African business, politics and lifestyle
Motor-rickshaws changing face of transport in Mali
Mali introduced Chinese-made motor rickshaws in 2006. They’ve been such a hit that most of Mali’s bigger cities are overrun with them and competition between drivers is pushing down prices. They’ve now been barred from the centre of the capital, Bamako, but in Mali’s third-largest city, Segou, the rickshaw-taxi is the main means of public transport.
“I have a wife and seven children,” rickshaw driver Bassidi Baba Djefaga told Reuters Africa Journal. “This
rickshaw is what enables me to feed my family. Before I had the rickshaw, I was a taxi driver and had two taxis. But when the new rickshaws arrived, I saw that taxi cars weren’t going to be good business any longer. So, I sold my two taxis and bought a rickshaw.”
Bassidi was one of the first drivers in Segou to buy a motor rickshaw, and it paid off. He can now make around $300 a month — a lot more than the average income in Mali, which is around $130.
The rickshaws are a government initiative to create employment and improve transport. Mali’s minister for transport introduced them in 2006 after a visit to China, where motor rickshaws are widely used.
In Mali, drivers buy them from the government for about $2000 and pay for them in instalments over 20 months.
For the people of Segou, the motor rickshaws have revolutionised transport. Before, the only options were taking a donkey cart or an ordinary taxi, which can cost up to 50 cents per trip within Segou. In a motor-rickshaw the same journey costs 10 cents.
But success has brought competition. When Bassidi joined the scheme, there were only a handful of other rickshaws in the city and he was making $20 to $30 a day. Today there are more than 100 rickshaws in Segou town and 200 in the surrounding area, so the drivers’ profits have halved.