I have always wanted to write something about our transport system and the huddles involved for one to get to work early and let it be printed in the papers but again part of my mind said why not for us here! Eeh before I forget, taxi are the matatus we use here in Uganda, while ‘Maaso awo’ means find the next stage for me to get off.

As a Kiva Coordinator, Pearl Microfinance, the work I do involves a lot of movements with so many hardships, but if all this is to be added on to the messy taxis, traffic jams and the rude taxi operators especially the conductors, then my day will be messed up to the extent of killing my morale and ever wishing to grow wings to fly over to my destinations; but interestingly, the thought of meeting all the wonderful clients and their businesses restores every bit of my confidence and courage to face anything that comes my way.

In Uganda, mostly in the City centre and the neighboring towns, we have had a chaotic transport system which I think every one is having a share.

Each morning as I wake up, among the things I think of is whether I will get a fare taxi to take me to town to a stage next to my work place. This is a thought that comes to only those that wake up very early, leave alone those that leave home late and have never experienced such.

First of all, getting a taxi will mean you have the energy and power to push others away to find a seat inside so that you are not late for work. On many occasions, I have had to step on people’s polished shoes but frankly speaking people care less because we all do it at some point. Others have lost their belongings like watches, phones, and bags have been spoilt in the process of squeezing each other; and funny enough not to the pick-pocketers but to the ground. Such a situation would have been a bit fair for us who choose to ‘fight’ for the seats but in a way, this is a blessing to the taxi operators who on seeing such a mess will and have always increased the fares to more than double. Take an example of Bweyogerere stage where I come from, on a normal day, the taxi fare can be 500 shs but when such a time comes, it is usually tripled and sometimes more. Here most of us have had to choose to either be late or spend more for the journey; in most cases, we choose option 2.

When it comes to the evenings after work, it’s terrible. People are too many for the taxis; the jam is too much, fares hiked yet people do not want to spend more than enough but then who would fancy spending too much. I have always had to take my bazungu friends for shopping and whenever they mention out the price to them, they would lean back to ask, ‘Isn’t that a muzungu price?’ meaning isn’t that too much? So every body is cautious, hence my claim justified. The taxi operators usually have a saying mostly in the evenings when they want us to board their taxi that goes, ‘if you are a responsible citizen, board now so that you have time for your family’. At first, this made me feel guilty considering that I leave my family early before some of them could wake up and then go back late in the evening when they are almost ready for bed but I have learnt to explain to them and thank God they are happy whenever they see me; and however much the taxi people talk, they don’t move me until I get a taxi with a fair charge.

The scenario above affects mostly those without their own cars but even those that have cars have wanted to run away from the traffic jam by either taking a fast boda boda to work but again they think of where to park their cars and the costs involved; and in the end will drop the idea.

 

The writer in a morning taxi that is stuck in traffic jam on the way to work.

The writer in a morning taxi that is stuck in traffic jam on the way to work.

About the ever changing taxi fares, I think we the passengers need to find a solution to our dilemma as was a case recently.

It was in the morning and the fares were hiked; we all agreed that with the next taxi, let us all not board but surprisingly when it showed up, five people were quick to jump on but the rest of us decided not to. This is when the operators reduced the fare to normal with bitter words to accompany the news but all the same it worked and all the taxis that followed did the same. To me, this is the solution that can save us since Utoda; the taxi governing body seems to have turned a deaf ear to all the passengers’ claims.

The same thing is happening to the fight against poverty. By making the financial services available for people to develop their businesses, their general livelihood will change for the better. And this is something that is jointly done by Kiva, Kiva lenders, Kiva Fellows, the Microfinance Institutions and the Clients. Together, we can always achieve our goals.

Posted on behalf of Grace Natoolo, Pearl Microfinance

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