More women eye taxi-moto business

Mahesh Kumar, director of Yego Moto, explains the driving training programme that will start next month. / Michel Nkurunziza

More Rwandan women are tapping into the two-wheeled transport business, which has been dominated by over the years, in what is seemingly a move by women to take up opportunities that come with the trade.

Recent numbers show that more female taxi-moto riders are popping up in different parts of the country, defying the odds in a trade, which has been a preserve of men since the motorbike emerged as a reliable means of transport in the country in early 2000’s.

Many of the female moto riders interviewed indicated that they were inspired to take up the moto business by other women, who defied joined the otherwise ‘rough’ business.

Solange Uwizeyimana, from Huye District, who operates taxi-moto business in the City of Kigali, says that arriving from the village into the city with no immediate employment, she challenged herself to take up a motorbike to earn a living.

The moto rider, told Business Times, that she joined the business after experiencing hardships in life.

“After one year and half in the city with no work, I met someone who got me the motorbike on loan which I have to repay. I started in September last year, and I pay Rwf30, 000 every week. I hope to finish paying the loan and it becomes my own property,” she said.

After dropping out of school due to lack of school fees, she got support to attend vocational training under TVET programmes, where she obtained a short course in construction.

However, she says that it was an uphill task to earn a living from her new skills because often she worked as a casual worker on construction sites, which prompted her to take driving lessons and earned a category A driver’s license to ride a motorcycle.

In 2017, Uwizeyimana started riding a motorcycle, ferrying passengers from one place to another, who in turn pay her. From her earnings, she is able to finance the motorcycle which was acquired on loan.

Despite tight competition in the business, Uwizeyimana pushes to earn at least Rwf10, 000 daily in order to pay the weekly deposit of Rwf30, 000 and she remains with at least Rwf40, 000 for her own needs, servicing the motorbike and fuel.

“The bike helps me to meet my daily needs, including rent, food, clothes and others. I have made it a point to save at least Rwf2, 000 every day on my bank account. I hope to accumulate more capital, which I can use to start other projects,” she said.

Uwizeyimana is part of 12 women who came together and decided to take on the male-dominated taxi-moto business in the City of Kigali, majority of who are single mothers with children to feed.

“Some of them have children. We were all jobless and decided to do what many thought women can not do. I urge women to open their mind and find things to do, instead of engaging in dehumanising acts, such as prostitution,” she noted.

She says the group has inspired more women to join the moto riding business, and many passengers opt for the women for safety reasons.

According to SSP Jean Marie Vianney Ndushabandi, the spokesperson for Traffic and Road Safety Department at Rwanda National Police (RNP), more women in this business will contribute toward reduction of accidents since they are thought to be more careful than their male counterparts.

“It is a good idea to enhance gender equality in transport sector,” he said.

The Labour Force Survey of the first quarter of 2019 by National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) shows that over 156,000 people work in transportation and storage sectors of which only 5,400 are women.

The Labour Force Survey of 2017 indicated that there were 36,875 male taxi-moto operators.

Under a new training programme, set to start in July with a view to equip at least 200 women with moto riding skills, the number of female motorbike riders is expected to go up.

The programme, which will be jointly implemented through Promotion of Economy and Employment Project backed by Germany government by German Development Agency (GIZ) and Yego Moto in partnership with Rwanda National Police, targets to increase the number of women in the taxi-moto business.

“We want to create job more opportunities for women in the transport sector. 200 women will form the first women-only taxi cooperative in Rwanda. After getting driving licenses, they will also get subsidised motorcycles,” said Mahesh Kumar, Director of Yego Moto, adding that the women will acquire motorbikes through a monthly payback scheme.

The training includes knowledge about City of Kigali, customer care, information about tourism destinations and conferences, ICT skills and navigating digital maps, self-defence training, first aid skills, among others.

Ellen Kallinowsky, the principal Technical Advisor of GIZ/Eco-Emploi project, said they will then proceed with supporting female truck drivers, taxi-cabs drivers and African driving academy for women.