Coins for a coin: How Charles Wanjohi trades with matatu operators
Published on: June 23, 2020 01:17 (EAT)
Coins are considered to be of little value or use, but in Kenya’s transport sector it is king. So much so that matatu operators buy them to conduct business without inconveniencing commuters. Without the coins and the salesmen, it is apparent that the matatu business would be a nightmare to operate. Most of us exchange money for a different commodity of the same value. But for Charles Wanjohi, things are a little different. He has been selling coins to matatu operators on the busy Outer-Ring Road for the past 6 years. “….how I sell them is that I first collect the coins, package Ksh. 450 in a small packet then sell it to a conductor or matatu for Ksh. 500. I make my Ksh. 50 as profit. If you sell coins worth Ksh. 10,000 or Ksh. 15,000 then I get around Ksh. 1,500 which is good for me as it helps sustain my family,” he told Citizen TV. His work begins in the evening, going round different estates to collect coins from shop owners. Once he reaches his target, Wanjohi packages the coins for his customers in batches. He says this comes in handy during the exchange as it happens within seconds. Wanjohi used to sell soda and water from a small stand along the busy highway but discovered that selling coins to matatu operators would be more profitable after they kept on asking him for loose change. From then on, the side hustle became his bread and butter. “These coins help us in a way that make it easier for us to serve customers and less hectic in looking for change,” Daniel Sigil, a matatu conductor, said. “Early mornings are especially hectic for us as we haven no money from the previous day but we take the coins from him and after 3 or 4 trips we come back and pay him,” Mike Maina, another matatu conductor, said. Wanjohi however says social distancing measures for PSV operators in the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic have negatively affected his business. “Business was amazing before corona however now that matatus are carrying less people and bus fares have gone up to 100 or 150 , the demand for coins has gone down,” he said.