Boda bodas are bicycles and motorcycle taxis commonly found in East Africa. While motorcycle taxis like boda bodas are present throughout Africa and beyond, the term boda boda is specific to East Africa. In Kenya, they are more frequently called piki pikis. Their ubiquitous presence in East African cities is the result of a number of factors including an increasing demand for public transit, the ability to purchase motorcycles on credit, and an influx of cheap imports from Indian manufacturers like Bajaj and high level of unemployment among the youth. In the countries where they are present, boda bodas can provide transportation options to riders and job opportunities to drivers while at the same time resulting in an increase in road hazards and collisions and unnecessary injuries and deaths.
A competing suggestion is that the boda boda had an apocryphal ability to transport people across a border without a need to complete the paperwork using a motor vehicle would necessitate; i.e. from border to border.
The term originally referred to the carrier business within smuggling operations across the Uganda Kenya border in the 1980s and early 1990s. The carriers either walked, used bicycles or motorcycles across the border. It was the carrier business that was locally referred to as boda boda meaning border to border. The rider carriers were known to be very fast and expert riders. Soon enough some people in the bicycle transport business labeled their bicycles with writing boda boda as a proud budge for being fast expert riders. When one wanted a fast ride or delivery they hired a boda to boda rider and the public started referring to them as boda-boda. That is how initially the bicycle transport got the name boda boda. When the motorcycles entered the smuggling and transport businesses they out competed bicycles because of their speed, endurance and potential for distance and thus retained the label boda-boda which was synonymous fast riders.
Number in operation
- Dar es Salaam
In 2013, one source claims 300,000 were operating in Kampala, Uganda. Data from the Kampala Capital City Authority show 120,000 registered motorcycles in the city around the same time although the number of boda bodas could be higher as some are unregistered according to a representative of the Kampala Boda-boda Riders Association. The same source indicated in 2015 that around 40,000 were operating in central Kampala. Another knowledgeable source suggested in 2015 that the true figure is closer to double that number.
Across Uganda riding boda bodas has become a substantial source of income for many youths, providing livelihood to thousands of families in the country. In Kampala, the business has attracted tour and travel investors with one company 'Uganda Adventure Safaris and Boda Boda Tours' providing city maneuver as one of their exciting tour packages for many visitors and tourists in Kampala.
Potential shift from Boda Boda to bicycles for sustainability reasons
In a study conducted in Mukono, Uganda among students, researchers determined that four factors have possible implications for bicycling. These factors were: the transport system and safety factors, the natural environmental factors, the perceptions of cycling that an individual has, and the demographic characteristics of said individual. A logistic model of the factors likely to cause commuters to change modes to bicycles also highlighted mainly demographic characteristics (age, gender, and the individual's ability to cycle) as predictors of the individual's shift in mode to bicycles. These findings suggested that transport system improvements that could reduce the perceived risks of cycling, could perhaps have some of the greatest benefits to cycling in Uganda .
SafeBoda is a ridesharing company for motorcycle taxis providing safe and efficient boda boda rides for those in need of quick travel across several cities in Africa. The startup was founded in November 2014 by Maxime Dieudonne, Rapa Thomson Ricky and Alastair Sussock. In 2014, the motorcycle taxis had their greatest popularity globally in Uganda, with over 80,000 riding the streets of Kampala and that was where SafeBoda was begun. Speaking with CNN, Alastair Sussock said they wanted to seize upon Uganda's burgeoning young population which had relatively easy access to fast internet and smartphones.[circular reference] SafeBoda launched operations in Nairobi, Kenya in 2017 and in 2019 they forayed into Nigeria's Ibadan. SafeBoda provides training and helmets to drivers who access fares through its app. Their community of drivers all receive extensive training in road safety, first aid, and bike maintenance in partnership with The Red Cross to make them safe and professional while driving on the streets. SafeBoda drivers are equipped with hygiene hairnets and a spare DOT-Certified helmet[circular reference] for their customers. All SafeBoda drivers are identifiable and trackable through their system.
Bolt launched boda boda ridesharing services in Uganda to complement its e-taxi services. It has however suffered criticisms about poor service delivery and threatened the termination of their services in February 2019.
Along A109 Road, between Jinja and Malaba in Uganda
Customized motorcycle boda boda in Kenya
Boda boda in Rwanda
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In Uganda, they are known as boda bodas...
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The word boda boda has a very interesting etymology. It turns out that in the early days of transport between kenya and Uganda, crossings between the two countries were known as going 'border to border' and one of the modern means of transport became a modified new word.
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- Motorcycle helmet
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