Boda boda: What Kenya can learn from Rwanda to tame menace

Tuesday March 08 2022
Motorcycle taxis in Rwanda.

Motorcycle taxis in Rwanda. In Kigali, boda bodas are governed through cooperatives, which work hand in hand with the traffic police to enforce discipline and law. PHOTO | FILE

By Allan Olingo

Motorcycles, commonly known as boda boda in Kenya, have given Kenyan authorities and citizens nightmares.

From riding against traffic, and on pavements, to jumping traffic lights and creating their own parking stages, the sector is now unmanageable. They have created their own rules, as the social order doesn’t apply to them.
They are now synonymous with crime, vigilantism and have become a law unto themselves. But how did it get here? Can it be salvaged.

Read: Kenyan police arrest 16 boda boda riders over sexual assault of motorist

Well, in Kigali, the story is different with President Paul Kagame's administration just getting everything right in managing this sector. For them, nothing is chanced as Rwandans take their cleanliness and social order seriously and to heart.

In Rwanda, each boda boda rider (abamotari) and passenger helmet must be stamped with a unique identifying number, which has to be printed on the driver’s jacket and bike as well. Each motorcycle (locally referred to as moto moto) is also required by law to have a GPS locator on it for easy traceability in case any criminal act is committed.

Read: Boda boda menace rips through the heart of Lamu


The sector is governed through more than 18 cooperatives, which work hand in hand with the traffic police to enforce discipline and law. The cooperatives ensure that riders religiously follow the traffic signs without the presence of a traffic officer.

Passenger numbers

The riders are also barred by law from carrying more than one passenger, as opposed to Kenya where the motorcycles carry as many as five passengers. Another thing that stands out in Kigali is the requirement for female passengers to sit astride like men. People are also not allowed to carry their babies on motorcycles for safety reasons.

Read: Gadget to change moto business in Rwanda

Unlike in Nairobi where boda bodas have taken inches of roads and pavements to create parking stages and fiefdoms, in Kigali, the city has designated parking stages for riders where they wait for passengers.

In Rwanda, riders are banned from roaming the city scouting for passengers. Instead, it is the passengers who walk to the designated stages for their services.

GPS technology

Unlike in Nairobi where the sector went rogue ages ago, in Kigali, the rule of helmets is strictly enforced with both the rider and passenger dutifully wearing helmets, with matching identification numbers, and mobile phone numbers engraved on them.

Read: Kampala: moving on boda boda power

In addition, the unique identifying number is also printed on the driver’s jacket and the bike as well.

“The boda boda had a GPS locator on it as well for easy traceability, so that if the boda boda rider did something to a passenger and took off, one would only have to call the cooperative (they all have to be members of a cooperative) and just by keying in the time and location of the incident, the driver could be identified,” she said.

In January, Kigali City administration upped their game. They mandated all fleet in the motorcycle transport services to migrate to the cashless payment system, requiring operators to install and use GPS-enabled fare technology that allows automated computation of travelled distance and fare settlement. Such a feat is unimaginable in Kenya.

Cashless system

Kigali was banking on the cashless system to streamline urban mobility as it effectively ends fare haggling between riders and passengers, but it has also offered the opportunity to formalise the sector that attracts more than 30,000 operators in the capital Kigali and secondary cities.

Read: Motor taxis in Kigali have six months to adopt cashless system

In 2020, Business Daily columnist Carol Musyoka shared her glowing experience of the Rwandan boda boda sector arguing that “Rwandans have never been here to play.”

“I was accompanied on the trip by a colleague who was visiting the country for the first time. She marvelled at the fact that there were paved pedestrian sidewalks everywhere but, more importantly, only human beings used the same as the boda bodas were mashed up in the sluggish evening traffic with us contrary to what we are used to here in the beloved +254. Our driver interjected at this point, saying that if a boda boda rider dared to drive on the sidewalk he would get heavily penalised,” she said.

“Clearly we don’t have to look far to get inspiration in this our beloved +254,” Ms Musyoka wrote.

Unlike in Nairobi where the riders make the disobedience of traffic rules the norm, in Rwanda the order is obeyed by everyone. When it comes to traffic lights, the motorcyclists stop, follow the traffic lights and move when they the lights turn green.