Their numbers have ballooned in Kampala and allover Uganda, every minute of the day you’ll see them everywhere, carrying a bewildering number of passengers and cargoes of all shapes and sizes.
They’re motorcycle taxis, or boda-bodas.
Finally, the ninth edition of the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary has done the service of recognising this noun that is so synonymous with transport in East Africa. The word has been added with the dictionary defining it as “a type of motorcycle of bicycle with a space for a passenger or for carrying goods, often used as taxis.
The boda boda business, which initially started in the eastern Busia District for cross-border smuggling, became popular in Kampala after President Museveni hitched a ride on one for a trip to Kololo ceremonial grounds for nomination as a 2001 presidential candidate.
Now, the boda boda business could be Uganda’s second largest employer after agriculture.
More than 70 per cent of Ugandans use public transport as their main form of transport, according to Uganda Bureau of Statistics.
Data available from Kampala Capital City Authority indicates that Kampala alone has more than 150,000 motorcycles majority of which are engaged in commercial activities – boda bada.
The number, according to Atanansi Kafeero, the Kampala Boda boda Riders Association could be more considering that many cyclists are operating within the city without registration.
Fred Muhumuza, one of Uganda’s leading development economists, says boda bodas might often be ignored in mainstream economic policy discourse, but they are important actors.
“[Boda bodas] are an important source of employment for many youths and the skills required are very few. Almost anyone who can ride a bicycle can ride a boda boda motorcycle,” Muhumuza says.