President Museveni, while delivering the speech that gave directives for the reopening of the economy on 31 December 2021, issued for the lifting of curfew on all other sectors and maintained the one on boda bodas. This was decried as unfair by people working in the industry, calling for inclusiveness in the full reopening.
On the Brunch Talk today, Olive Najjuma hosted the Co-founder of the renowned Safeboda transportation services, Ricky Rapa Thompson, who says the hurting decision not only affects the welfare of bodaboda riders but also the rest of Ugandans that are mostly youths.
He said that the second largest employer of Uganda’s population made of 80 percent youths is the bodaboda sector after agriculture, providing over 2 million jobs directly and 10 million indirectly.
He added that due to the impact of Covid on the education sector, the boda boda industry increasingly employed a number of teachers and other educated Ugandans that had lost their jobs and have been surviving on the industry. “It's not just unfair, it's an attack on the future of young people because we have close to 30% of graduates who fail to get jobs and get into the bodaboda industry.”
He also argued that boda bodas are the only means that transport people to their doorsteps. “When you leave the bars open, young people are going to go out and party, young people are the ones working in the bars and when they get done, they have to use boda bodas to get back home. So are you telling the employers to drive each of them to their homes, park their car and walk them to their homes with security? It's not possible,” Thomson reasoned.
“So it's a lie to say that the economy is open when the boda boda industry is not open. This is an industry that contributes close to 15% of the national GDP and employs close to 10 million people. If you leave it under some form of curfew, you haven’t opened the economy.”
He added that it was sad that boda boda’s contribution to the economy is not being recognized by the government yet it is one of the largest contributors to its direct revenue. “The number of boda bodas in Kampala are about 300,000 or more, and each spends shs.3000 for every litre of fuel and need up to shs.10,000 to operate the motorcycle every day. Every litre is taxed about shs.1200. If you multiply that by 300,000 and by 3 litres, you get to realise how much that is, and when computed across the country, you can see how much it contributes.”
Ricky Rapa swore that every Ugandan has a direct contact with boda boda operators including those that might condemn them yet they keep phone contacts of the riders in their phones.“People who say boda bodas are bad are having their children transported to school on them, their wives are brought home by bodas, the food they eat at home is being delivered on a boda boda.”
Olive agreed to this saying that although some people may not use the services directly, they consume them indirectly such as through orders from apps such as Jumia and food from renown restaurants and other items delivered using boda bodas.
However, she voiced that the concern of security has always been central in the restrictions of boda boda operations, citing cases such as Deputy IGP Felix Kaweesi and Col Kiggundu who were assassinated by runaway gunmen on boda bodas. She then probed Thomson for his opinion on the issue.
The Safeboda Co-founder noted that the government “had a point in doing this.” However, he said that the irregulation and lack of means to differentiate between boda boda riders providing transport services and those riding on an individual basis has tarnished the name of the industry at large because anyone can use their motorcycle for personal interests.
“That's why we as Safeboda came in a different way to make sure that people can differentiate between one providing a service and someone who is riding on their own. That's why our safe bodas have proper reflectors with their names and helmets with numbers on them, aimed at differentiating them from individual riders. This needs to be extended throughout the country to have clear differentiation between a boda boda rider providing a service and the ones who aren't,” he responded.
Moving forward , Ricky Rapa said that the meeting had with cabinet ministers and the President last week said they were hopeful about the streamlining and the reopening of the sector. He asserted that Gen Katumba Wamala gave a period of 6 months for the riders to organise themselves, mentioning that Safeboda agreed on working together with the Ministry of Works to streamline operations within the sector. There was also talk about representation from the local to the national level of the industry and the promise from the Kampala Minister Minsa Kabanda on the lifting of curfew on boda bodas.
Brunch Talk is hosted by Olive Najjuma Monica every Saturday from Midday to 1pm on RX Radio.