Motorized two-wheelers locally known in Kenya as bodaboda have played a vital role in the economy, creating employment, supporting online trade as well as rescuing citizens from infamous traffic snarl-ups due to their ability to maneuver through stationary cars.
Additionally, commercial motorcyclists are playing another important role away from urban settlement areas by running a system of small errands key in supporting the lives of rural residents especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When schools resumed in-person learning last month, I immediately got hold of a rider to ferry my daughter from school. Although she is cognizant of the pandemic she is still a child and the temptation to engage people on her way home cannot be overlooked,” Philip Muema said.
Muema who hails from eastern Kenyan county of Machakos represents a segment of the rural population in the country who have benefitted from the informal bodaboda sector.
In the village the motorcycles are used to transport manure to farms, ferry produce through the untracked roads occasionally rendered impassable by heavy rains and transport residents to inaccessible terrains.
The bodaboda sector is estimated to have about 1.4 million members with industry players alleging that the numbers could be higher.
In recent months, activities in the industry have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since the directive to carry fewer passengers was implemented due to COVID-19, public service vehicles understandably hiked their fares. It is currently cheaper to take a bodaboda than it is to hop on to a minivan. This is yet another added reason for using a motorbike,” said Muema.
Rashid Mulwa, a proficient commercial rider, said that he has been compelled by prevailing economic circumstances to reduce fares to accommodate families that have been affected by the pandemic.
“Before the onset of the pandemic I would charge one dollar even for short distances because the terrain on this side is impassable. However, currently I am charging half of that amount,” said Mulwa.
He said the use of motorbikes is so deeply rooted in his community that every household has their preferred motorbike rider whom they contact when the need arises.
Unlike in the city, where one is likely to find a motorcyclist stationed outside their homes, in the village, the bikers are domiciled in trading centers.
Last month while addressing bodaboda riders during the launch of a collective investment scheme, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the sector is an invisible economic giant due to the revenues generated by the riders on a daily basis.
“The bodaboda business supports directly and indirectly about 5.2 million Kenyans which accounts for 10 percent of the population of the country,” said Kenyatta.
In response to the disorder rocking the industry, the government has launched a nationwide training program to enhance road safety skills among riders and impart them with knowledge on first aid. Enditem