How Nairobi Mkokoteni Owners are Minting Millions

  • A mkokoteni puller in Nairobi
    A mkokoteni puller in Nairobi.
  • Handcarts commonly referred to as mikokoteni are a common sight in the streets of Nairobi with a huge concentration in the Central Business District (CBD).

    Strategically placed at the intersection of busy streets in including Luthuli Avenue, River road, Latema road are young men with their tools of trade ready for business. 

    You have probably come across them, eager to assist a passenger with heavy luggage at a busy bus stop. 

    These carts are owned by individuals who loan them to pullers daily at a fee, in the process raking in good money from behind the scene.

    A handcart puller in Nairobi
    A handcart puller in Nairobi.

    These traders not only hire out the handcarts, but also dollies which serve thousands of people for different jobs in the city.

    It is estimated that there are over 2,000 hand carts and over 5,000 dollies operating in the central business district and are owned by individuals who control operations.

    The combined units numbering more than 7,000 are hired out for between Ksh50 and Ksh150, money that is paid directly to the owners.

    This translates to between Ksh126 million and Ksh378 million for the owners annually.

    The pullers are estimated to make between Ksh700 and Ksh1,200 daily, which amounts to Ksh1.8 billion and Ksh3 billion annually.

    In a recent interview, a businessman with 17 dollies and two handcarts confirmed that he makes between Ksh5,000 and Ksh3,000 every week.

    A handcart is estimated to cost Ksh40,000, while a dolly costing between Ksh5,000 and Ksh8,000.

    A mkokoteni puller disclosed that it was cheaper to hire a cart than to buy one.

    "I normally charge Ksh50 per bale depending on the distance, and carry up to 30 bales. That totals to Ksh1500 per trip, and I make up to three trips per day," he stated.

    That means on a good month he earns an average of Ksh60,000. Moses added that he hires a mkokoteni at Ksh50 per trip, money he pays to the owner.

    In 2014, the Nairobi county assembly proposed a motion for the operators  to use bells and reflectors while on the road.

    The motion which sought to improve the conduct of the operators in the city, was not successful.

    In estates with water shortage, the mikokoteni normally transport water to the residents retailing a 20-litre jerrican at between Ksh20 and Ksh35.

    Water Vendors wait for their turn to fetch water at Kitengela on July 21, 2018.
    Water Vendors wait for their turn to fetch water at Kitengela on July 21, 2018.