The Vital Role of Boda Bodas in East Africa

Substandard transportation infrastructure combined with poor urban transit planning in East African nations such as Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania has led to the rise of massive Boda Boda (Motorbike taxi) networks. Heavy congestion and poor public transportation tends to lead to the creation of these informal transportation networks to fill public need. Similar informal networks exist in places like New York where illegal commuter vans, known as “dollar vans” offer residents an alternative and often more reliable service than city buses.

Severe congestion combined with deficient transit service and narrow roads created the boom of the 2-wheeled Boda Boda networks. The motorbikes are able to zoom through congested roads to drop of their passengers. Unfortunately, safety is a major concern of these motorbike taxis. Many riders don’t use helmets and sometimes whole families are carried on one motorbike. There’s also the risk of unsafe driving by the taxis while swerving through traffic. The challenge for government is adequate regulation of the Boda Boda industry. There are hundreds of thousands of these motorbike taxis and the Boda Boda business could become the second largest mode of employment in countries such as Uganda.

Boda Bodas are cheap and efficient and provide a temporary solution to nations that are plagued with poor public transportation infrastructure. Governments need to heavily regulate the motorbike taxis to ensure that they are operating safely. Boda Boda’s contributes to up to half of all road deaths in some of the African nations they operate in. Priority has to be given to safety regulations such as maximum passenger limits and mandatory helmet laws.

The use of a new app Safeboda which pairs passengers with reliable drivers provides a platform of safe and reputable drivers which can improve the safety reputation and public perception of the service. However, Boda Boda’s are not the end all solution to mobility concerns in East Africa. Governments need to focus on improved urban transit planning through meaningful data to ensure that public transportation is affordable and low-income workers are not forced to use unsafe modes of transport to commute.