by Bedah Mengo
Motorists in Kenyan capital Nairobi loathe them because they are carelessly driven on the road, inconveniencing others, while authorities want them out of the city because they believe their time is up.
On the other hand, pedestrians detest them because they are driven on the sidewalks and pavements endangering lives. The three want them out of Nairobi as the city works on a dream of becoming a metropolis.
However, despite attempts to push them out, with the government planning to introduce new rules to regulate them, handcarts have stayed put in Kenya’s capital, and they are minting money for owners.
They perhaps top the list of businesses that one is guaranteed good returns in a very short time with minimal investment as demand for their use outstrips supply.
Owners of the pushcarts, some who have a fleet of up to 10 machines, make up 77 U.S. dollars in a day from each.
All one needs is to have reliable clients, who are in plenty, and a trusted group of at least two young men to manage each of machines.
“I have been in this business for several years and I can confirm it is among the best in Nairobi,” said Andrew Mogare on Tuesday.
It is about a decade since the father of three joined the trade from where he gets his daily bread, including money that he uses to pay for his two children’s fees at a private school.
“My clients are mainly vegetable store operators. They hire me to ferry them produce that include tomatoes, potatoes and onions from Gikomba market to Buru Buru, Donholm and Komarock estates,” said Mogare, who is among hundreds of handcart pushers minting money from the business.
Mogare charges for the work between 17 dollars and 33 dollars. “For such long distance, I only go for one trip early in the morning and return to Kayole estate for other duties that include selling water to thirsty residents,” said Mogare who does the work with two people he hires.
He makes on a good day 55 dollars, money that is more than enough to cater for his daily needs since the machine rarely break down.
“Handcarts have minimal expenses because it is hard for them to break down. I can not remember the last time I repaired my machine and it was only a tire burst. The secret of the business is to have as many carts as possible,” said Mogare, who bought three of his machine at 110 dollars from Gikomba where they are assembled.
However, one does not need necessarily to buy; other pushers make the non-motorised vehicles themselves.
“You get scrap metal, old tires and timber, and assemble the machine yourself. This is what I did when I was beginning,” said Simon Mutua, a handcart pusher in the capital.
He made from the machine about 22 dollars every day, money that he used to buy two others run by his employees.
The good money that one makes from the business is too enticing that many find it difficult to quit the trade even after changing their fortunes.
“You should not despise a handcart pusher. Some of those people who drive the machines have matatus and even rental units in low- income neighbors but they love their jobs,” said Mogare.
Economics lecturer Henry Wandera reckoned that handcarts will still be in Nairobi in the next ten years.
“They play a very crucial role in transport and the fact that they have employed hundreds of people and are preferred choice of many traders makes them relevant.” Enditem