Dennis K. Kazungu
Matatu, a Swahili word for ‘mapeni matatu’, thirty cents, a flat fair charged in the 1960s is the word used to refer to the PSV minibuses operating on Kenyan roads. More than fifty years later, the matatu transport industry has experienced a lot of transformation.
In the quest of trying to outsmart their competitors, matatu owners have evolutionized the matatu transport industry by featuring decorated portraits of the famous and popular slogans and sayings. The matatus are also pimped with graffiti-style artwork, custom designs, flashy lights and onboard entertainment. The passengers are entertained by the screens installed inside those vehicles playing latest attractive music videos enough to make one to easily forget to alight at their destinations. They mostly appeal to the youth.
The 125 Ongata Rongai route matatus is a good example of this culture. With the route made up of many youth as the passengers of the universities around (Multimedia University of Kenya, Catholic University of East Africa, Africa Nazarene University and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Karen campus), matatu operators are reaping enough from it. It is not a surprise to find a university student along Magadi road waiting to board a pimped matatu for forty minutes and leaving the 14-passenger PSVs to go unfilled.
The matatus have created a culture that the youth have embraced as they consider it fashionable and classy. It is recently that the matatu culture awards were introduced and we had ‘Catalyst’ named the ‘Street King’ in the Nganya Awards that happened in August 2016.