Inside the Million-Dollar Boda-Boda Industry


What could the government of Kenya do with an extra Ksh600 million? However, that is the typical amount of money traded on the popular motorbike taxis, known as boda-boda in the country.

Figures from the Motorcycle Assemblers Association of Kenya (MAAK) indicate that of the 4.8 million motorcycles in Kenya at the end of 2017, at least 600,000 were used for commercial purposes. Most boda-boda drivers earn around Ksh1,000 (approximately $1) every day. This indicates that the boda-boda industry generates over $500 thousand daily on average.

In contrast, it is believed that the 14-seater matatu industry brings in around Ksh3,500 daily on average. The Ksh2,500 profit gap between matatu and taxis is much smaller than initially anticipated, given that matatu services are more reliable during the day, transporting people on several trips.

The adaptability of boda-boda drivers has made them increasingly popular in metropolitan places where traffic moves at a snail’s pace. Transport times are cut down considerably because of the availability of commercial motorcycles. Kenyans can save time and money by taking a boda-boda instead of waiting for public transportation to arrive, as fares can be as cheap as Ksh50 in the city and Sh20 in the countryside for short-distance travel.

According to MAAK chair Isaac Kalua, “there shall continue to be a need” until a solution to mass transportation is found.

As matatus are not always permitted to travel every route in affluent neighborhoods, Boda-Boda riders can breathe a sigh of relief. Similarly, tourists in the area frequently hire Boda-Boda drivers since they know every nook and cranny of the winding streets.

When compared to public buses, commercial motorcyclists are a more efficient option for transporting cargo. Furthermore, these bicycle taxis will drop off packages at your front door.

Naturally, the cost of such services varies according to factors like distance and location. The prices are usually reasonable and not consistently set. Alternatively, one can try bargaining.

However, safety is an issue because Kenyan traffic laws are not as stringent as those in neighboring Rwanda, where helmets are required and the number of passengers and weight of items that a motorcycle operator can transport at any given moment is limited.

Nearly 500 individuals were injured in motorcycle accidents between January and May, according to data compiled by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). Injuries of all severity levels, including those that did not require hospitalization, are included in this total.

The pursuit of financial success by some motorcyclists may lead them to engage in risky driving practices. Some passengers, who are not to blame, refuse to wear helmets and may even encourage the rider to increase pace.

Despite this, the boda-boda market is expected to grow by more than Ksh219 billion every year in the coming years. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the 159,100 motorcycles sold in Kenya during October 2017 represented an increase of 87% over the same month in 2016.


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