I on Kenya – A positive view to living in Kenya

Posted on February 17th, 2011
Categories: News

We have elections in Kenya next year, so in true pre-election style, our roads are being re-carpeted.  Jams abound as the gangs of road builders inch along the main roads, creating havoc, but ultimately delivering smooth-ish roads, with most of the pot holes filled in.  The new roads suit the shiny new cars, which make up the bulk of Kenyan traffic today.

One part of the jam that has not changed, however, is the mkokoteni.  A traditional hand pulled cart, made up of recycled car wheels, bits of off-cut wood and a hastily welded patchwork of black scrap metal.  I saw one mkokoteni out this morning, in the pouring rain (and yes, it did rain on Valentines day, if you read my previous post) with a supermarket bag tied on his head in place of an umbrella or hat.  No ‘leaves on the line’ to delay this lot – they are driven by ‘stomach forces’ – they work, they eat, and so, day in day out, they work.

Mkokoteni’s are the Kenyan equivalent of Europe’s white van man.  You want something moved, call in the mkokoteni guy.  He will pile the cart high, heft it where ever you want it, for a handful of coins and a soda or a chapati along the way.

Zero emissions, 100% recycled, local employment, they beat even the Prius hands down in planet-loving buzz words!  Do we praise this wonder of the Kenyan science of making something out of nothing?Far from it.  Mkotoeni’s block the traffic as they heave their load up a hill, terrify us as they freewheel down hill and, generally, get a pretty bad press.  Mkokoteni’s would horrify anyone with a health and safety skew on life, but they get the job done cheaply, effectively and usually with a bit of good cheer.  You might not, however, want to put your flat screen tv on the load, the only insurance you have if something breaks, disappears or falls off, is the good old ‘poli’ or ‘sorry for that’.

Will the humble mkototeni traffic disappear from our roads as time and motion studies render them obsolete? Will the transport unions shut them down or the health and safety pundits outlaw this common Kenyan sight? Probably.  But just imagine for a moment if the west caught on, and introduced the super eco-friendly mkototeni.  I can just see the ‘Top Gear’ review now!