Paratransit business strategies: a bird's eye view of matatus in Nairobi
McCormick, Dorothy; Mitullah, Winnie V.; Chitere, Preston; Orero, Risper; Ommeh, Marilyn S.; Southern African Transport Conference (30th : 2011 : Pretoria, South Africa); Transportation Research Board of the National Academies (TRB); Minister of Transport, South Africa
Paper presented at the 30th Annual Southern African Transport Conference 11-14 July 2011 "Africa on the Move", CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria, South Africa.
Matatus, as Nairobi's paratransit vehicles are called, are businesses offering a service to the public for a price that their owners hope will yield a profit. This paper investigates the nature and variety of matatu business strategies and their relationship not only to
government's stated aim of improving the urban public transport sector but also to the
sometimes competing institutions of the public transport industry and the wider society
Drawing on interviews of informed observers of matatu businesses, the paper found that
matatus are businesses that vary in structure and modes of operation. Their strategic
behaviour covered multiple aspects of their businesses The research suggests that
Nairobi's publlc transport businesses form a continuum extending from the 'typical'
individually owned 14-seat van or mini-bus through larger, more organised firms. One
emerging trend appears to be the movement towards higher levels of organisation through franchising, networking, and ownership of multiple vehicles. The paper concludes that matatu businesses render a necessary service to Nairobi's travelling public, but this service is of low quality and generates considerable negative externalities, partly because of erratic enforcement of regulations and endemic corruption. The paper's conclusions will be tested against data to be gathered from the business owners themselves in the second phase of the research.
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