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High fuel cost weighs down bodaboda operators

By Noah Kipkemboi | May 15th 2021
A boda boda operator carries two passengers along Uhuru Highway, Nairobi.[Elvis Ogina, Standard]

A song released about 14 years ago by the group Boomba Clan, titled ‘African Timer’ talked about how Africans rarely keep time.

But all over Kenya, the motorbikes, popularly known as bodaboda, have been an antidote to the ‘lateness syndrome’.

Due to their speed and convenience, the bikes have seen their popularity skyrocket, even earning their way into ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Bolt.

One thing, though, is weighing down this transport sub-sector: the cost of fuel.

John Njeru has been in the bodaboda business in Nairobi’s central business district for the past six years and he says he has experienced a sharp rise in fuel costs.

“Back in 2015 when I was starting off my business, I would use Sh200 worth of petrol for a whole day. Today my fuel cost ranges Sh500 to Sh1,000,” he says.

Fuel consumed by the motorbikes varies with how large the engine is; more powerful engines will consume more.

“Brands such as TVS, Boxer and SkyGo consume more petrol compared to other motorbikes,” says Njeru.

“The high consumers hold an advantage, especially here in Nairobi CBD where we do deliveries of heavy products, which need more power.”

Joseph Gikaru is a young man who joined the bodaboda industry two years ago.

He says after the recent reopening of the economy, more people are commuting and he is ferrying more customers, yet his profits have not improved.

“My bike consumes more since I do more trips but fuel cost is quite high, keeping my profits at the same level,” he says.

“I used to buy Sh400 worth of petrol for a day, now I use Sh600.”

The traffic gridlock in Nairobi has also contributed to higher bodaboda usage. It is a critical balance between cost of transport and convenience.

But with many people’s disposable income reducing from the impact of Covid-19, Gikaru has observed that a good number of commuters would rather wait in traffic in a matatu than take a bodaboda, which is costlier.

Noah Kipkemboi

Covid 19 Time Series


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