Boda boda is the African term given to the motorcycles and drivers that provide a significant portion of the transport capacity in the cities and villages. From my observations the motorcycles are old, in poor repair and as a consequence contribute a large portion of the smog that clogs the Kampala skies each day.
There is no licensing required for the Boda Boda. The government tried several years back to implement a licensing programme but the drivers revolted, marched and in the end forced the government to back track on their plans. And it’s this strength of the boda boda driver that can’t be ignored – the youth of Uganda is a significant force as they make-up such a significant portion of the population overall.
Jobs are hard to come by in Uganda and for the uneducated and the educated alike the simplicity of jumping on a motor bike and driving customers to earning a living is an easy option. Whether it is in the large cities or small villagers there is a need for transport and the comparatively cheap rates offered by the boda boda present a ready and willing customer base.
Through out Uganda there is no train or public bus service and t he only form of competition is the “taxi”. Taxi’s are usually a Toyota HiAce van and guaranteed to be in poor repair and just like the boda boda these vans are every were.
Several nights back we had dinner with two couples from the Mengo are, one of the men is a doctor in Mengo hospital and he told us that 60% of the admissions to the hospital are related to boda boda injuries. Malargo hospital, the largest in Uganda has a whole ward devoted to patients of boda boda injuries.
Interestingly Rwanda, Uganda’s neighbour to the west, has a well licensed and policed boda boda infrastructure. All riders must be licensed and their motor bike must display the license number. The driver must wear a helmet and must also provide the sole passenger with a helmet and ensure it is fitted before commencing their journey.
The view of all westerners resident in Kampala that I’ve spoken to there is no option but for Uganda to license the boda boda. Whether the government has the strength of will to go through with it is another matter.