Anyone driving in any town centre of any county knows they have to be aware of boda bodas -a form of taxis on two wheels. It is a very convenient means of transport given the poor state of most of our roads, as well as the traffic delays But more important is the fact that they are affordable rides to Mwananchi.
According to a Car and General (C&G) report there were 1.2 million riders in Kenya in March 2022. It was further reported that nine out of ten were used for commercial purposes, representing over one million jobs. Further, the report stated that 75 per cent of the operators were the youth with six per cent being female. With a reported net worth of Sh357b, the boda boda sector represented 11 per cent of Kenya’s budget in 2021/2022 Financial Year.
The negative impact of boda boda struck my heart in December 2020 when a hit and run accident ended the life of a relative in Uasin Gishu County. To date the incident has never been investigated nor anyone brought to book. In early March this year, the entire country, including President Uhuru Kenyatta castigated the sector players over the harassment of a woman motorist on Forest Road.
On their part, boda boda operators have raised serious issues that require urgent attention. First, they lack driving licenses due to financial challenges and bureaucratic procedures. Second, they are the subject of frequent police harassment on the roads. When their motorcycles are held at the police stations it is very difficult to get them out, even where the matters of concern have been settled. Lastly, they work under tough conditions, especially in the open sun since County governments do not provide shades for them to park as they await passengers.
The most glaring gap with regard to the boda boda sector is the lack of effective regulation. Yet it is possible for the sector to be a more responsible service provider. The knee-jerk reactions by Government will not help. Boda boda registration, monitoring and enforcement should be the responsibility of the county governments. Where there has been an infringement and the motorcycle is confiscated, it should be stored safely and released to the owner when the matter is resolved.
Apart from a separate lane for motorcycles, Government should also offer subsidies to train the riders, with provision for courses in defensive riding, search and rescue operations. The government also should push for self-regulation through a code of conduct and internal disciplinary mechanisms in their saccos.
For safety, there should be controls on speed, noise levels, fancy decorative lighting, luggage and passenger limits. Boda bodas should not carry furniture or goods beyond their load capacities.
Lastly, the use of technology, such as tracking tools, client billing and incident tracing can help inject a better level of discipline.
The writer is an International Trade Consultant.