(AA) – In Mogadishu’s oldest district of Hamarweyn, a new form of transport has completely changed the look and sound of the capital.
The three-wheel vehicles – known locally as “DugDugley,” “Bajjaj” or “Tuk Tuk” – crisscross one another as they take passengers from one stop to the next.
A year ago, the motorized rickshaws were almost non-existent in the Somali capital – but today, they are the preferred form of transport for most residents.
“Tuk Tuks are the most common form of transport in Mogadishu,” Osman Diriye, who works for an upmarket hotel in the capital, told The Anadolu Agency.
“I use them myself on a daily basis from my home in Hamar Cadey to my workplace in town,” he said. “Before that, I had used taxis.”
“Tuk Tuks are very cheap compared to taxis. I spend only $2 a day on transportation,” noted Diriye. “I’ve managed to save good money since I switched from taxis.”
The emergence of the Tuk Tuk is one of the indications of an economic boom in a city that has been mired in civil war for more than two decades.
The last three years have seen improved security, consequently leading to an influx of diaspora Somalis who have invested in their home country’s capital, thus changing Mogadishu’s war-torn image.
“I have two Tuk Tuks that I imported this year,” Sahra Adbow, a Somali-Canadian who recently returned to Mogadishu to oversee the running of a family-owned hotel, told AA.
“Such an investment goes far towards helping not only my family, but the driver and his family,” she said. “I have created livelihoods for two families.”
One of those to benefit is Aden Haji, a 28-year-old who had been unemployed for years.
“I now make at least $50 a day, thanks to God,” he told AA. “I don’t spend more than $15 daily on Tuk Tuks.”
Each three-wheeler is taxed $1 a day by the municipal administration to operate in the capital.
“I’m not that bad off in a place like Mogadishu,” noted Haji, who, like many young Somalis, had no access to education because of the civil war that broke out in 1991.
The Somali government does not have a number for how many jobs have been created by the introduction of Tuk Tuks to the streets of Mogadishu, but from stories such as Haji’s, one gets a sense of the move’s positive impact.
“Today, thank God, I can provide for my old parents, my two children and my wife,” said a jubilant Haji.
“I am sending my children to school,” he added. “I didn’t have the opportunity to go to school myself.”
But not all have good stories to tell about Tuk Tuks – some even see the three-wheeled vehicles as potential security threats.
Abdullahi Wajir, a Kenyan who works for a Mogadishu security think tank, said Tuk Tuks had been used in a recent hotel bombing that killed at least 25 people.
“In the Central Hotel bombing, the female suicide bomber is said to have used a Tuk Tuk,” he told AA. “And the Tuk Tuk driver, most certainly unaware, was killed.”
Yet despite these concerns, the Tuk Tuk has taken Mogadishu by storm, with its success in the capital likely to be replicated in other cities across Somalia.