By Bill E. Diggs
A major remedy to soaring unemployment rate among the youths in contemporary Liberia has been commercial motorbike riding --- conveying locals from one point to the other. It creates a unique avenue for self-employment and further avails itself as a strategic source of livelihood for hundreds of Liberian youths in this post-conflict context. Majority of the “phen, phen boys”, as they locally called, find themselves in the low income bracket of the society and are massively unlettered.
The Daily Observer has been investigating how bike riding has transformed the life of young Fayiah Dinnor of the Jallah Town community in Monrovia.
Dinnor, 21, has six years of experience as a commercial motorcyclist. He described his bike as his friend, family, and sole source of livelihood. At age 15, Dinnor lost both of his parents and has since been struggling on his own. He told the Observer that “the swelling level of suffering I endured after the death of my parents forced me into becoming a commercial bike rider. I was only 15 years old by then and had reached the junior high level in school. Life became a terrible experience for me. There was no one there for me. Fortunately, a friend of mine, a bike rider, offered to help me. And his only help was to train me into becoming a bike rider like him. The training lasted for only a week,” he explained.
He began as a contracted rider and was expected to report earnings on a daily basis. But Dinnor made enough to report the required amount to the bike owner by the close of each day, while saving enough to see himself through his junior and senior high school studies.
“I use a gallon and the half gasoline, which cost L$495, per a day. By the close of day, I make more than L$1,300. Of that amount, L$600 goes to the bike owner and the remaining L$205 becomes mine. I am now banking at least L$1,000 on a weekly basis,” he explained.
However, the entire earnings of Sundays go to Dinnor, as agreed upon by him and the bike owner. Dinnor further commented on the bullying received by him at the hands of police in Monrovia. “In some cased, the police spend the entire day giving us hard time for trivial reasons. Some passengers, too, simply choose to not to pay us fees our required fare. Also, cab drivers, who are of the believe that we are threatening their survival because most of their customers would prefer riding with us, will not give us chance to freely go about our activities while in traffic,” he added.