Boda boda

Boda bodas are bicycle and motorcycle taxis commonly found in East Africa.[1] While motorcycle taxis like boda bodas are present throughout Africa and beyond, the term boda boda is specific to East Africa.[2] In Kenya, they are more frequently called piki pikis.[3] Their ubiquitous presence in East African cities is the result of a number of factors including an increasing demand for public transit,[1] the ability to purchase motorcycles on credit,[4] and an influx of cheap imports from Indian manufacturers like Bajaj.[5] In the countries where they are present, boda bodas can provide transportation options to riders and job opportunities to drivers while at the same time resulting in an increase in road hazards and collisions and unnecessary injuries and deaths.[6]


A BBC journalist imagined its origin to be onomatopoeia.[7]

A competing suggestion is that the boda boda had an apocryphal ability to transport people across a border without a need to complete the paperwork using a motor vehicle would necessitate; i.e. from border to border.[8]

Number in operation

While there is no doubt boda bodas are commonplace in East African cities like Kampala and Nairobi, estimates of their number vary.

Dar es Salaam

Figures show a substantial increase (nearly 10,000%) of motorcycle imports to Tanzania in the three years from 2013 to 2015.[6]


In 2013, one source claims 300,000 were operating in Kampala, Uganda.[4] Data from the Kampala Capital City Authority show 120,000 registered motorcycles in the city around the same time although the number of boda bodas could be higher as some are unregistered according to a representative of the Kampala Boda-boda Riders Association.[5] The same source indicated in 2015 that around 40,000 were operating in central Kampala.[5] Another knowledgeable source suggested in 2015 that the true figure is closer to double that number.[9]

Across Uganda riding boda bodas has become a substantial source of income for many youths, providing livelihood to thousands of families in the country. In Kampala, the business has attracted tour and travel investors with one company 'Uganda Adventure Safaris and Boda Boda Tours' providing city maneuver as one of their exciting tour packages for many visitors and tourists in Kampala.


Unlike in most other cities, motorcycle taxi drivers in Kigali, Rwanda, are generally registered and considered law-abiding.[6] Here, the preferred term for this form of transport is moto.[10]

E-Hailing Services


An Uber-style e-hailing mobile app for motorcycle taxis, SafeBoda was founded in late 2014, and, as of 2015, restricted its operations to Kampala, Uganda.[9] It provides training and helmets to drivers who access fares through its app.[9] The smartphones carried by drivers can collect braking data allowing the firm to rank operators' safety, and a routing system that relies more on landmarks than maps helps ensure only those who possess thorough local knowledge will attempt to pick up a potential fare.

Safe Motos

SafeMotos was launched in Kigali, Rwanda[11] and has expanded to the DR Congo.[12]


Taxify launched their boda boda e-hailing services in Uganda to complement its e-taxi services. It has however suffered criticisms about poor service delivery [13][14] and threatened the termination of their services in February 2019.[15]

Uber Boda

Uber also added their e-boda services in Uganda in March 2018 and operates in Kampala.[16]

See also


  1. Poon, Linda (4 Mar 2016). "The Love-Hate Relationship Between East Africa and Its Two-Wheeled Taxis". CityLab. The Atlantic. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  2. "Safety improvements for Uganda's boda boda taxis". Africa Business Report. BBC. 27 March 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2016. In Uganda, they are known as boda bodas...
  3. Tucker, Hailey; Owino, Kelvin. "Boda, Piki and Flip-Flop: Getting From Point A to B in Rural Kenya". Retrieved Oct 5, 2016.
  4. "Boda bodas: A deathtrap at your beckon". New Vision. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  5. "The boda boda economy defining the streets of Kampala". Daily Monitor. Nation Media Group. 15 Sep 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  6. Kavuma, Richard (30 June 2015). "Revved and ready to go: Tanzania is set to tackle unstoppable boda boda taxis". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  7. Smith, Chris (2 June 2015). "Boda-bodas: The bikes that keep Uganda moving". newsbeat. BBC. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  8. Denis Walls (2012). "A Year in Rwanda". Lulu. p. 121. ISBN 9781471736315. Retrieved 2017-03-22. The word boda boda has a very interesting etymology. It turns out that in the early days of transport between kenya and Uganda, crossings between the two countries were known as going 'border to border' and one of the modern means of transport became a modified new word.
  9. Senthilingam, Meera (25 March 2015). "'Uber for motorbikes' - the smart way to get around in a bustling capital". African Start-Up. CNN. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  10. "Could cashless payments make Rwanda's bus conductor redundant?". BBC. 12 April 2016. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  11. "Tech startups in Africa: Africa uber alles". The Economist. The Economist Newspaper Limited. 23 April 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  12. "Rwanda's SafeMotos to expand to DRC". Disrupt Africa. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  13. Enywaru, Pius. "Taxify Uganda unleashes new lower taxi and boda-boda prices for March". Guru8. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  14. "Why is Taxify becoming the most hated ride-hailing app in Uganda?". Sauti Tech. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  15. "Taxify Finally Clears Termination Rumors in Uganda". PC Tech Mag. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  16. "uberBoda has arrived in Kampala". Uber. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
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