For millions of Kenyans, matatus play a central role in facilitating their movement around Nairobi City with many preferring to board a stylish ride emblazoned by the likeness of their favorite celebrities.
Unknown to many, however, is the colossal amount of money that matatu saccos are compelled to shell out even as the competition for the most outstanding bus continues to rock the industry.
While appearing on Best of, an NTV show created by Eugene Mbugua, Brian Wanyama, popularly known as Graff Matwana, noted that the customization cost north of Ksh6.5 million.
He noted that after entrepreneurs buy the truck chases, they have to visit a body fabrications shop to include the basic requirements of a bus including chairs and windows.
A pimped matatu on a highway in Kenya.
File That is when customisations, as per the customer’s satisfaction, comes in and could drive the value of the matatus to over Ksh10 million.
“There way it is, buying chassis for a 33 seater vehicle costs Ksh4 million. You will go to your fabricator and that will cost you Ksh2 million to build the body, the windows and the seats. That is before customises.
From there, everything will cost you extra. After all the customisation, you will have spent at least Ksh6.5 million. There are those who exceed Ksh10 million,” Wanyama stated.
He further noted that the value varies depending on the competitiveness of each route the matatu will ply – with Rongai, Umoja and Ngong routes being the most competitive.
“Our work as Matwana Culture is to rebrand and bring value for the matatu industry. We do this through events, merchandise as well as videos online and workshops.
“We also train individuals interested in becoming Graffiti artists, DJs, and tattoo artists among others,” Wanyama added.
So far, the industry is valued at Ksh150 billion shillings and is managed by some of the wealthiest businessmen in Nairobi, who are using the emergence of the flashy matatu culture to their advantage.
Gabriel Kinyua, a field manager attached to a sacco that plies the Nairobi-Rongai route revealed that before the pandemic hit the country in March 2020, matatu owners would make up to Ksh12, 000 daily. The earnings have since stabilised after the government eased restrictions.
The players are, however, not spared from footing the high bills associated with the industry operations including insurance, seasonal fee and advance tax.
“There are also the cartels and the repairs which have to be done every month or once in two months. If you have to redo the interior and exterior it could cost up to Ksh 300,000,” decried Sheko Beko who owns the over 30 Zam Zam Sacco buses in a past interview.
The international community has also shared the fascination with the matatu culture which has since received shout outs from singer Cardi B, rapper Trey Songz and musician Wycliffe Jean among others.
Matatus caught up in a traffic snarl-up at Tom Mboya street near Khoja/Old Mutual terminus