Haphazard Efforts to Organise Boda Boda Industry Irk Riders

The abortive efforts by the government to organise the Boda Boda Industry have rubbed several riders in Kampala the wrong way. There have been several efforts by the former Kampala City Council-KCC and later the Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA to organise the industry with the aim of improving their operations but non has delivered the intended results.

For years, Boda bodas have been described as a seemingly unavoidable common nuisance in the City because of their ability to nevigate small roads and traffic-clogged roads albeit with a lot of indiscipline and recklessness, which has led to crashes leaving several injured and others dead. The industry has also been accused of harboring wrong elements who engage in criminal activities like theft, robbery, murder, and rape among others hence warranting the need to regulate them. 

Last year, the State Minister for Kampala, Kabuye Kyofatogabye announced a program to register, conduct health examinations, and train Boda Boda riders of Safe road use to ensure that riders are more organized and professional on their job. He has since indicated that Kampala should have only a maximum of 7000 Boda Bodas out of the estimated 400,000 in Kampala. 

Consequently, over 3000 Boda Boda riders were trained by the Uganda Driving Licensing Agency-UDSA, a number so minimal compared to the estimated general population. But as the training went on, in August, KCCA under the instruction of Prime Minister, Robinah Nabbanja, started what it called a Boda Boda census where riders were required to visit designated centers to register their names, log books, and permits, information that the authority said would help them in planning for a mass registration exercise.

The riders were given up to August 15th, 2022 to participate in the exercise but this was largely shunned. The exercise was later extended for another month and KCCA promised to eliminate from the City all those riders who had not been counted during the census exercise. But this didn’t happen. 

Now on Thursday, the State Minister for Kampala Kabuye Kyofatogabye announced once again that riders would be trained and later registered such that they can operate well in the City. All riders except those who trained with UDSA shall be required to train with one of the nine listed driving schools. 

It is such back-and-forth efforts that have irked riders who report having been trained and registered severally but continue to be asked to do the same consuming their working time. Andrew Kateregga, a Boda Boda rider at Wilson road stage in Kampala has been in this business for over 25 years. 

He says, he was trained and registered severally during the tenure of Mayor Sebana Kizito in early 2000, and later under Jennifer Musisi as KCCA Executive Director in 2013 but sees no benefit to the same. He says that government continues accusing the industry of being disorganized and disorderly and yet, it relentlessly conducts coordinated exercises, which lack continuity and hence collapse with the departure of current officeholders.

Julius Kayemba from Yamaha Center stage says that numerous riders are willing to be trained and registered but the fruitless efforts have long irritated and discouraged them from embracing the new exercises. He identifies the main loophole in government efforts as the lack of consistency while carrying out the exercise. 

He says the lack of proper policies has left the industry wide open to an extent that many people join at any time and yet there is no proper system to ensure that they have what it takes to operate on the road. This means that when the streets turn chaotic due to riders, the government bundles all of them up and imposses other directives such as training.

Kayemba wants the government to put in place a proper system to enable only trained and registered riders to operate most importantly that the system recognizes newcomers who equally require training and registration before starting operations.

Daniel Kafeero from Yamaha center stage also holds a similar view. He wants the government to develop a system to organize the industry rather than toss programs at them demanding that they partake of the same. There are laws such as the Traffic Act which regulate how automobiles are operated while on the road, but such doesn’t offer guidance on how the Boda Boda riders should be organized for proper identification and contribution to the national chauffeurs, among others. 

Kampala City Council is currently working on an Ordinance to guide the operations of Public Transport including Boda Bodas.  For over 27 years on the job, Kafeero brags about his steadfastness on the road, which has seen him avoid crashes. He attributes part of his alertness to training and that’s why he says organized training and registration are the way to go.

As the government announces new efforts to organise the Boda Boda Industry, the Political leadership at City Hall led by the Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago is of the view that the matter needs to be handled systematically and hence wants an enabling law to allow for proper organization of the industry. 

Lukwago and others believe that the lack of a guiding law has reduced if not erased changes in organizing the industry. But those in government, including Kabuye, have often referred to such thinking as mere politicking. A September 2022 recent study by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung into the organization of the Boda Boda industry in Greater Kampala showed that the industry is used by politicians to benefit themselves, riding on their divisions and disorganization.

But Ibrahim Sekajja says that both the political and technical leaders seem to benefit from the disorganization leaving the riders as the ones to lose. He asked that all government agencies working on organizing the industry should work together for effectiveness and continuance.

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