Feature: Chinese-made motorbikes earn Kenyans in formal jobs extra income

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-26 00:17:17|Editor: Yurou
by Bedah Mengo

NAIROBI, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) — Every day, Michael Arimi, a resident of Kayole on the east of Nairobi, Kenya, wakes up and heads to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport where he works at a cargo handling firm.

His work involves sorting out various cargo according to size and destination before they are taken to the plane.

After completing his day's work, Arimi usually returns home and from about 6 p.m., he starts his second job – offering motorbike taxi business.

"I do the work to about 10 p.m. and retire to prepare for the following day," he said, adding on a good evening he earns up to 1,000 shillings (10 U.S. dollars).

His is the life of many Kenyans in low income formal employment who the machines imported mainly from China have offered means to earn extra income as use of the taxis boom in the east African nation.

While some of the workers are doing the motorbike taxi jobs, commonly known as boda boda, themselves, others have employed people.

Among those doing motorbike taxi jobs as "side hustles" are teachers, police officers, civil servants, watchmen and drivers.

"I am an electricity meter reader by day and motorbike taxi operator by night. You cannot survive on salary alone," said Titus Otiato, a resident of Ruai on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Otiato noted that he earns some 300 dollars salary, money that cannot sustain him comfortably with his family of three.

As many other workers in formal employment, he took a loan of 700 dollars from the company's savings society and bought a motorbike.

Ease in access of the loans by the workers in formal employment is among the reasons many are in the trade.

This is coupled by decline in prices of the machines following entry of Chinese brands like Boxer, Jingchen and Haojin in the Kenyan market, some that are assembled locally.

The brand new bikes go for between 600 and 800 dollars, which is lower than those from other countries like India and Japan, whose prices average 1,000 dollars.

In Kenyan villages, teachers and civil servants, are among the top owners of motorbikes, which they rent out to youths, earning at least 4 dollars from each a day.

Fred Ajwang, a government employee in Busia, western Kenya, doesn't like to be described as a motorbike tycoon, but he owns eight of them.

"I have agreed with the riders that they bring me 3.5 dollars each day and pocket the rest they make which caters for their wages, fuel and minor repairs like punctures. This way, one works hard to make more money," he said on phone.

Ajwang started with one bike that he bought using a loan and has been expanding the trade.

"I get an average of 240 dollars a day but my target is to hit 500 dollars. It is good business but I will not quit my agricultural job since that is my profession," he said, adding his bikes are Chinese brands.

Most Kenyans are taking up the boda boda trade because of less entry restrictions, according to Ernest Manuyo, a business management lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi.

"All you need to get into the business are the machines, which are now affordable and insurance for the owner and a riders' license for those doing the job themselves. One then starts earning. It is not like starting a shop where one needs multiple licences," he said.

Chinese motorcycles account for about 50 percent of Kenya's motorbike market, with the machines injecting over 1.3 million dollars daily into the economy, according to Motorcycle Assemblers Association of Kenya, which notes the boda bodas have become an important source of income for thousands.