The use of Matatus in Kenya started in the early 1950’s. After Kenya gained independence in 1963, there was a major rural-urban migration in search of employment. The people then were too poor to afford daily transport to and from the cities prompting mini-bus taxis to start offering this service at a cost. They gradually increased due to the lucrative nature of the business and continued increase in urban population. The Matatu industry however started off as a pirate. It was an illegal commercial entity. In 1973, Kenya’s founding president, Jomo Kenyatta issued a decree recognising Matatus as a legal form of transport. Initially, they were operating on an illegal basis. Even so, they did not require a Transport Licensing Board (TLB) and Public Service Vehicle (PSV) licensing. According to Kenyatta, they were a blessing to the Kenyan economy as they created jobs and the Matatu operators were hardworking Kenyans who contributed to the growth of a young republic. Later, the exchequer discovered the millions that lay in the industry in terms of revenue and introduced the PSV Licensing.
Matatus form part of Kenya’s rich cultural fabric and pop culture. The artwork and graffiti displayed on Matatus are usually used as a form of communication and a way to create awareness in a wide number of topics from political issues, trends, fashion designers, public figures from local and international entertainment industries, the infamous, religious themes, African heritage, football themes and so much more. Music systems in terms of audio and visuals are also up to date with state of the art brands and technology including CCTV cameras for security purposes.