Modernisation of the public transport in Kenya is a unique matter that needs serious concerted effort, strategic planning and preparation for the ultimate implementation.
This is where a task force composed of the NAMATA Board in collaboration with the Federation of Public Transport Sector (FPTS) has been working for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Nairobi metropolis and will soon complete an operating BRT dossier to the national government for implementation.
Once it’s in operation, the BRT system will embrace a clear model of high capacity commuting buses, complemented by medium capacity PSVs on agreed strategic plan. We are committed to ensuring BRT succeeds.
It will also mean that the 14-seater matatus will be restricted from operating in Nairobi’s Central Business District, except on the feeder routes. The compensation model for these lower capacity matatus will be tackled before the BRT system swings into action. The BRT model will also be assimilated to the light rail and seamless operate as MRT model
As these plans are underway, there is need to look into how we admit into our roads online matatus such as SWVL, which are now found in the CBD and pheri-urban areas. The SWVL matatus operation is anchored on online application booking by the commuters along various matatu PSV routes in the county.
What is worrying is that SWVL matatus operate as public service vehicles without conforming to the NTSA Bill 2012 Act and the Traffic Act Cap 403 compliance requirement threshold, as expected by the regulator.
The government has allowed and given them green light to operate and compete with the indigenous matatu PSV that have met all the stringent NTSA requirements annually.
Every effort should be made to ensure that public transport remains vibrant as it is one of the crucial and important ingredients that accelerate economic growth of any country globally. Kenya has more than 120,000 matatus operating within the various corridors in all the counties. The sector employs close to one million employees both young and middle age Kenyans.
Currently our serious concern is the logic of phasing out the 14-seater traditional matatus in preference to technology-driven PSVs which are not compliant with the law.
While the disruptive nature of technology cannot be stopped, as a country we need to pause and think how we can deal with those who will be rendered jobless. Entities such as SWVL operates with very lean staff. Most of the traditional matatus have five crew each. Then there are saccos and company’s management staff. Thousands PSV investors are also involved, without forgetting the termini wardens. All are earning a living from the matatu sector.
Edging out the traditional matatus in favour of SWLV-like PSVs will lead to more than 500,000 employees losing their jobs.
Despite the conveniences brought about by technology, leaving such a high number of people to their own devices will be disastrous. Such high level of joblessness will create a fertile ground for radicalisation and recruitment to the terrorist world.
While we cannot fight application of technology in any sector of our economy, as a county it is important to find a way to ensure that we seriously take into account the fate of thousands whose livelihoods are at stake.
Mr Mbugua is the Chairman, Matatu Welfare Association and National Organising Secretary, Federation of Public Transport Sector.