Just Boys on Bikes?

Boda Bodas in Uganda, the famous motorcycle taxis, are quite a big industry with important economic impact. And there are some of the craziest bikes you’ve ever seen …

Hang out with boys on bikes, cruise the city, live with your motorcycle — in Europe, this is a daydream for lawyers or dentists in the midlifecrises, in Uganda, it is a valid prospect for young men to make a living.

Boda Bodas, the east african motorcycle taxis, are a blooming business in Uganda — with all risks and disadvantages that come along with riding motorycles. A drivers license is not required to enter the business; some riders switched directly from the bicycle onto the motorcycle. — The number of accidents was quite high in the beginning.

Rivaling groups and conflicts with taxidrivers’ organisations have added to the bad reputation of the boda boda industry in the past years. At the peak, the existence of the whol business was at stake: The city government of Kampala considered massive restrictions and even banning bodas from the city center.

But then, the inhabitants of Kampala discovered their love for boda bodas. It’s hardly possible to get around in the city without them. They navigate the thickest traffic, are the best and cheapest way to catch important meetings on time, they transport passengers and goods, offer shopping- and deliveryservices and in parts of the country, they even provide ambulance services.

From renegades to businessmen

Today, boda bodas are fairly well organised industry where associations that resemble unions set the rules — and that learned the rules of the market: The service needs to be good, or the business won’t flourish. That leads to brightly polished and decorated bikes, plastic flowers, metal tags with bible quotes, waving flags, seat covers in Louis Vuitton- or crocodile-style, hand painted exhaust pipes with floral designs or hearts — the riders work on becoming their own and specific brands.

That sets the perfect stage for the Boda Boda Book, a photo documentary about the ugandan riders and their economic impact.

In the beginning, there were colorful pictures — then we ended up with a snapshot of daily life in Uganda. Boda bodas as a multifaceted and flourishing business provide insights into daily routines in Uganda as an east african state that copes with a few millions of refugees from Sudan, does not quite keep up with the emerging tech boom in neighboring Kenya and struggles to promote its own national parks and travel attractions.

Boda Bodas provide future prospects to young men — it’s easy to start a business and the incom is relatively high: 60.000 Ugandan Shilling (that is around 17 Dollars) per day sum up to average yearly incomes of around 3.000 Dollars. That’s five times as high as the ugandan per capita gross domestic product. What at first glance looks like a rough job on the street, is often the entry ticket to a stable life. Many rider are on the street for more than ten years — although many say that they don’t want to do this job forever. But — according to research of Kampala University — the job creates the basis to provide for a family: Basically all riders set value on sending their kids to school.

The simple life in Uganda may be cheap, but a stable life requires some money. Flats in Kampala start at 250 Dollars, food is an extra 200 Dollars per month. Boda Boda riders are close to getting there — and with the Boda Boda Book, you go part of the way with them.

Read more:

Website: bodaboda.org

Facebook: @bodabodabook

instagram: @bodabodabook