Taxi update – the bad news
The bad news is that the taxi will generate 3,000 CFA Franc per day less than I had budgeted, that there were a quite few extra expenses I hadnt planned for, and that it took over a month from the car’s arrival to Abidjan to it actually starting to run and generate income.
The extra expenses were to register with the taxi union, with the national land transport comapany (Sonatt), have the car inspected, get some missing safety equipment (which I’m not sure ever was in the car originally, or was stolen somewhere en route – rookie mistake not to check), and finally my favourite unplanned expense – I kid you not – costs to sacrifice a lamb for the good fortune of the taxi involving paying for the lamb itself and a small fee to the (fittingly) albino imam doing the sacrificing.
Each expense is quite reasonable, but together they add up, adding about 1½ month to how long time the taxi has to run before break-even.
Taxi update – the good news
The good news is that the taxi is running, and that there is a functioning framework in place with a driver, a part time manager, a designated mechanic workshop and a trusted party that can check on the ground if there are any problems with the aforementioned three. Now in theory this structure should be able to handle 10 taxis, just as well as one. More drivers would need to be recruited which doesn’t seem too problematic, and then there are some economies of scale with regards to compensation to the manager and possibly for the mechanic workshop as well.
So if it starts looking as if it is a good investment, I’ll add more taxis. But that’s a big if – it depends on how long time passes on average before something goes wrong, and – here’s where the lamb comes in I guess – there are many things that can go wrong: an accident, theft, breakdown of something expensive, dishonesty among the driver, manager or mechanic, and stuff I can’t even imagine. We’ll see!
Taxis in Abidjan
Here’s how it works in Abidjan. There are three distinct types of taxis:
Taxi intercommunal or clandestine – These are ordinary cars not registered anywhere and entirely illegal. (What we in Sweden call “svarttaxi”.) This is what most taxi owners in the diaspora I have talked to seem to be running. They say that with the new government the days of these taxis are likely numbered, but many have chosen to keep going until the government takes action, and then switch to woro-woros.
Woro-woro – Literally means “six-six” in dioula language – not sure if it refers to six francs or six seats (cramming in four in the back). These taxis go on pre-determined routes with pre-determined prices, and take on multiple passengers on a hop-on hop-off basis along the route. Quite bus-like in other words. They never leave their respective municipalities and are colour coded by municipality. From an owner’s perspective woro-woros have the advantage of being trackable, as they share routes and gathering points with the community of drivers in the same municipality. For example if there is a rule – as in the contract I’m using – that the taxi should stop at latest at 20h every day, it’s possible to check with the community of drivers whether a particular car was on the roads after 20h. Also, the set routes and the community of drivers looking after each other serves as a protection against car theft, something that’s according to well, hearsay, is a more common problem for taxi-compteurs.
Taxi-compteur (Taxi-meter) – This is what residents of Abidjan mean by taxi (Woro-woros are woro-woros and not taxis), and what a western visitor to Abidjan would be using. They are red, free to go to all of Abidjan’s municipalities, and take one client (or group of clients) at the time. They have meters which are rarely used, instead the price is usually negotiated ahead of each ride. Rides are more expensive than for woro-woros and the daily fee paid to the owner is greater.
Abobo it is
I have opted for making my car a woro-woro due to the trackability and community mentioned above, plus that it seems more difficult to run taxi-compteurs from abroad due to their higher degree of freedom. If a taxi-compteur driver claims his car is stolen (or lost in the Abidjan lagoon or something), but instead sells it, it’s hard to check, and difficult to sort out when living abroad. I had a talk with a guy in the diaspora who had tried taxi-compteurs, but given up due to tons of problems, and made a good case that you have to be in Abidjan to own taxi-compteurs.
I had initially thought of Cocody, but my woro-woro is actually running in the poorer municipality of Abobo. The thing is that the manager lives and works in Abobo and I think success or failure depends to great deal people managing, so if I have somebody good in Abobo, Abobo it is.