Boda boda

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Motorcycle boda boda in Uganda c. 2010

Boda boda are motorcycle taxis commonly found in East Africa.[1] While motorcycle taxis like boda bodas are present throughout Africa and beyond, the term boda boda is specific to East Africa.[2] Their ubiquitous presence in East African cities is the result of a number of factors including an increasing demand for public transit,[1] the ability to purchase motorcycles on credit,[3] and an influx of cheap imports from Indian manufacturers like Bajaj.[4] In the countries where they are present, boda boda can provide vital job opportunities for entrepreneurial young men who lack skills lifting their incomes and brightening their lives while at the same time resulting in an increase in road accidents and unnecessary deaths.[5]


The term boda boda may come from the English words shouted by their drivers: "border, border". That said, a BBC journalist initially imagined its origin to be onomatopoeia.[6] Providing context, some credit the boda boda with an apocryphal ability to transport people across a border without a need to complete the paperwork using a motor vehicle would necessitate.[citation needed]


An Uber-style ride-hailing app for motorcycle taxis, SafeBoda was founded in late 2014, and, as of 2015, restricted its operations to Kampala, Uganda.[7] It provides training and helmets to drivers who access fares through its app.[7] The smartphones carried by drivers can collect braking data allowing the firm to rank operators' safety, and a routing system that relies more on landmarks than maps helps ensure only those who possess thorough local knowledge will attempt to pick up a potential fare. A similar app called SafeMotos has been launched in Kigali, Rwanda. [8]

Number in operation[edit]

While there is no doubt boda boda are commonplace in East African cities like Kampala and Nairobi, estimates of their number vary.


In 2013, one source claims 300,000 were operating in Kampala, Uganda.[3] Data from the Kampala Capital City Authority show 120,000 registered motorcycles in the city around the same time although the number of boda boda could be higher as some are unregistered according to a representative of the Kampala Boda-boda Riders Association.[4] The same source indicated in 2015 that around 40,000 were operating in central Kampala.[4] Another knowledgeable source suggested in 2015 that the true figure is closer to double that number. [7]

Dar es Salaam

Figures show a substantial increase (nearly 10,000%) of motorcycle imports to Tanzania in the three years from 2013 to 2015.[5]


Unlike in most other cities, motorcycle taxi drivers in Kigali, Rwanda, are generally registered and considered law-abiding.[5] Here, the preferred term for this form of transport is moto.[9]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Poon, Linda (4 Mar 2016). "The Love-Hate Relationship Between East Africa and Its Two-Wheeled Taxis". CityLab. The Atlantic. Retrieved 31 March 2016. 
  2. ^ "Safety improvements for Uganda's boda boda taxis". Africa Business Report. BBC. 27 March 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2016. In Uganda, they are known as boda bodas... 
  3. ^ a b "Boda bodas: A deathtrap at your beckon". New Vision. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 31 March 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c "The boda boda economy defining the streets of Kampala". Daily Monitor. Nation Media Group. 15 Sep 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c Kavuma, Richard (30 June 2015). "Revved and ready to go: Tanzania is set to tackle unstoppable boda boda taxis". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 5 April 2016. 
  6. ^ Smith, Chris (2 June 2015). "Boda-bodas: The bikes that keep Uganda moving". newsbeat. BBC. Retrieved 2 April 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c Senthilingam, Meera (25 March 2015). "'Uber for motorbikes' - the smart way to get around in a bustling capital". African Start-Up. CNN. Retrieved 4 April 2016. 
  8. ^ "Tech startups in Africa: Africa uber alles". The Economist. The Economist Newspaper Limited. 23 April 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  9. ^ "Could cashless payments make Rwanda's bus conductor redundant?". BBC. 12 April 2016. Retrieved 14 April 2016.