the tracks but not neccesally the volume { passengers demand always goes over what i call loud music. They are paying extra cash to be entertained. and wants nothing but heavy metal} all the same, My favorite is Reggae and not just any Reggae music; Bob Marley’s kind of Reggae- although I also play other kinds of music like, soul, hip-hop and so on. Over the years I have listened to thousands of Reggea tracks and it is for this reason I want to explore this one popular reggae artist BOB MARLEY.

He was a legend in the music industry and still remains one of the most celebrated entertainers in the world. I own this one combination of the greatest hits Bob ever released. The CD,- [which I converted to other modes to make sure I preserve it for as long as I can;] was put tongether by DJ Lastborn; a very popular DJ with the  Black Supremacy sounds. Utapata kuisikiza hata kama wewe ni nani;[ You will have to listen to this no matter who you are.} is the message the DJ have for the listeners.

I normally play the album in the evening traffic when the speed limit is 20 KMs/h  or less. My mostly very tired customers after a day’s work wants nothing but rejuvenation.

It starts off with BOB MARLEY sharing his frustrations with the system- the first line is easy to sing along– You have got tired to see my face; but you can’t get me out of the race. then he goes on to say that– he want to disturb his neighbors, coz he is feeling so right,   Majority of people aged Twenty-five and over, knows the musician too well to not appreciate his musical voice.

From my driving mirror I start noticing a few shaking of heads as the second track Jamming takes over the airwaves. Bob Marley is asking the my passengers if they want to jam with him in the name of lord- He tells them that Jah is seated in mount Zion and rules all creation. I start to hear a few humming and sing-along’s here and there.

Then follows the -; Is this love; is this love that I’m feeling?- Bob now comes in like a hustler; who is not yet sure if he is in love or not; but,  he is willing and able;  ready to settle with his lover in his single room and pray to Jah to provide the bread. As passengers contemplate on the fate of this great musician in the early days of his career and know how it ended. It gives them that You can change your fate attitude– imagining that Bob Marley once lived in a single room and was not even sure where bread would come from.

The next track is the most popular among Citizen of the world who happen to be black; Bob draws a picture of a warrior, a soldier who is taken from Africa and is fighting in a foreign land.  Buffalo solder’s impact is big and has been the pillar of many Rastafarian’s, They see this as proof that Black-man plays a crucial role even in White-man conflicts.  Bob tells a story of how he was taken from Africa and brought to American- where he is fighting on a riffle fighting for survival. The words of the song are simple and easy to grasp.

After fighting the American fight and probably putting the gun down, he comes with a call for unity In the next song, Bob starts with a very powerful message.- Everyman got the right to decide his own destiny and in this judgment there is no partiality. So, Arms in arms we raise and fight this little struggle, because that’s the only way we can overcome our little trouble.  Bob warns that; divide and rule can tear us apart and since he does not want his people to tricked by missionaries, he asks them to look for real revolutionaries

By now my passengers are even wishing that the traffic jam would tighten a bit and buy them more time; but we are already in the outskirts of Rongai. I have promised myself that I will not be driving on the pedestrians side of the road; If I can’t face an oncoming track, then I should not take advantage of the non motorized transport. That is to say It will probably take me 30 or so minute to do the final 1km, which otherwise would have taken less than ten minutes.. By the time I make my final turn and face the direction I came in; almost everyone is singing the chorus;Africa unite, cos we are moving right out of Babylon- and we are grooving to our fathers land. How good and a present it would be; before God and man; to see the unification of all Africans .We are the children of the kaya man.

I think It would be impressive to see that unification. An African dream, a United States Of Africa. I wonder if that is what King of Reggae- Bob Marley was talking about but he surely left us a lot of poetry and words of wisdom hidden in songs – knowledge that you can only hear when you listen to his songs.


Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Matatu matters



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