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Meet man who makes a living from tyre tubes

By Phillip Mwakio | August 6th 2013
Malekwa’s determination has seen him make more money than he would have earned doing odd jobs at the beach. [PHOTOS: PHILIP MWAKIO/STANDARD]

By Phillip Mwakio

His office may be a ramshackle hut on Mombasa’s Jomo Kenyatta public beach, the country’s largest. But that has not stopped Anthony Mwalekwa, 40, naming his business ‘Millionaire’.

The father of five makes a living renting out old tyre tubes to amateur swimmers and visitors who want a dip in the Indian Ocean.

He arrived in Mombasa in 1998 from his rural Bura home, Taita Taveta County, with dreams of holding a white-collar job.

After a hard week of knocking on office doors looking for work and being turned down.

 Making of an idea

He would spend weekends walking on the beach — being calmed by the sounds of the waves and laughing children.

But it was not until one hot afternoon in 1998, that he idly observed an event that changed the course of his life.

“As I stared out into the ocean, I saw a couple struggling to stay afloat as they played in the water. It dawned on me that a floater would have made their time in the water more enjoyable,’’ Mwalekwa told Business Beat.

The following day, he returned to the beach with two worn-out vehicle tyre tubes.

First income

He strategically sat close to a group of students who were on the beach as part of an educational tour. Two of them approached him and asked if they could use the tubes to swim.

“ I readily agreed and charged them Sh20 each,’’ he said.

And the rest, he says, is history. Mwalekwa is today a registered floater tube renter with the Ministry of Tourism and East African Affairs and a member of the Public Beach Tube Renters Association (PBTRA). The Jomo Kenyatta public beach has become a popular stop over the years for residents and tourists to the Coast, particularly during public and school holidays. It provides a host of activities, including face painting, boat and camel rides. It allows visitors to dip into the salty waters of the Indian Ocean, which are believed to have medicinal value.

These days, Mwalekwa charges adults Sh100 to use his tubes, while children pay Sh50. He has over 200 tubes displayed in the ‘Millionaire’, with each clearly marked to prevent loss and theft of his merchandise.   On a good day, he takes home Sh2,000.

“I have opened a savings account and I’m able to take care of my family’s needs from this tube renting business,’’ he said.

Maritime training

To comply with water sports regulations, Mwalekwa has also undergone life saving training, including a first aid course administered by the Kenya Red Cross Society. “I am also a strong swimmer and have volunteered several times to rescue visitors in distress in the ocean,’’ he said.

He also oversees a group of beach operators who came together to ensure the safety of beach users. 

“We work hand in hand with the Kenya Widlife Service’s marine rangers and tourist police who patrol the beach each day,’’ Mwalekwa said.

A watchtower and rescue operations base manned by members of the group complement the services offered by public officials. Through funding from the Tourism Trust Fund, the Government is supporting the PBTRA and Mombasa Boat Operators Association.  This is part of a broader objective to legitimise and mainstream the activities of beach operators along the public beach.

“We appreciate the efforts to empower us as we are here to earn a decent living just like other Kenyans,’’ Mwalekwa said.

The associations also work with the Kenya Coastal Management Initiative.


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