The Lane to Wealth

Published on 2nd May 2006

Samuel Kariuki is a 28 year old taxi driver based at the Nairobi’s City Centre. He lost his parents and dropped out of high school due to lack of school fees. In 2000, he managed to join a driving school and got himself a job as a taxi driver. Samuel shares his work experiences with The African Executive.


Q. What happened after you left school?

A. I had to look for money to feed, cloth myself and pay rent for the one roomed house I lived in with my brother. Unfortunately back then none of my siblings could support the other.

Q. Where were your other siblings?

A. I was living with one. The other three had already moved out by the time my parents passed away since my parents could not manage to support all of us.

Q. Who paid for your driving?

A. I paid for it myself. I used to do some odd jobs such as carrying luggage, cleaning hotels and household chores. From my savings, I managed to raise funds to pay for my driving lessons. This took me three years.

Q. Briefly share your experience as a taxi driver. 

A. Having been a taxi driver for six years, I have been exposed to a lot of things. I meet all kinds of people, from genuine ones to thieves. Some people willingly accept to pay for the services provided, while others evade paying.

Q. How do they do that?

A. In most cases they claim that the money is in the house while others say they are going to meet someone in a restaurant who is meant to make the payment. Once they are dropped at their residence, they ask to pick the money from the house but never come back. In most cases the gate is closed hence I cannot follow them. If one is not keen enough, there is little he can do. It is also difficult identifying a customer hiding in a crowded restaurant.

Q. How often does this happen? 

A. Such cases take place daily.

Q. What else? 

A. Some customers don’t like hiring taxis with the yellow line, yet the law demands that taxis bear the line. Some live in insecure areas; yet, they want our services even at odd hours. One ends up having two options: to accept and be ready for carjacking or turn down the offer and lose the money. I am forced to lie that I have another client who is waiting for my services to avoid driving in risky places.

At times, I am forced to charge the client a higher fee if the petrol price goes up or when there is heavy traffic. Most customers do not take this kindly. They get so annoyed and threaten to pick another option forgeting that I have to fuel and maintain the car.

Q. Any other challenges? 

A. Sometime back I had one of the worst experiences in my life. I hired out my car to someone who agreed to return it after twelve hours. At around 2.00pm I received a phone call from Kilimani police station asking whether I was the owner of that car and summoning me to the station.

On arrival, I was told my car was involved in a robbery. Two men who were dressed like policemen attempted to rob a petrol station and on realizing they were being followed, jumped out of the car and abandoned it near Ngong forest. That’s where my car was found.  On trying to reach those people on phone, they were out of reach. You can now imagine how many other dirty deals my car had been involved in before the truth came out.

Q. What’s your comment on the above?

A. The government has a major role to play especially when it comes to security. The rate of insecurity in Kenya is on the rise. One can be carjacked any time. I feel insecure because I do not know what to expect. But since I have to support my family, I have to continue being on the road.

Noadays, I ask my customers to pay before being served. Some do complain but on explaining the reason behind my stand, they understand and make the necessary payment. Customers have to understand that if fuel prices rise, our charges rise too. About the yellow line, we have to follow the law otherwise we shall face the consequences as much as we want to make money. Our customers should understand that.

Q. Do you have any regrets? 

A. No. I love my job because at the end of the day I am able to provide for my family. I have also learnt a lot. For example, I now know if I serve my customer well they will always come back. I have over fifteen permanent customers. 

Q. Where do you see yourself five years from now?

A. A Director of my own tours and travel firm.

Q. What advice would you give to the unemployed? 

A. You have to be creative and innovative. Don’t sit down and wait for miracles. Make use of your talent. You can do something constructive.

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