Monthly Archives: December 2014


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.


Posted by on December 1, 2014 in Matatu matters


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