How boda boda economy works by levying a cruel tax on people’s lives

17Aug 2016
james kuyangana
The Guardian
How boda boda economy works by levying a cruel tax on people’s lives

Adam Kighola is a 38 years motor-cyclist in the Karakata suburb within the Ilala Municipal council, Dar es Salaam Region.
Before 2010 he was jobless and without any hope of finding one. He owned no motor-cycle either

A commercial motorcyclist is carrying passengers as he proceeds to an unknown destination as captured by our photographer in Dar es Salaam recently. The bodaboda business is levying a cruel tax on people’s lives – killing and maiming many while scores of others are maimed and left with permanent disabilities. The toll has also extended to families with increase of widows, orphans and dependants, overwhelmed health facilities and above all poverty.

What he did to make ends meet, was to enter into a loose contract with owner of a Fekon model of motor-cycle on condition that he would be required to submit 7,000/- per day to the owner.

But through frugality he was able to acquire his own motor-cycle after one year. Since then business has flourished enabling him to buy one more motorcycle, which he sublet to another motorcyclist on agreement that he should remit 105,000/- per week.

Kighola is delighted with the government move to allow commercialisation of motor-cycle services saying from his three two-wheelers, he makes around 315,000/- per week.

Kighola is one of thousands of youngsters who have ventured into motorcycle transport in response to government policy to convert motorcycles into commercial taxis in an attempt to create jobs for the youth. Before 2007, motorcycles were used as private means of transport.

After four years in business, Kighola says he has stabilised: “I currently own three motorcycle of Fekon model, making a profit of 10,000/- per day from each,” he says with a beaming face.

From the earnings, he can now pay school fees, cater for other domestic need, meet treatment costs and pay house rent.
Much as commercialisation of motorcycle was paying off to young-stars like Kighola, the business was equally levying a cruel tax on people’s lives – killing and maiming many while scores of others are maimed and left with permanent disabilities.

The toll has also extended to families with increase of widows, orphans and dependants, overwhelmed health facilities and above all poverty.

One indicator on the danger of Boda boda business is that 70 people die every month in Dar es Salaam alone. However, given the high rate of unemployment and in an attempt to ward off poverty, jobless youths have taken to boda boda.

Motor-cycles are, however, advantageous in that they are fast and cheap means of transport, superior fuel economy and time saving compared to commercial motor-vehicles.

Presently, at least 80 percent of all registered motor-cycles in the country are used commercially as taxis creating jobs specifically to the youths; this is according to traffic Police. According to the Chief Traffic Police Commander, Mohamed Mpinga, at least 1.6 million motorcycles have been registered up to the end of May this year alone attracting youths in both urban and rural areas.

According to Commander Mpinga, in the private sector for instance, motorcycles have created direct and indirect employments of not less than 1(what?), which is so high compared to other means of transport.

Furthermore, government collects revenues from motor-cycle business in the form of direct or indirect taxes and other forms of revenues like license issuance

Paul Mikongoti, of the Legal Human Right Centre (LHRC), acknowledges that motorcycle taxis have become a reliable means of transport to people residing in urban and rural areas alike much as it was operating without proper regulations.

The lawyer would like to see in place clear regulations that govern commercial motor-cycle taxis because much as it has created jobs to the youth in the country, the business was being run haphazardly endangering the lives of not only drivers but also passengers and other road users.

Underscoring the importance of setting regulations, Mikongoti says, commercial motor-cycles are operating without regulations hence there is a need now to amend current laws to supervise the business.

“It is not easy to stop the business due to absence of regulations governing commercial operations. In countries like Rwanda and Uganda for instance, before allowing commercialisation of motor-cycles authorities in those countries amended their regulations,” he says.

Mikongoni explains that amending laws is very important to ensure the safety of users notably passengers adding that regulations will strictly commit the riders to obey the laws.

He warns that failure will lead to uncontrolled business, which will lead to escalation of road crashes and hence deaths and injuries not only of motor-cycle drivers but also to other road users specifically pedestrians.

Apart from that, Mikongoti says regularised motor-cycle enterprise will enable youth engaged in the business to be in good position to seek for commercial loans and others assistance from the financial institutions.

“Special attention should be given to the commercialised boda boda because it deals with life of people hence regulations will contribute to reduce impacts that might happen during crashes, “he advises.

On their part, motorcycle owners like Kighola, have their own challenges to be surmounted. Kighola says much as commercial motor-cycle was a good source of income for their families, there is a need for government to make the business formal.

He laments that motor-cycle drivers were being harassed left, right and centre and sometimes treated like thieves simply because the business is still not legally recognised by the laws and registered anywhere at streets, wards, districts and even at regional level.

To end all these, it is better to set regulation governing the operations of commercial motor-cycles including registering their parking centres adding that it can further enabled them to be recognised by financial institutions.

Elaborating more, Kighola says currently Boda boda drivers in the country are treated as naughty boys mostly because the business was established without clear governing regulations.

According to him, regulation would enhance them to be recognised and even enable them to seek loans from financial institutions and as well enjoy other services like health insurance schemes.

Erick Japheth, who operates his motorcycle in Kongowe suburb in the Temeke Municipality since 2014, is confident that anyone operating a motorcycle can collect enough money to make profit as most passengers prefer to ride on motor-cycles due to traffic jams they face on the congested city roads.

What is required, according to him, is to develop the business and make it legal in view of its contribution to the economy.
Indeed, Japheth is right. A spot check by The Guardian in cities including those of Dar es Salaam and Morogoro confirms a booming motor-cycle industry. Huge numbers of youth have taken to motor-cycle business as never seen before.

According to the survey, motor-cycle passengers prefer this mode of transport because it is cheaper and faster compared to time taken by motor- vehicle taxis and commuter buses.

“Commercial motorcycles have encouraged many people to settle outside the city centre because motorcycles can penetrate and reach even the impassable localities,” he says.

According to the Chief Traffic Police Commander, Mpinga, almost 45 percent of all motorbikes registered in the country remains in Dar es Salaam city for private and commercial use.

He however did not mentioned the exact number of motorbike registered in Dar es salaam saying it was not easy to trace the motorbike operating in Dar es salaam since the owner can operate everywhere.