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Could taxis drive South Africa forward?

Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 01:46

Close to 19 million South Africans use minibus taxis everyday, even as most people describe them as dangerous and unreliable modes of public transport. As Joel Flynn reports, while the industry is worth 2.6 billion US dollars a lack of regulation still means it's difficult to track revenue.

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Milton Dube has been driving a taxi in Johannesburg for 15 years. Although he spends his days in traffic jams he still insists on wearing a suit and tie to work. SOUNDBITE: Taxi Driver, Milton Dube, saying (Zulu): "This is what I call my office, this is what puts food on the table, what sustains my children, my whole life is dependent on this office. The only thing I am missing is a pencil." Drivers in South Africa can make up to 65 dollars a day - a thousand rand considered a good return, though the risks are numerous. Taxis, or kombis as they're known, are widely associated by South Africans with pandemonium and poor driving. Ranks are crowded - touts and drivers not just rowdy but occasionally drunk. It's still an industry worth 40 billion rand - around two and half billion dollars. SOUNDBITE: SA Taxi Association Director of Corporate Affairs, Bonisile Makubalo, saying (English): "The industry transports on a day and average of about 19 million passengers, so it is a very sustainable industry but also has a huge impact into the South African economy as well as the local communities." Joseph Mkonza claims to employ 100 drivers, though that could be a conservative estimate. Owners are often reluctant to admit their earnings - many worried about being targeted by rivals and even their own workers. SOUNDBITE: Taxi company owner, Joseph Mkonza, saying (English): "The more you buy vehicles, the more you have more revenue, the more you have more income and again, at the same time, the more you have expenses." Unemployment in South Africa stands at close to 25 percent, and the government expects the economy to grow just 0.9 percent this year. Kombis currently accounting for around two-thirds of land based travel. If South Africa can find a way to improve its unwieldy taxi industry, it could go some way to unlocking more of the country's potential.

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Could taxis drive South Africa forward?

Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 01:46