When he came to Kigali from the Eastern Province about a decade ago, Veatauri Tubanambazi was optimistic and hoped for a better life in the city. But that was never to be and he could only get a job as a moto taxi rider after months as an unemployed youth in the city. However, Tubanambazi was determined to get the best out of the opportunity and ride on it to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a ‘big’ businessman.
Tubanambazi, the president and founder of Muhima Cooperative of Motorcyclists in Nyarugenge District, Kigali, is now a moto taxi operator and owns a fleet of moto taxis that ply different routes in Kigali. The enterprise brings in more returns every month than what the majority of corporates earn.
Tubanambazi boasts of over 10 years experience in the trade and says he has no regrets for joining the moto taxi business.
The 34-year-old, commonly known by many in Muhima as “Motoman” earns Rwf1.2 million on average per month after tax. The Rwamagana District native attributes this achievement largely to his enterprising nature, hard work and support from Business Development Fund (BDF), which provides loan guarantees for budding businesses that are bankable.
Like many start-ups, the journey has not been smooth for the moto taxi rider cum businessman.
How he started
After dropping out high school in 2006, Tubanambazi relocated from Rwamagana District to Kigali in search of greener pastures. However, without even a Senior Six diploma certificate to his name, the chances of getting ‘decent’ employment were limited, forcing him to join the hundreds of city moto taxi operators to earn a living.
“I borrowed money from a relative and enrolled in one of the driving schools in the city to acquire a licence as I prepared to seek a job as moto taxi rider,” Tubanambazi narrates.
Luck was on his side as a neighbour was looking for someone to work for him, an opportunity Tubanambazi grabbed with open hands as his journey into the trade started. The deal was attractive as he would be able to own the motorcycle after a year.
“According to the work contract, I was supposed to remit Rwf5,000 daily for one and half years, after which the bike would be mine,” he explains.
That’s what happened, making Tubanambazi a moto taxi owner less than two years after he came to the city.
“This also meant that all the money I earned was mine,” he says, adding that on a bad day he made Rwf10,000.
“This boosted my morale and love for the business. So, I decided to buy another motorcycle using my savings to increase my income,” he adds.
However, it was not easy to get a loan from commercial banks or MFIs “as many of them never wanted to deal with individual moto taxi operators, but groups. That’s when I decided to organise colleagues to form a co-operative, giving birth to Mahima Co-operative of Motorcyclists.
“We started with 60 members and registered the co-operative under the Federation of Motorcyclists in Rwanda to be certified. Later, I went to Saganganza Microfinance in Kigali and applied for a loan, but I was turned down for the second time,” he narrates.
Tubanambazi and colleagues’ woes were only to end when Business Developed Fund intervened. The Fund operates a guarantee facility to support young and promising enterprises, especially those operated by youth.
“When BDF officials visited us, we presented our business proposal, which was later approved. The Fund then trained us on how to manage loans and the co-operative,” he says.
BDF provided guarantee for the group’s Rwf31 million loan that the co-operative used to buy 20 motorcycles. Tubanambazi was put in charge of the project.
He also received two motorcycles as part of the loan, bringing the number of his bikes to three. To earn more money, the resident of Gisozi works both day and night.
He says his biggest challenge is bad perception from the public about moto taxi operators.
“Many people think that we are bad and they don’t respect us…Some drivers have no respect for us and even authorities like Police some times are hard on us for no good reason,” he says.
He, however, notes that the industry has also been infiltrated by wrong people that have tarnished its image.
“That is why we (motorcyclist co-operatives and riders) are working with government institutions, like the Police and Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) to streamline the industry,” he said.
Tubanambazi says he does not regret choosing the moto taxi business.
He says the business has turned him into a responsible family man married with two children. Besides he has bought himself a plot of land in Gisozi and built a decent house for his family’s accommodation. I have also used part of my savings to start a business for my wife who now earns more than Rwf400,000 per month as a side income.
Tubanambazi plans to go back to school in September.
“I want to join university to study business administration,” he said.
Discipline and prudent financial management have played a key role in Tubanambazi’s success story.
He says these are the fundamental principles for anyone who wants to succeed in business.
“You must do everything within your power to save every penny you earn. Observing traffic and safety guidelines and taking precaution while on the road is equally important for moto taxi operators,” he adds.
He urges youth who have a tendency of undermining jobs to rethink this ‘strategy’ as it kept them trapped in poverty.
“Young people should go out there and take on the existing job opportunities, including moto taxi work,” he says.
He calls on government to do more to create jobs. “While we appreciate the efforts of government and good governance Rwanda is experience presently, it is important that government invests more in sectors that will help create jobs especially for women and the youth to ensure sustainable growth.”