Kibo aims to rev­o­lu­tionise Kenya’s bike taxi in­dus­try

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - TRIS­TAN MCCON­NELL

NAIROBI — When U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama vis­ited Nairobi last this week to open an in­ter­na­tional busi­ness con­fer­ence, mo­tor­bike taxi driver Evans Makori watched him drive by, hop­ing his dreams come true.

The 35-year-old fa­ther of two boys is a fan of new mo­tor­bike ven­ture Kibo, which aims to build bikes fit for Kenya’s roads and turn their driv­ers into small busi­ness own­ers. While in Nairobi, Obama ad­dressed the Global Entrepreneurship Sum­mit where the fo­cus was on smart, ed­u­cated young peo­ple with “techy” dreams.

DAN­GER­OUS ‘BO­DAS-BO­DAS’

Man­u­fac­tur­ing and the pro­le­tar­ian as­pi­ra­tions of mo­tor­bike taxi driv­ers are as im­por­tant if Kenya is to grasp its po­ten­tial. Kenya’s mo­tor­bike taxis, pop­u­lar but dan­ger­ous, are as likely to land you in the ca­su­alty depart­ment as get you to a meet­ing on time. Known as bod­abo­das, they’re cheaply made, poorly main­tained and badly driven.

Kibo hopes to change all that, turn­ing out sturdy bikes in Kenya and pro­vid­ing main­te­nance, road safety and busi­ness train­ing as well as mi­cro-fi­nance loans.

Huib van de Gri­js­paarde, a 40-yearold Dutch en­tre­pre­neur, said: “Mo­tor­cy­cle taxis trans­port peo­ple and goods at an af­ford­able price, cre­at­ing mo­bil­ity at the bot­tom of the pyra­mid.”

For him the pro­ject is about eas­ing the flow of peo­ple and goods and re­leas­ing the en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit by turn­ing renter-riders into own­ers.

BAD ROADS, HEAVY LOADS

As in many other African coun­tries, mo­tor­cy­cles in Kenya are meant for work, not play. It’s not un­usual to see a generic 125 cc Chi­nese bike bounc­ing along a pot­holed road car­ry­ing two adults, plus the driver, or loaded with piles of sacks.

Or the bike may be so laden with chick­ens that it looks like a mo­torised hen, or maybe it’s rac­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion along a triple-lane mo­tor­way.

Kibo’s 150 cc mo­tor­cy­cle was built for bad roads and heavy loads: it’s long and tall with a strong tubu­lar exo-skele­ton, heavy-duty sus­pen­sion and off-road tyres. Riders who join the pro­gramme will also be equipped with hel­mets, padded jack­ets and re­flec­tive vests.

Makori rides a cheap, im­ported 125 cc Skygo bike from his usual wait­ing area at Nairobi’s Nyayo Sta­dium. He pays the equiv­a­lent of R49 a day to rent the bike and earns a profit of around R74 a day, af­ter fuel. He has a cou­ple of dozen reg­u­lar clients as well as daily pass­ing trade.

‘KIBO IS SOME­HOW DURABLE’

He’s taken with the Kibo bike’s de­sign: “I dream of that mo­tor­cy­cle ev­ery day. The roads here in Kenya are not good, the in­fra­struc­ture is not friendly, but the Kibo is some­how durable.”

But it is the prom­ise of own­er­ship, of be­ing his own boss, that is most at­trac­tive. “I didn’t look at the money, I looked at that mo­tor­cy­cle as a bridge that can take me from one place to another.”

It’s am­bi­tion such as that of Makori that at­tracted Gri­js­paarde to Kenya rather than, for in­stance, Ghana where he was “dis­cour­aged by the lack of entrepreneurship and drive”.

Makori said: “The Kenyan mind-set

was an im­por­tant el­e­ment.”

NOT YET IN AFRICA

Kibo is built for Africa, but not yet in Africa. User groups of riders, own­ers, pas­sen­gers and me­chan­ics were con­vened in 2011 to work out what was wrong with cur­rent ma­chines. The bike was de­signed in Hol­land, go­ing through eight it­er­a­tions be­fore ar­riv­ing at the K150, which will be avail­able later in 2015.

Its 256 parts are made in China, Europe and Tai­wan, shipped to Kenya, and as­sem­bled in 50 steps in the Kibo fac­tory, in the in­dus­trial and shack­land sprawl be­tween down­town Nairobi to the city’s air­port.

Henk Veld­man, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Kibo Africa, ex­plained: “Kibo is aim­ing to pro­duce 10 000 bikes a year by 2019. To scale up pro­duc­tion we have to move man­u­fac­tur­ing to Kenya.”

The bike is ex­pen­sive at about R37 000 and paid off over two years. The amount is sim­i­lar to what Makori pays in rental fees over the same pe­riod but at the end the rider owns the bike and all the profit that fol­lows.

The most pop­u­lar im­ported bikes cost around R13 000 but are barely use­able af­ter two years of be­ing over­loaded and driven on Kenya’s aw­ful roads. The Kibo is de­signed to run for much longer with main­te­nance a core part of the plan and — as im­por­tant — busi­ness train­ing.

Veld­man said: “You’re an en­tre­pre­neur now with money com­ing in and out. You need to think about cus­tomer re­la­tions.”

For boda-boda pas­sen­gers the ex­pe­ri­ence is of­ten hair-rais­ing and rarely pleas­ant, es­pe­cially for women. Male driv­ers with of­ten poor per­sonal hy­giene have a habit of squeez­ing the brake hard when a fe­male pas­sen­ger is on board, caus­ing her to lurch for­wards and press her body, un­will­ingly, against him. This was one of the main gripes among fe­male pas­sen­gers in the user groups.

Safety is also built into the bike, from the strong ex­ter­nal frame to the fuel tank’s un­usu­ally high po­si­tion de­signed to dis­cour­age the plac­ing of pack­ages, or chil­dren, on it.

Gri­js­paarde said: “It’s about sav­ing lives, im­prov­ing road safety and en­abling the build­ing of a busi­ness through own­er­ship of a good as­set.” — Wheels24.

PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Kenya’s mo­tor­bike taxis, pop­u­lar but dan­ger­ous, are as likely to land you in the ca­su­alty depart­ment as get you to a meet­ing on time. Known as bod­abo­das, they’re cheaply made, poorly main­tained and badly driven. Kibo hopes to change all that, turn­ing out sturdy bikes in Kenya and pro­vid­ing main­te­nance, road safety and busi­ness train­ing as well as mi­cro-fi­nance loans.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.