• This sub-sector too has some college and university graduates, pointing to the pervasiveness of unemployment in Kenya.
• The government should require that motorcycle, taxi riders belong to associations, supported and overseen by local government authorities.
As we seek to flatten the Covid-19 curve, we must do it in a way that does not create other problems.
The unregulated boda boda transport has become a popular mode of movement in rural, urban and peri-urban areas.
It is flexible, reliable and affordable.
Boda bodas are popular providing employment and a source of livelihood to a majority among the poor who make more than half of 47 million Kenyans.
This has entrenched the sub-sector as a major part of the economy.
It is imperative to note the number of boda bodas in Kenya has risen to over two million as at May 2020; attributed by the fact that the government zero-rated all motorcycles below 250cc, in a move aimed at enticing the youth into an alternative mode of transport.
The sub-sector is faced by a myriad of 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 have been accused of violating a directive to carry one passenger at a time, a measure the government hopes will help achieve some level of social distancing.
Some of them are not even wearing masks nor sanitizing.
The national and county governments must therefore address growing concerns about crimes the sub-sector is being associated with, accidents, deaths and impunity, which are compromising public safety.
The sector is at blame for a number of increased social ills, including riders becoming law unto-themselves; thriving in lawlessness and openly defying traffic rules.
They have little regard to other road users’ right of way and ride on pavements and footpaths designated for pedestrians.
This situation has been attributed to the fact that boda boda 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 low-level schooling, blamed for the seeming recklessness among the riders that often lead to accidents.
The problem is major such that many hospitals have set aside wards, specifically, for victims of motorcycle-related accidents, which are on the high increase and alarming.
This sub-sector too has some college and university graduates, pointing to the pervasiveness of unemployment in Kenya.
Authorities must shift focus to establish the prevalence of boda boda related crimes such as being conduits of increased burglaries, muggings, smuggling of contraband goods across our borders and ferrying of persons using “panya-routes” amid this pandemic.
The government must examine the existing control measures to establish their effectiveness and ways of strengthening them.
There is a need to have a structured training programme for the riders, unique smart card identification badges, mandatory insurance policy cover for both riders and passengers and a structured Sacco for the bodabodas.
What we are witnessing are situations where riders train one another, and with a quest to make quick money, some begin transporting people and goods even before they grasp the basics of road safety; this has resulted into increased and unprecedented road accidents and deaths in our country.
The country survey report by Africa Community Access Partnership( AfCAP) conducted in June 2019; “Enhancing Understanding on the safe motorcycle and three-wheeler use for rural transport” indicates a majority of riders in Kenya are untrained, have no licence, no insurance and are not members of any association.
It recommends on the need for; Careful consideration to 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 bylaws. Driving schools’ capacity to operate in rural areas should be increased, for example through the provision of local government bursaries.
The government should require that motorcycle, taxi riders belong to associations, supported and overseen by local government authorities.
Enforcement should be applied gradually, supported by sensitisation activities.
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.
Borrowing from such recommendations with strong law enforcement and regulation, taming corruption; impunity; drug and substance abuse will sanitize the industry however stringent it may be for a start but the good of All.
Dennis Wendo is the Founder/CEO- Integrated Development Network(K)
Email: [email protected]