- The sub-sector largely operates with minimal regulations and control, weak registration, policing and oversight.
- There is need to have a structured training programme for the riders, unique identification badges, mandatory insurance policy cover for both rider and passenger and a sacco for the operators.
The unregulated boda boda industry has become a popular mode of transport in rural, urban and peri-urban areas. It is flexible, reliable and affordable. Boda bodas provide employment to many poor Kenyans, especially the youth. This has entrenched the sub-sector as a major part of the economy. The number of boda bodas had risen to more than two million as at May, 2020. This attributed to the zero-rating of motorcycles below 250cc.
The sub-sector is faced with a myriad challenges which means the national and county governments must think beyond Covid-19 to ensure the riders continue to play their part in building the economy.
For instance, boda boda operators continue to violate the directive to carry one passenger at a time, a measure the government had hoped would help achieve some level of social distancing. Some of them do not even wear masks or sanitise.
The national and county governments must address growing concerns about crimes committed by some boda boda operators or people masquerading as operators. The sub-sector is notorious for causing road accidents and deaths with impunity, which is compromising public safety. The sub-sector’s players are to blame for a number of social ills. The riders have become a law unto themselves; thriving in lawlessness and openly defying traffic rules.
They have little regard for other road users’ right of way and ride on pavements and footpaths designated for pedestrians. This situation has been attributed to the fact that the sub-sector largely operates with minimal regulations and control, weak registration, policing and oversight. The sector is dominated by youth with family obligations, most of whom have little schooling. Of course, we also have college and university graduates, an indication of the country’s high unemployment rates.
So dire is the situation that many hospitals have set aside wards specifically for victims of motorcycle accidents, which are on the rise.
Authorities must shift focus to this sector. The government must examine the existing control measures to establish their effectiveness and ways of strengthening them.
There is need to have a structured training programme for the riders, unique identification badges, mandatory insurance policy cover for both rider and passenger and a sacco for the operators.
What we have is a situation where riders train one another. Looking to make quick money, some begin transporting people and goods even before they grasp the basics of road safety; this has resulted in increased and unprecedented road accidents and deaths.
A survey report by Africa Community Access Partnership carried out in June 2019 called ‘Enhancing understanding on safe motorcycle and three-wheeler use for rural transport’ indicates a majority of the riders are untrained, have no licence, no insurance and are not members of any association.
It recommends careful consideration be given to the most effective legal framework for allowing motorcycle and three-wheeler taxis to operate on low volume rural roads, without leading to their unmanaged use on highways and in urban or peri-urban areas. This may involve the use of local by-laws. Driving schools’ capacity to operate in rural areas should be increased, for example through the provision of local government bursaries.
The government should, for instance, require that motorcycle and taxi riders belong to associations, supported and overseen by local administrators. Enforcement should be applied gradually, supported by sensitisation.
The distinction between training and sensitisation must be understood. Sensitisation has a role to play but is no substitute for training. Efforts should be made to reduce the risk and severity of crashes, including through training and use of personal protective equipment, especially helmets.