Tuk tuks provide a way out for Moroccan unemployed

Tuk tuks provide a way out for Moroccan unemployed
Feature: The motorised rickshaws are being used to supplement incomes in Morocco, and are proving an attractive option for unemployed youths.
3 min read
19 March, 2015
Tuk tuks are increasingly being used in poorer neighbourhoods of Casablanca [Getty]
Abd al-Ilah Mandhour is a young Moroccan who owns an auto rickshaw or tuk tuk. He gets upset when people call his vehicle a Chinese rickshaw or point out that its lifespan might be short, like most imported Chinese products.

Mandhour takes great pride in his tuk tuk and busies himself with cleaning it and wiping its windscreen while he waits for a customer in the bustling al-Qraia market in Casablanca.

Like other unemployed youths, Mandhour bought his three-wheeled tuk tuk four years ago to make an income transporting commuters and goods.

According to official statistics, unemployment in Morocco rose to 9.9 percent in 2014 from 9.2 percent in 2013.

Tuk tuks have caught the attention of Casablanca residents over the past five years as they are being increasingly used in poor neighbourhoods to transport goods, workers and football supporters. In the summer, tuk tuks can be seen roaming around on the Casablanca sea front, transporting sea goers and families.

Mohammad Koto, a man in his 60s bought a tuk tuk to supplement his income and help provide for his family. His salary from his regular job as a driver for a shoe manufacturer is not enough. Koto drives his tuk tuk around Casablanca transporting commuters in a city that lacks sufficient transportation infrastructure, especially in the growing suburbs.
     Some complain that tuk tuk drivers do not follow traffic rules and hazardously overload their vehicles.

Some complain that tuk tuk drivers do not follow traffic rules and hazardously overload their vehicles with goods and passengers, as seen during football matches for example.

However, roving salesman Abd al-Aali Azizi considers the tuk tuks the last resort for those who have had enough of being unemployed. The new profession has attracted many unemployed youths and retired people who are looking to supplement their incomes. Driving these vehicles has become an important source of income for many. Most tuk tuk drivers al-Araby al-Jadeed spoke to said they made between 10 and 15 dollars a day.

Most people intending to buy a tuk tuk are forced to borrow the money to pay for the vehicle. Hasan al-Koushi told al-Araby al-Jadeed his mother borrowed US$ 1,600 from an organisation that provides small loans to buy him a tuk tuk.

Koushi said that he wanted a tuk tuk because all his neighbourhood peers have one. However when his mother borrowed the money he felt a greater sense of responsibility. He explained there is stiff competition between tuk tuk drivers for customers, though he believes there is enough room in the market for all drivers.

However, the new mode of transport in Morocco has encroached on a market that was dominated by pick-up trucks, commonly known in Morocco as "Honda", and taxis that provide a full range of transport services for people and goods.

Aziz Azzamouri, who has been driving a "Honda" for ten years complains that tuk tuk drivers undercut the market by accepting fares that are lower than the accepted market price. Yet, Azzamouri concedes tuk tuks have become a reality on the streets of Casablanca and other major Moroccan cities.

Tuk tuks have not only become a means of transport in Moroccan cities, but some tuk tuk owners have modified their vehicles so they can sell fastfood and even clothes from them.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.