Matatu Culture or BRT?

Let’s take a moment and thank the emergence of online meetings. We all can agree that the pros of online meetings are way more than the cons. I mean who could have imagined one could have access to these prominent workshops that one needed great connection to get in. Also taking classes in the comfort of my home. Interesting if you ask me.

Wait that’s not what we are here to talk about today on this post. Hail to the online everything. At least now most of us have cut the cost of travel expenses, the chaos, traffic jams. Thank God we don’t have to go through that anymore. And please if any meeting can be done online don’t bother setting up a physical meeting, I mean we are keeping up social distance (or don’t just make me go through Nairobi’s Traffic chaos for that)

Today’s post was inspired by the virtual workshop I attended last month. It was organized by ITDP Africa. The workshop assessed the current and planned BRT systems in Africa which is:

  • Nairobi Thika Road BRT.
  • the Addis Ababa B2 BRT system.
  • the Cairo BRT system.
  • the Dar es Salaam BRT.
  • the Kigali bus sector modernization.

Head over to their website and listen to the webinar recordings and presentation of the workshop.

Mobility is a crucial topic in Kenya. The experts discussed most of the solutions that can be used to sort the mobility issue in Nairobi. The major takeaway I had from the webinar is that it is better for Kenya to benchmark on the already similar working systems rather than generating new unproven systems to be implemented.

Let’s talk about matatu culture. We refer to it as a “Club on Wheels,” Most of them are loud, with beautiful graffiti-style paintings, custom designs, flashing lights, and onboard entertainment to attract the attention of the young passengers.

The matatu sector has benefited greatly from technological advancements. Some offer high-speed internet access as well as power outlets for charging phones and other electronic devices. Once the car has been pimped up and it has left the garage, it will be marketed to matatu fans on social media sites.

According to Kenya’s Transport Ministry, 70 percent of the city’s 4.5 million commuters rely on these minibusses to get around. these privately owned taxis that transport multiple passengers have developed from a mode of transportation to a way of life.

  • they are the largest employer of youth in Kenya.
  • they are used to communicate Kenyan pop culture,
  • premiere new music videos and sometimes interactively transmit conscience messages.
  • They are an important part of Kenya’s heritage and authenticity.

The uniqueness of the culture attracts visitors who tend to be amazed by the vibrant design, including American celebrities like Cardi B, Chris Brown, and Trey Songs.

While Matatus are the preferred mode of transportation for most Kenyans, they are inexpensive, easy but sometimes chaotic. To keep ahead of the competition, matatu touts and drivers are known for causing havoc on the busy streets of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. They are known for violating most traffic laws, particularly during rush hours.

The Matatus have destinations, but no schedules. They compete for the same routes and leave only when all passengers are on board; otherwise, the trip would not be worthwhile. Buses with the best artwork, the friendliest drivers, and the most entertaining conductors fill up fastest.

As a regular user of Matatus, I have had a fair share of some negative experiences with them. some touts are always rude for no reason and it is believed that “nganya” has some favoritism that only attractive girls are allowed to take the front seat with the driver.

A loving and loathing culture paradox exists within Matatu culture. The urban youth see them as a source of identity while some visitors and older generations see all they are as chaotic.

However, government bans and alternative modes of public transportation can soon put Matatu culture at risk. Clearly, the introduction of the BRT in Nairobi will have a significant impact on many workers who rely on the matatu industry for their livelihoods.

Read about BRT

Govt announces schedule for Nairobi BRT buses

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/business/sci-tech/article/2001406387/brt-system-begins-to-take-shape-on-superhighway

After the introduction of BRT, it is also certain that the matatu business would continue to play an important role in Nairobi’s transportation system, providing feeder routes and transit services in areas where BRT does not serve.

Therefore, the key question is how to develop and integrate this crucial aspect of the public transport system properly with BRT needs to be dealt with.

Whether or not BRT is successfully implemented, Kenya’s plans for an eco-friendly and integrated passenger transport system still need to address some key issues in the city. The formalization of employment, elimination of extortion, corruption, reducing congestion and pollution are essential to mobility in Kenya.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.