The boda boda business is one where a person is certain that by end of day, he/she will have made a bit of money to survive by. As the business becomes more famous, associated risks are also on the increase.
Theft of motor cycles or boda bodas has become rampant, sometimes claiming lives of cyclists, leaving others worried.
“We are not safe at all. A person you think is a client one minute will end your life the next,” Julius Behakanira, a rider says.
Apart from being sold in Kampala, the stolen motorcycles are also finding their way to neighbouring Congo and South Sudan, among others.
Authorities in Kampala have admitted to not knowing the number of boda boda motorcycles prying their trade in the city, something that makes it hard to regulate the business.
And seeing that companies such as SafeBoda, Uber and Taxify have joined the business, the boda boda business proves to be lucrative.
Behakanira from Kyamujumba in Ntungamo District has spent 10 years operating mainly at the stage opposite Monitor Publications office in Namuwongo, Kampala.
For those 10 years, Behakanira says he has achieved a lot, “I have managed to buy four pieces of land back home in the village. I also purchased a small piece of land in Namuwongo where I put up a house and I live with my wife and four children,”
He adds, “From the money I save, I also started for my wife a stall in Namuwongo Market, I pay my children’s school fees and cater for their scholastic needs as well.”
It is not only that; from his savings, Behakanira says he has taken his other two siblings through secondary school. One has joined Kyambogo University while another has taken on a mechanical course in town.
Not only that. From his modest of his savings, he has been able to support a friend’s daughter with scholastic materials through secondary school and now at Shimoni Teachers college.
“I can tell you that at no particular time do my people skip a meal of the day. Food is one thing that must be there. And, I stay with my siblings as they study,” Behakanira says.
Being a very religious man, he says he has only managed this by the grace of God. “God does all this. I could not have handled by myself.”
What it takes to start
Amos Kasirye who operates from Naalya, another Kampala suburb says for one to start the boda boda business, what they need is a motorcycle plus a permit or licence.
“A brand new motorcycle now goes for about Shs4.4 million while a used one will go for about Shs3 million or less depending on the condition it is,” he says.
Behakanira says back when he started operating one needed about Shs2.3 million to buy a motorcycle.
However for those who cannot raise that whole amount at once, there are ways one can still get a motorcycle and pay on hire purchase basis.
For example, there is Tugende, an asset finance company, specialising in lease-to-own financing for boda bodas.
According to the company, ownership doubles profits for drivers, and Tugende provides added value including training and insurance.
According to Behakanira, in order to get a motorcycle from Tugende, one has to raise 500,000 and provide the company with personal documents such as the national identity card and the like.
The rider is then required to pay a weekly amount agreed on by the two parties till the total amount the motorcycle is worth is exhausted.
But according to Behakanira, a motorcycle that would have been bought cheaply ends up being expensive under such an arrangement.
The third alternative of getting to own a motorcycle is through what the riders call ‘Ekisanja’.
This is when a person buys a motorcycle and hands it over to a rider on condition that the latter cannot take ownership until he completes payment for the motorcycle.
The rider is required to make daily payments to the owner of the motorcycle mainly though depositing money on an agreed account in the bank.
The stage fee is determined by location. Boda boda stages in upscale Kampala attract higher fees compared to the ones in other places.
According to Behakanira, a stage at Oasis mall and Garden City attracts a fee of not less than Shs2 million. He attributes the fee to the fact that the place is usually busy with foreigners who tend to pay higher fares than the locals.
For stages around Ntinda, Kiwatule, Naalya and surrounding areas, a stage attracts of a fee of about Shs800,000 to Shs1 million.
“Most boda boda riders are seen as hooligans because of the deeds of a few characters. So we do no command any respect,” Behanakira says, adding that in case of an accident where a boda boda is involved, he is always perceived to be the one in the wrong whereas sometimes not.
He notes that thieves are using all kinds of sophisticated tactics in order to rob and kill riders before making away with the motorcycles.
By Edna K Mwesigye