NAIROBI, KENYA: The boda boda industry is emerging as one of the biggest drivers of the economy, with operators generating Sh219 billion in revenue last year.
Going by the latest industry figures, it means the operators of the popular mode of transport collectively made more than East Africa’s most profitable company, Safaricom, which had total revenues of Sh212 billion in the 2016/17 financial year.
According to figures released by the Motorcycle Assemblers Association of Kenya (MAAK) yesterday, there are about 600,000 commercial motorcycles on Kenyan roads, with each making, on average, Sh1,000 a day.
This translates to Sh600 million a day and Sh219 billion annually.
MAAK Chairman Isaac Kalua said about eight people depended on each motorcycle in operation for their daily livelihood.
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In total, Mr Kalua said, about 4.8 million people depend on motorcycles.
“Until there is a solution to mass transport, there shall continue to be a need,” said Kalua who also doubles up as the chairman of Honda Motorcycles Kenya Ltd, when the firm unveiled a new oil from Japan’s JXTG in Nairobi.
Traffic jams in major urban centres such as Nairobi and poor infrastructure in rural areas have made motorcycles the preferred mode of transport over short distances for many Kenyans.
Besides helping people beat traffic, motorbikes have become critical in the delivery of supplies and parcels for both homes and businesses.
Most companies with operations in Nairobi have invested in motorbikes.
This has seen millions of young people ditch farming and sell their land and livestock or invest their savings in the boda boda business, giving rise to a thriving industry.
In 2016, about 146,000 motorcycles worth Sh8.2 billion were imported, down from 182,000 motorcycles worth Sh10.7 billion brought in a year earlier.
Virtually, all the motorbikes that get into the country are from China (50 per cent) and India (48 per cent).
But there has been a downside to the exponential growth of the boda boda business.
Besides moving resources from such critical sectors of the economy as agriculture, motorcycles have created a traffic menace, especially in urban centres.
Recently, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko ordered that all boda boda operators vacate the central business district, with a City Hall official describing boda boda operators as 'rogues' who did not respect traffic rules.