Monthly Archives: July 2014

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.

1 Comment

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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