We call them “bendskin” (related the curved position they force the passengers to adopt) in Cameroon, Zemidjan (take me fast) in Togo and Benin, or Boda-Boda (Border to border) in Uganda and Kenya. The motorcycle taxis managed to establish themselves as one of the most used transport in Sub-Saharian Africa. Often criticized for the lack of helmets and the insecurity due to the dangerous practices of drivers that barely follow traffic rules, motorcycle taxi drivers are trying to organize and provide a better picture of the business. In Uganda, SafeBoda, founded in 2014 is an operation that allows you to reserve a motorcycle taxi and provides a secure path for users.
The boda-boda were introduced after countries independence in the region. They allowed to cross the border between Uganda and Kenya, hence the name. The boda-boda became over time one of the preferred means of transportation of Ugandans and especially the Kampala people. Although they will get you quickly from one place to another and avoid traffic jams, motorcycle taxis are responsible for most fatal accidents on Ugandan roads. According to a study by Mulago National Hospital and the University of Makerere in Kampala in 2010, 40% of injuries treated in this hospital are caused by motorbike drivers. Very few among these drivers are trained; they are hardly visible on the road (because going too fast) and take huge risks slaloming between cars.
Rapa Ricky Thomson, a founder of SafeBoda, is himself a motorcycle taxi driver. For four years he transported customers around town on his motorcycle. It is through one of these clients that he met Alistair Sussock, a young Belgian specialist in economic development and social entrepreneurship. With his new partner and the Rwandan technology company Hehe labs, he developed SafeBoda. His goal is to make boda-boda more reliable and to combat their bad reputation.
In exchange for a sum of 10,000 Rwandan shillings (about 3 €) per week, drivers are given a cell phone, an orange safety vest and two helmets. SafeBoda also offers training for driving and first aid to its drivers to limit the number of accidents and allow them to have good reflexes. The company now has a hundred boda-boda registered that one can locate and order by phone.
The SafeBoda initiative could inspire others. Motorcycle taxis cause many worries in most sub-Saharan African cities. It is difficult to control their expansion or even to legislate on the subject. So far, some countries that have imposed helmets have seen so far rejected by users they were attempting to protect. Far from simply being a “African Uber”, it is an original way to provide a framework for the profession of motorcycle taxi driver while ensuring the safety for all.