Three-Wheeled Tuk-Tuks Help Make Transport Accessible For More Africans

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Written by Dana Sanchez

When motorcycle taxis were banned in Monrovia because of their high accident rate, the ensuing market vacuum paved the way for Asia’s three-wheeled, motorized rickshaws — the tuk-tuk, according to an AFP report in the Southeast Asian daily, BusinessTimes.

Tuk-tuk rides cost about 25 cents in Liberia, making them more accessible as a form of transport than traditional taxis, which are out of reach for thousands of Monrovians. Tuk-tuks can be rented for about US$25 a day and it costs about US$3,500 to buy one.

They’re known by a multitude of names in Africa — “bajaj” in Tanzania and Ethiopia; “toktok” in Egypt; “keke-marwa” in Nigeria; and “raksha” in Sudan.

Liberians have christened their own version the “kekeh.”

They’re safer, supposedly cheaper to operate than motorcycle taxis, according to BusinessTimes, and they’re an increasingly common sight along traffic-choked streets of the continent’s cities.

Tuk tuk driver, Mombasa. Photo: Anusa Pisance/BBC
Tuk tuk driver, Mombasa. Photo: Anusa Pisance/BBC

Liberian tuk-tuks are imported from India and China by mostly Nigerian and Guinean operators who employ young Liberians, BusinessTimes reported.

Kekehs have provided employment for 5,000 Monrovians, many of whom lost their jobs in the motorcycle taxi ban.

“What’s making the kekeh very important… is (that) we are looking at a huge transport challenge in our country,” said Jenkins Zayzay, secretary general of the Liberia Motorcycle and Tricycle Association.

“You had the two-tires that were running in the city … but because of government regulations, we had to introduce another form or some level of job employment for the young people,” Zayzay said. “So it was decided that we had to introduce the kekeh.”

India manufactures around 800,000 motorized rickshaws a year. More than a third are exported to other countries.

The TVS King tuk-tuk model is in 30 African countries. Its single cylinder, 200cc engine runs on petrol or the more environmentally friendly compressed natural gas.

Huasha, based in the Southern China city of Jiangmen, is producing its own version which looks more like the front end of a motorbike towing a two-wheel passenger trailer.

Highly regulated in Liberia, tuk-tuks’ sheet-metal frames offer more protection than motorcycles. In Liberia, motorcycle accidents have gone down 90 percent since motorcycles taxis were banned, according to Liberian National Police.