Boda Bodas, an informal sector that makes many “happy” in East Africa
Boda Bodas or motorcycle taxis, a common mode of transportation that has gained popularity in almost every corner of East Africa in general and Kenya in particular, have become a growing source of income for many Kenyan families.
In Kenya, Boda Bodas, more frequently called “Piki Pikis”, are part of the natural scenery of towns and villages. They offer fast, albeit risky, transportation options to commuters and employment opportunities for their drivers, the number of which continues to grow from year to year.
Indeed, in bustling cities such as Nairobi, commuters prefer motorcycles for their ability to move easily through tedious traffic jams.
The Boda Bodas industry has also grown in popularity over time due to its ability to absorb large numbers of unemployed youth, relieving pressure on the Kenyan government, which is having great difficulty in finding employment for its growing population.
The unemployment rate in this first East African economy was estimated at 3% in 2020 by the World Bank.
The Boda Bodas sub-sector is developing, prospering at a very high rate, and creating jobs for thousands of young people who earn their daily bread there.
President Uhuru Kenyatta recently revealed that the industry has 1.4 million cyclists who collect an average of 180 million shillings ($1.5 million) per day, or 27 billion shillings ($250 million) per month.
For his part, the association Boda Bodas, Kevin Mubadi, argued that the industry is “an alternative source of income that rivals many formal jobs”.
He explained that “with an initial investment of around 150,000 shillings (about $1,400) you can get a brand new motorcycle and, depending on the area of operation, get the money back in a short time.”
“The cost of starting a Boda Boda business has recently increased because of taxes. Before the new taxes, you could get a good motorcycle for less than 100,000 shillings (about $ 950),” Mubadi lamented.
“The majority of cyclists in busy urban areas earn more than 2,000 Shillings per day, while those in rural areas earn 800 Shillings,” he noted.
In the 2021-2022 budget, the Minister of Finance Ukur Yatani sought to discourage the import of motorcycles by imposing an import duty to encourage the local assembly industry.
Despite its potential as a source of income for many households, the Boda Bodas industry has not escaped criticism, with authorities and civil society pointing fingers at the number of related accidents, as well as the crimes committed by “false drivers” who use these motorcycle taxis to commit their crimes (thefts, kidnappings, and rapes…).