Keke NAPEP: Redefining work, space, and commuting for the urban poor

Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi, Lagos Community Manager
Lagos, 10 October 2014

The motorized tricycle, fondly called "Keke NAPEP" in Lagos, is a multifaceted tool in the daily lives of the city's inhabitants, providing easy navigation and employment. Navigating the city is a challenge due to poor road infrastructure, especially so in areas inhabited by the poor. Affordable rides on motorcycles called "okadas" used to be the preferred form of transportation for accessing these areas. However, due to the ban of okadas, more utility has been found with keke NAPEP: they are cheaper than commercial buses, and can reach areas with poor road networks and infrastructure that vehicles cannot navigate. This rise in the use of keke NAPEP has had tremendous effects on the poor. It provides increased and diversified employment, easier and more affordable navigation of the city, and increased income for its operators who can carry more than one passenger at once, as opposed to the single/double passenger okada transportation system.

In an attempt to alleviate poverty, the national government started the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) with the aim of equipping citizens with skills for employment and wealth creation as its focal point. One of the programs was focused on the motorized tricycle, hence its name "Keke NAPEP". The program has gone beyond the government providing the free and subsidized motorized tricycles to the poor, to becoming a major transportation business. Since the okada ban on major Lagos roads, more now turn to operating Keke NAPEP as their source of livelihood. The appeal of Keke NAPEP goes beyond the ban on motorcycles, as it is considered a safer alternative due to its enclosed nature compared to the open one of a motorcycle, more affordable for the rider, and it allows operators earn more in one journey than with an okada since they can carry multiple riders at once.

However, the advantages of the Keke NAPEP are mostly for riders, who find a cheap, quick, relatively safe and far reaching mode of transportation to their places of employment and daily activities. For operators, advantages include a source of employment and income, and a mobile workspace, which cuts overhead costs of business and transport to work costs. Despite these advantages, operators find it a tasking work space based on difficult and arbitrary regulations. Operators complain about the cost of obtaining Keke NAPEP (ranging between 250 000-350 000 NGN, USD $1,520 - $2,130), union dues, and bribery and corruption. Most operators now run their business on hire purchase (a rent-to-own plan), which makes the cost of starting more affordable in the near term but more expensive in the long run as final payments exceed original purchase cost. This cost, coupled with high union dues and bribery, is making this poverty eradication scheme ineffective: although income is generated, poor and insufficient regulation of the sector leads to loss of increased income to exploitation and exorbitant fees.

Keke NAPEP is essential in the city of Lagos. It has become a necessity not only as a source of employment, but a vital means of transportation. It might not be the most attractive form of transportation, but it is important for the city's poor. It behooves city regulators to ensure proper regulation of this transportation sector, starting with its unions and requirements for running the business. Close.

Photo: Canadian Pacific

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