By Kalungi James
After agriculture, the boda boda industry is estimated to be the second largest employer of the youth in Uganda. Many youth milk profits from this business but are sometimes late to re-invest in other more productive ventures that can help them when they are older or are less able to work day and night. Kalungi James interviewed Masaka (not his real name) who is a boda driver in Lubaga Division in Kampala. Masaka is a large, muscular guy in his early 30s who has been driving a boda boda for about eight years, and he spoke to us about his experiences, his regrets, and his achievements. The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Kalungi: Ok, so you’re a boda rider in Kampala, right?
Kalungi: Where is your stage?
Masaka: I don’t have a stage, I’m a lubyanza. I had a stage for which I paid 100,000 [$28] in 2016 but I left it.
Kalungi: How many members were you at the stage?
Masaka: Six members.
Kalungi: Why did you leave the stage?
Masaka: The members of the neighboring stage did not want our newly created stage, saying that it was too close. They forced us to leave. So I became lubyanza and realized it was better.
Kalungi: Being a lubyanza, don’t you waste a lot of fuel while as you move around searching for passengers?
Masaka: No, because when if I put fuel of 10,000 [$2.7], I can get about shs 35,000 [$9.4] then again buy fuel of 10,000, like that. And it’s fine. Better than waiting for passengers at the stage.
Kalungi: Which time do you work most?
Masaka: I have day-time customers and night-time customers who just call on addition to kubyanza.
Kalungi: How long have you been a boda?
Masaka: Eight years now.
Kalungi: In which areas do you work mostly?
Masaka: Namungoona, Kasubi, Kawempe, and everywhere, as you know how a lubyanza works. But most of the time I am in Lubaga.
Kalungi: Do you have a driving permit or license?
Masaka: No, but am in the process of getting it.
Kalungi: How do you find the job, generally?
Masaka: We [boda bodas] are too many. When a passenger stops you, five or six other bodas stop.
Kalungi: How much could you earn by the time you joined?
Masaka: On a good day I could keep UGX 40,000 [$10.8] after all other expenses. Though I used to over spend. Now it’s too hard. Today, the best you can earn is UGX 30,000 [$8.1] because the lubyanzas are too many. But sometimes you can go home with only UGX 10,000 [$2.7].
Kalungi: Did you ever misuse money?
Masaka: Yes I used to get money but wasted it on women. I used to often pick a woman on my way home after work.
Kalungi: Are you married?
Masaka: Yes, with three children.
Kalungi: What are your achievements?
Masaka: Children and a coffee plantation.
Kalungi: So you bought land and planted coffee?
Masaka: I didn’t buy. Somebody gave me the land and I just planted coffee. The plantation is three years old now.
Kalungi: How has the boda job changed?
Masaka: We were very few. A passenger could wait for you to drop another passenger so that you come back to pick him also for example from Nakibinge stage to Luyinja in Namungoona. But today, when a passenger stops you, several other bodas also stop for the same passenger.
Kalungi: Do you think boda job pays well?
Masaka: Yes, if you have your own motorcycle. But if you ride mugagga’s motorcycle, you’ll be working for only food and house rent.
Kalungi: What do you find difficult about boda boda business?
Masaka: We are too many.
Kalungi: What won’t you forget in boda?
Masaka: I knocked a man and I had to feed his family and provide treatment for him. Altogether I spent about UGX 500,000 [$135].
Kalungi: Why didn’t you use third-party insurance to cover the costs of that man’s treatment?
Masaka: I didn’t have the third party insurance and PSV.
Kalungi: Someone said that you can even fail to get what to eat when you are doing boda job. Do you think that is true?
Masaka: That can happen if the motorcycle you’ve been using is repossessed by the mugagga.
Kalungi: Can that happen even to experienced people like you?
Masaka: No, because I’m now more ambitious than before. Now whenever I get some money I send it to the village so that caretakers can buy fertilizers for my [coffee] gardens.
Kalungi: Do you own a motorcycle?
Masaka: Yes but I did not buy, I got one on loan, from a mugagga in September last year. About 5 months now.
Kalungi: In 8 years, you have just woken up to realise that you can now own a motorcycle?
Masaka: I wanted to own a motorcycle from the beginning. Even when I knocked the other man in Kasubi, I was on loan. Because I had to provide treatment for him, I ended up [being] unable to pay for the motorcycle so the mugagga repossessed it.
Kalungi: Do you have something else you want to add?
Masaka: Bodaboda would’ve been a good job but we need to get organized. The government should help us in this.
Kalungi: Do you need training on anything, like on how to handle money or something?
Masaka: Government should arrange for us boda organisations.
Kalungi: Boda organisations exist.
Masaka: Those are for thieves and cheaters. I was a member of one at a certain stage at Northern Bypass. We used to collect money but they stole it. Now when I get money it’s better I buy fertilizers for my coffee garden.
Kalungi: Thanks Masaka!
 Kubyanza is the verb of lubyanza; meaning, the act of a BodaBoda rider moving from one place to another searching/looking for passengers.