Thursday, September 24, 2009
Standardise busfares in Kenya, a better idea forever
This morning I woke up 9:00am and prepared to step out the house for work. On the schedule, was a meeting and putting all the nuts and the bolts together to roll the Weekend Breakfast Shows that I co-host Friday to Sunday on KBC - English Service Radio.

After tucking in the long sleeved blue shirt on a navy blue Andriano -Italy Style trouser, I slid a Kshs. 20 coin and a Kshs. 10 coin into the shirt pocket and matched out of the house on to the dusty road almost half kilometre to catch a Matatu to town. From a distance, before crossing the final road, I saw a crowd of people, seemingly stranded. It hit my mind, something was wrong... It is unusual to see such a people waiting for Matatus at 10:05am.

I joined the waiting crowd. 15 minutes later an old grey and rusty Nissan van packed, and the tout raised his voice 70!!! 70!!! 70!!! 70!!! I wondered how it qualified to be on the road. People beside me rushed into it. This time, they never cared how it looked, nor how dirty the chair cushions and materials glared. There was no stereo booming speakers... Just a screeching mono sound, you might think it is a second world war radio call, or mistake it for a shortwave radio signal from Puntland, Somalia.

I touched my shirt pocket again probably the coins had multiplied, but no. So I made quick calculation to cross the road from one side of the round-about the other end maybe I would be lucky to get a Matatu from Mwiki heading to the Central Business District for what I had. 10 minutes later only a yellow mini-bus passed full of passenger, shortly to be followed by 8 traffic officers from Kasarani Station trooping on foot and stopping all motor vehicles on tarmac to check credentials. It was clear that there was a crackdown.

On my phone, I only had Kshs. 110 on M-Pesa (a mobile phone money transfer service). I strolled to Kasarani Centre to cash the money but I was told that it is impossible after a slash of Kshs. 30 service fee. I leanrt then that Safaricom does not transact money below Kshs. 100.

A man under pressure, ever has solutions. I hope I have one. I walked to Roysambu stage - Route 45 but busfare to Githurai too had been hiked to Kshs. 40. This marked the end of thorough ideas to reach office. Githurai was the last option for me to access an Equity Bank ATM where "I am a member."

Kenya busfares have never been stable or standardised. When there is an increase of the oil prices, busfares will go up and never bounce back even if the oil prices go low as far as $40 per barrel. In the capital city, Nairobi, busfares vary with time. Early in the morning if one is heading to the CBD the fare doubles or tripples compaired to when there is less flow of people to the CBD.

I would prefer set fares like in Uganda, where Uganda Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (UTODA) has specified what individuals pay no matter the time of the day or no matter the weather or police crack down. Through this, Uganda citizens are less prone to extortion from the taxi touts and drivers. Review of the fares too are done after sometime and the public is notified mostly in advance.

Can Kenya borrow from Uganda? That is a question that the public has to decide together with the Matatu Associations and the government. If modern railway transport is introduced, it can do the general public better.

I am at home reading and writing, and sure that tomorrow I will receive a memo for absentism from a crucial meeting at work... But when will the fibre optic cable reach my house so that we can tele-conference instead of running up and down? I am sure, with the Kshs. 30 I would have attended the meeting.
posted by ombui at 3:02 AM | Permalink |