Meet Gatonye, inventor of home-made tuk tuks

Peter Gatonye makes final touches at his tuk-tuk in Nyahururu town. [Photo: Standard]
One of the highlights of the second edition of Laikipia County Innovation Fair is a locally assembled tuk tuk (rickshaw), an invention of one Samwel Gatonye.

Mr Gatonye, 47, and a father of five, started working on his new tuk tuk model dubbed BJ-50 in 2002.

After dropping out of school in Class Seven in 1987 he left for Nairobi and engaged in scrap metal business.

Later, using his experience in scrap metal and mechanics, Gatonye patiently pieced together his first tuk tuk.

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After 16 years of fiddling with scrap metal and motorcycle engines, Gatonye's first tuk tuk finally hit the road last year.

Today, the mechanic has assembled and sold five tuk tuks and pocketed a tidy sum.

"It is now a good business. Each of the vehicles costs Sh450,000, which I use to pay my children's school fees and feed my family," he says.

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The demand for his invention is growing, and Gatonye has 50 orders waiting.

His star started rising last year when Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi discovered his innovation skills and introduced him to the County Innovation Committee that organised inaugural Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fair in May last year in Nyahururu Stadium.

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At the fair, a number of visitors were impressed by Gatonye's invention. It was here that he also got his first precious clients.

Mr Muriithi, his Uasin Gishu counterpart Jackson Mandago and Royal Media Services Chairman SK Macharia placed orders for the tuk tuks.

"These were my first customers. I delivered all the three tuk tuks on time. Now I have more than 50 clients who have placed orders," he says.

With the list of clients growing, Gatonye has encountered a new challenge: Inadequate raw materials to meet all the orders, and lack of a spacious garage.

Though he has been offered a space at the Jua Kali Shades in Nyahururu, which was started by Laikipia County, Gatonye wishes he had more space.

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"I would wish to have a larger area to accommodate my tuk tuks and more workers," says Gatonye, adding: “The county government has helped me a lot in training and getting the necessary certificates."

He challenges young people not to sit and wait for white-collar jobs. "They should not shy away from the jua kali jobs," he says.

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Laikipia CountyInnovation FairSamwel GatonyeSK MachariaRoyal Media Services