Nairobi city profile

The following summary provides an overview of findings from WhereIsMyTransport’s mixed-method research (surveys (online and offline), ride-alongs and focus group workshops).

In Nairobi, the relationship between comfort and time came up as a frequent topic of discussion across different user groups. For the higher-income groups such as the student, working professional, and stay-at-home mum, comfort during travel is of higher importance than time, whereas for women in the lower-income groups the feeling of being time poor meant leaving earlier and sleeping on public transport.

One of the most important factors for mothers when deciding on which mode of transport to use, was whether it was fit for their child. This includes criteria such as vehicle safety, and getting home as quickly as possible when a child is tired.

In Nairobi, as in other cities, research participants often exhibited anxiety when it comes to how their travel decisions might impact others, for example by causing delays to their caregiving or breadwinning activities.

Working professionals explained that they can afford the higher costs to ensure that they are more comfortable. They also cited the social stigma that comes with riding matatus that blare music or are older vehicles. Lower income earning participants (informal traders and students) prioritise the faster vehicles run by the drivers who know the city well, whereas higher income earning participants spoke about the importance of comfort. One hypothesis brought forward to explain this is that being time-poor or money-rich is an important variable in the transport mode decision-making process of different income groups.

Touts assist the driver with loading and unloading passengers, collecting fares, and managing the passenger and drivers needs and requests. Participants characterised touts as rude and aggressive, however, they are also the first person a woman would ask for assistance if she felt in danger on a matatu.

One of the workshops focused on the experience of women who work in transport with most of the participants working as touts. The women explained that it was more frequent for a woman to start a job in the transport sector as a tout rather than as a driver, and that it was difficult to progress from the former to the latter. Various challenges were mentioned, among others male drivers asking for sexual favours in exchange for retaining the female tout’s position on the vehicle. Furthermore, male touts are given driving lessons and the opportunity to progress whereas female touts are not. Lastly, if a better position does become available, nepotism was cited as the reason that female touts will not progress.

When discussing concerns about safety, workshop participants more often raised the threat of theft over sexual harassment and violence. This contrasted with women’s survey responses on the question around incidents experienced on public transport, where the most frequently cited incidents were “Being pushed by someone while getting on or off public transport or while on public
transport” (73%) or “Inappropriate or uncomfortable stares” (63%). Younger women spoke about incidents of sexual harassment more often than older women, whereas the likelihood of theft seemed more prevalent for older women, and this was also reflected in the survey data with 14% of women aged 18-34 having experienced unconsensual physical touching on public transport, as opposed to 9% and 10% respectively for the 35-44 and 45-59 year old groups.

Working Professional
30 years

Most used transport modes:
Matatu (Minibus), train, Swvl, Uber/Bolt, Motorbike, friends’ cars

Sex worker
35 years

Most used transport modes:
Matatu (Minibus), Boda Boda