18 July 2012

The Life of An Outlaw (aka A Kenyan Matatu Driver)

Anyone who has spent significant time in East Africa will appreciate this documentary. Though the issue of corruption is not at all a secret, it is neat to hear about it from the perspective of a matatu driver in Nairobi. What makes James Kariuki special is that he is not afraid to openly discuss the profession, warts and all, in an open manner. Case and point is his letter to The Daily Nation:
I am one of those you just love to hate. We're the backbone of Kenya's black market, expected to pay off everyone from police to criminal gangs. Perhaps you don't have any idea what it's like to be the black sheep of the country, but let me explain: We wake up at three every morning to bring milk to Nairobi, from there we take cops who have been on night duties home, then pick up newspaper vendors, company drivers, office workers and your school kids. After we are done with you, we take your housewife or houseboy to their secret lovers. Then comes Sunday and the entire Christian community depends on us. The pastors ought to pray for us, seeing we are assisting them in their missionary work, but instead they condemn us for missing the Sunday service. We are lucky that it is not them, but God who judges us, otherwise we could be the most cursed human beings on the face of the earth.
Better yet, James has his own blog. It is a mix of politics, personal reflections and insider information on the matatu business. In May, James discussed the matatu industry from the side of investment.
There is another upcoming management team of ex-matatu drivers that has taken the matatu market by surprise;- Black Eagle transporters 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. Jaffal and his former classmate 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.