By Moses Maurice Mugerwa
Recently, the government of Uganda announced that it was embarking on the process of registering all boda-boda riders in the city and ensuring that each of them had a specific stage where they would operate from.
The boda-boda riders have been given a grace period of 4 months to register or risk not operating within the city. Any boda-boda rider that isn’t registered by 1st July 2022, will be prohibited from operating in Kampala.
In an inter-ministerial committee comprising the Ministry of Works and Transport, Ministry of local government, Kampala ministry, police and representatives from boda-boda associations, it was agreed that there was a need to register and formalise every boda-boda operating in metropolitan Kampala.
This is aimed at instilling order in the city. According to the State Minister for Kampala, Kbuye Kyofatogabye, each boda-boda rider will be registered using a copy of their national ID and given reflective identification jackets unique to each division.
Drivers will also be provided with QR codes. Their pictures will be well displayed on their backs for easy identification. Despite the numerous challenges facing the boda-bodas riders, it is clear that boda-bodas are still a preferred means of transportation.
So far, there are more than 200,000 boda-bodas in Kampala, all providing a source of income to families. Once the government puts the proposed regulations into effect, the unregistered boda-boda riders, the majority of whom are the youth, may lose their source of income and earning opportunities.
This will affect the thousands of recipients that directly or indirectly rely on these boda-boda riders. Additionally, boda-bodas offer a quick means of transport for a significant number of city residents, where traffic congestion remains a major day-to-day challenge.
It is important to note that since this is not the first time that the government has proposed these changes, there is a need for greater collaboration between the concerned parties to ensure that all parties needs are met.
Nevertheless, the challenge of unregistered, unidentified boda-bodas can easily be solved by the sector's digitalization, which is already happening in Uganda. Ride-hailing apps like Bolt, SafeBoda and Uber have digitized mechanisms that collect relevant data on riders’ personal details, the areas they visit, and their exact location, all at the same time.
Edward Isa, a boda-boda rider operational on the Bolt platform, is keen to understand the government approach, noting that he can easily be tracked on his Bolt app.
“My Bolt identification is my identity as a boda boda rider. Using their systems, Bolt can easily track where I am, and the places I have been. This is not only safe for the customers and me as a rider because I also feel safe. I only take customers that make requests via Bolt, and these can easily be tracked using the phone numbers that they register with,” he said
Therefore, the government should work together with the available ride-hailing applications to improve their systems to include National IDs as a necessity for registration for both riders and customers.
They should also encourage all boda-boda riders to register with the said applications, and offer subsidized rates on the system so that the customers and riders can get a fair deal.
By doing so, there will be a systematic transport system that offers a safe and convenient way to travel for most Ugandans and offers boda-boda riders the opportunities to earn a stable income in a secure environment.
The writer is the operations manager of Bolt Uganda