“Every young man needed a job and these are the only means of employment in this country now,” Harris Culey, a Liberian motorcycle (or “pen-pen”) driver said in a CNN report.
In a city where much needed rehabilitation is apparent and employment is slim, Culey and others — reported to once have been child soldiers — answered the call to come to the rescue of citizens looking for affordable transportation.
According to CNN, ever since the civil war ended in 2003, the motorcycle taxi industry has expanded in Liberia. Three Unions support more than 500,000 drivers who make anywhere between $6 and $20 per day — impressive wages in a country where the daily minimum wage is $6.
One union, the Liberian Motorcycle Transport Union has grown to roughly 40,000 members since its 2004 establishment, Robert M. Sammie, the organization’s national secretary told CNN.
He and others associated with the group are looking to create a unified industry.
“We decided to provide leadership and guardians [so] it just wouldn’t be something done illegally and people could not respect you or regard you so that’s why we incorporated to make us a formal business,” Sammie said in the report.
In opposition to the common perception, drivers are “important people,” Culey added.
Though road conditions and regulated stop lights in the country aren’t always up to par, Sammie explained to CNN is that the larger problem is the motorcyclists themselves.
Instead of spending their entire lives as motorcyclists who risk getting into tragic accidents — which have increased since the expansion of the motorcycle taxi industry — they should be looking ahead on their continued paths of transformation.
“How many of [the drivers] are in school? How many of them have had accidents? When we get that done what we are thinking about is to see how we transition some of them from riding motorcycles to owning cars, going to colleges and so forth,” Sammie concluded. “We don’t have to have a generation of motorcycle riders because if that happens it’s not really going to be good in the near future.”