Boda Boda Industry: Menace Or Economic Saviour?

The Boda Boda industry in Kenya has grown exponentially over the years. From its days of being a mode of transportation in border towns of Busia and Malaba, it is now the top choice for travellers for quick transportation especially over short distances.

This mode of transportation has infiltrated cities and remote settlements in equal measure. According to Securex, with an estimated 500,000 motorcycles on the roads today and 14.5 million people riding bodabodas on a daily basis, riders are said to rake in a collective Ksh450 million on a daily basis.

However, the ease of acquisition of motorcycles coupled with lack of regulation of the industry has meant that the sector has been left vulnerable to criminal elements. As per the Securex database, 5% of the overall crime noted countrywide in the past six months involved the use of motorcycles or bodaboda operators themselves. This mainly involved the targeting of bodaboda riders for their motorcycles, thugs using motorbikes as getaway vehicles, bodaboda operators turning on their passengers, riots by operators and riders taking the law into their own hands.

Various authorities have taken note and reacted accordingly to the menace. In Nairobi, the county government banned bodaboda operations within the Central Business District, with riders advised to make use of alternatives such as Uhuru Park and Ngara. An 8 pm curfew was slapped on bodaboda riders in Homa Bay County after unruly riders assaulted a bus driver and torched a bus valued at Ksh12 million in December.

According to the Securex Senior Operations Manager John Ogutu, residents would be well-advised to stay alert, particularly as dusk approaches, and avoid carrying around valuables that attract unwanted attention from opportunistic thugs if possible.

“More often than not, these thugs prefer to strike either late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. Given that most incidents are opportunistic, they watch out for cues that would indicate a huge windfall for them, such as an individual carrying laptop bag,” Mr. Ogutu said.

“Most attacks barely last a minute or two. If one is accosted, it would be wise to comply with the assailant’s demands. More often than not, they tend not to physically harm a victim who doesn’t resist,” he added.

Securex Senior Operations Manager John Ogutu

One’s choice of bodaboda could also be the difference between staying safe and being part of an unfortunate statistic. As per Mr. Ogutu, one should prefer to have one particular, trusted rider as this helps to build trust.

“It would be preferable to have one trusted rider, as opposed to what most of us do today, which is either pick the closest bike or the cheapest. This would especially be helpful for those whose daily routines mean they have to arrive home late at night,” Mr. Ogutu noted.

“The legitimate operators also need to collaborate with the police to ensure the gangs working within the industry are exposed. We noted such efforts in Thika and Nairobi being initiated after an upsurge of crime in the respective areas, and this is a step in the right direction,” Mr. Ogutu concluded.