•The sales of motorcycles and spares have been rising at an unprecedented rate from Sh8 billion in 2014 to Sh11.3 billion in 2018.
•The government should treat the Boda Boda economy as a vehicle for job creation and also adopt a more inclusive policy approach that empowers the informal economy.
In recent times, the country has witnessed the proliferation of motorcycles transporting people and goods in and out of the city.
In major towns and cities, these motorcyclists popularly known as Boda Boda have been increasingly popular and income earners but are fast gaining notoriety as a fatal attraction.
Motorcycle taxis were ushered in 2008 when the government zero-rated the import duty to create jobs for the thousands of unemployed youths which witnessed 51, 412 registered motorcycles up from the 16,293 in 2007.
The highest number of newly registered motorcycles hit a record 1,393,390 in 2018.
The industry is perceived as one of the unexploited potential tax bases. The industry earns on average Sh400 million a day and this is equivalent to Sh146 billion yearly.
The sales of motorcycles and spares have been rising at an unprecedented rate from Sh8 billion in 2014 to Sh11.3 billion in 2018.
As the Boda Boda industry continues to grow in leaps and bounds, a well-founded comprehension of the sector and socioeconomic effects on the Kenyan economy and society is imperative.
Deaths from Boda Boda related accidents have negative impacts on the economy.
Most families have lost breadwinners and incurred huge hospital bills as a result of cycle-related accidents as most motorcycle operators are unlicensed riders who lack adequate safety skills.
Most victims are poor and have no health insurance cover (accident insurance cover).
Boda Boda operators are also implicated in criminal activities. Such negative branding has led some towns and cities, and to a large extent affluent neighbourhoods to ban the operation of motorcycles in their territories.
Populist politicians mobilize Boda Boda riders to support their political ambitions and seem to sympathize with them.
This romance fizzles out shortly after the campaign period. Actors in the motorcycle taxi economy tend to attract public attention in major towns and cities as they are capable of crippling down the local economy.
A case in point was a protest by Boda Boda operators in Kisumu in 2019 over high taxation and harassment by the county government.
This resulted in widespread economic disruptions as vendors opted to shut their businesses for fear of looting.
Boda Boda operators are also known to use their clout to engage with authorities to air their grievances or to influence policy.
There have also been associated problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, school dropout, promiscuity, rape and defilement, teen pregnancy and early marriages, crime and insecurity.
They are seen as a nuisance because of their wanton recklessness and impunity on the roads as they cause congestion, injuries and death by ignoring traffic laws.
On the other hand, the sector has its advantages as a transport system because of the easy manoeuvrability, ability to travel in poor road infrastructure (tough terrain), they facilitate rapid growth of businesses, lessen the cost of doing business, create work for many people and they are a source of revenue to county governments.
Regulation of Boda Boda transport by instituting a database of all operators through mandatory registration, refresher training and testing can instil a sense of sanity.
Boda Boda riders’ association must ensure that all riders acquire requisite training, licenses, and mandatory use of safety gears such as helmets by both operators and passengers before venturing on the roads. This can reduce the impact of road accidents.
With the rapid increase of young Kenyans 500,000 to 800,000 entering the job market every year with a limited amount of employment opportunities.
The government should treat the Boda Boda economy as a vehicle for job creation and also adopt a more inclusive policy approach that empowers the informal economy.
Youth empowerment is based on the belief that young people are the best resource for promoting development and they are agents of change in meeting their own challenges and solving their own problems.
Student at Kenya Institute of Mass Communication
Edited by Kiilu Damaris