Boda boda, a growing source of income for many

A boda boda rider with a passenger in Lamu Town. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

The boda boda is a common mode of transport that has gained popularity in nearly all corners of the country.

In busy towns such as Nairobi, commuters prefer the motorcycle for its ability to navigate through time-consuming traffic jams.

The industry has also gained popularity over time because of the ability to absorb many jobless youth, easing pressure on the government to find employment for its growing population.

President Uhuru Kenyatta recently revealed while launching a Sacco for the industry that the sector has 1.4 million riders who collect an average of Sh180 million daily, which amounts to Sh27 billion every month.

In an interview with Money Maker, Boda Boda Association chair Kevin Mubadi said the industry is an alternative income earner that rivals many formal jobs.

He said with an initial investment of about Sh150,000, one can get a brand new motorbike and, depending on the area of operation, can recoup the money within a short time.

“The cost of setting up a boda boda business has recently gone up because of taxes. Before the new taxes, you could get a good motorbike at less than Sh100, 000,” Mubadi said.

“Majority of riders in busy urban areas make more than Sh2,000 per day while those in rural areas make up to Sh800.”

In the 2021-22 Budget, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani sought to discourage importation of motorcycles by slapping them with a 10 per cent import duty to encourage local assembly.

Moses Kamau, a boda boda rider who operates within Nairobi’s Kariobangi South says an investor cannot go wrong in the industry, but asks the government to reduce taxes which lockout many from venturing into the business.

“I started riding a motorbike five years ago and I have built a network of loyal clients. They also seek my services when they have goods to be delivered,” he says.

“On a good day, I can make Sh3,000 after fueling the bike.”

Routine maintenance of the bike is after 3,000 kilometres, which costs  Sh1,500.

Kamau says the additional taxes will significantly increase the price of motorbikes from the previous year from Sh115,000 to Sh147,000 for some of the popular brands.

Brian Andere, who operates a boda boda in Kisumu City, says Covid-19 has reduced their income.

“The trick now lies on where one is based; places with higher population and school children have come in handy,” he says.

“After all the expenses, though, we still save between Sh8,000 and Sh15,000, a month.”

Despite the income potential, the industry has not fallen short of criticism with many pointing out the number of accidents linked to it.

The industry has also been hit by criminals that use the nimble motorcycles to commit crimes. 

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