- Title: EGYPT: Mini-vehicles ease congestion and create jobs in Cairo
- Date: 24th January 2007
- Summary: (SOUNBITE) (Arabic) SECRETARY OF THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY AND HEAD OF DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE FOR ARD AL-LIWA MOHAMMAD MOHAMMAD ALI AL-HISSI SAYING: "It solved the problem of 1,500 young people - I have 600 young people working in tuk tuks (at any given time), let's say there are two (shifts a day), sometimes three (shifts a day), so that is 1,200 young people (working on tuk tuks every day). It has solved the unemployment problem of 1,200 people. In addition to this it solved the problem -- it transports men and women, especially old people and the sick and pregnant women to their doorsteps."
- Embargoed: 8th February 2007 12:00
- Location: Egypt
- Country: Egypt
- Topics: Industry
- Reuters ID: LVA5XH9WONG012CAMU3YVKHYXG2E
- Story Text: The tuk tuk, a three-wheeled mini-cab imported from India, has come to Cairo and promises to ease the city's endemic congestion and also create jobs. A small piece of India has come to Cairo, with the three-wheeled tuk tuk taxis (or auto-rickshaw) more familiar to New Delhi or Mumbai, now cutting through the city's endemic congestion in districts like Imbaba.
In a city whose population stands at 18 million, and which adds nearly a million new souls every year, traffic jams are a way of life.
But in the bustling backstreets of Imbaba's Ard al-Liwa, one of several neighbourhoods in Cairo where the tiny, beetle-like vehicles are now shuttling passengers, the tuk tuks are bringing a measure of relief.
In places like Ard al-Liwa, where taxis and buses often refuse to traverse the poorly maintained roads, The tuk tuk has become particularly popular -- where cars fear to tread, the tuk tuk now rules.
In addition to easing congestion, the proliferation of tuk tuks is also creating much-needed jobs.
Mohammad Mohammad Ali al-Hissi, the local head of the ruling National Democratic Party's development committee says that the tuk tuk has been a huge success.
"It solved the problem of 1,500 young people - I have 600 young people working in tuk tuks (at any given time), let's say there are two (shifts a day), sometimes three (shifts a day), so that is 1,200 young people (working on tuk tuks every day). It has solved the unemployment problem of 1,200 people. In addition to this it solved the problem -- it transports men and women, especially old people and the sick and pregnant women to their doorsteps," he said.
Unemployment is one of Egypt's other main afflictions, and jobless Egyptians have discovered that purchasing the relatively cheap tuk tuks is a convenient way out.
Not everyone in Imbaba is enamoured of the scuttling little newcomers, however.
The tuk tuks have yet to be approved by the government, and are therefore still unlicensed. As a result the drivers are accountable to no-one if they get in an accident. With many of the drivers underage, as young as 11 in some cases, and untrained, the tuk tuks are unsettling to some.
"We never saw such ugly things in our area before the tuk tuk arrived. As you see, every day we have a lot of problems. I swear to God one just hit a lady and broke her leg," says local resident Hilmi.
While driving a taxi has been a common way out of joblessness for the legions of Egyptians who graduate university every year into a saturated job market, purchasing and maintaining a car is often prohibitively expensive.
The tuk tuks, on the other hand, are a relative bargain, and can be bought from one of several dealers who import them from India in one off cash payments of 13000 Egyptian pounds (around 2280 U.S. dollars), or about 36,000 Egyptian pounds (around 6315 U.S. dollars) in instalments.
Driving a tuk tuk is hardly the life ambition of men like Ashraf, but it is one of his only options.
"I will tell you something, I graduated from the institute of trade and I can't find work. This tuk tuk was a very good opportunity for me to work. And because of this I'm working on it," he said.
And for customers like Hanan, more used to using claustrophobic microbuses, the tuk tuks are a welcome change.
"It's a good mode of transportation. Excellent, I'm very happy with it. This long distance here, people had to walk it before. These big cars (mini-buses) are barbaric, they put people on top of each other, but this is respectable," she said.
Anyone in Cairo who has experienced the trauma of public transportation will identify with such sentiments, of course. The public buses are usually filled to bursting point, with passengers packed in shoulder to shoulder and riders often clinging to the outside of the bus for dear life.
By contrast the tuk tuk cabin, which carries up to three people, offers relative luxury. And with a top speed of about 50 km/h, passengers zip in and out of the gridlock with uncommon swiftness - so long as their nerves can handle a poorly trained child-driver at the controls.
In poor neighbourhoods like Ard al-Liwa, the tuk tuk is undoubtedly giving opportunities to some.
"We don't find anything (work) here to live off of. There is no work and we don't find work. We don't find work at all," says driver Hamed.
While Egypt's antiquated public transportation system has been unable to shoulder the city's burden, for the time being it seems low-tech solutions like the tuk tuk may be the answer.
The tiny Indian import may have been an amusing sight to Egyptians when they first debuted, but they are increasingly becoming commonplace in the sometimes carnival-like atmosphere that is metropolitan Cairo, and may well be around for some time to come.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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