Boda-Boda Taxi Bicycles for Africa  by Hannes Schindler - Afriwheels

There are so big advantages compared to the expensive, slow and heavy bicycle rickshaws, but unfortunately in Germany it is illegal for two people to sit on one bike.

In 1995 I worked in a bicycle and wheelchair-project in Chimoio/Mocambique and wanted to introduce the boda-boda as we had the best materials and possibilities to construct the strong carriers, seats and foot-holders within the project. But this time it was the big boss of the GTZ (German Technical Cooperation "The GTZ is one of the largest consultancy organisations for development cooperation world wide") who stopped it. He even forbid to use the usual stable standard roadster bikes ("The GTZ doesn't have to promote the import of Indian bicycles, that is no development-aid, we have to develop and promote our own constructions and use European bikes").I had fixed some posters of boda-boda and bicycle transport at the workshops walls and when I was out for bying spares the GTZ-boss entered to remove them personally. bicycle carrier production

But that's true for sure: European/American bikes are not made for transport in Africa.

Then in 1997 I came to work in Eastern Rwanda near the Tanzanian border and I was convinced: This time no-one will stop me in starting a carrier and boda-boda seat production. It was one of the regions where I had made a study concerning "The Transport-Needs of the Rural Population" in 1986 and I hadn-t seen any bicycle taxis there at this time.

Already on the way down from Nairobi through Uganda to Kigali I could see the professional boda-boda taxi-drivers standing and waiting for customers at places and in villages where I hadn-t seen them before. And when I reached Rwamagana in Eastern Rwanda I had to realize that I came some years too late: they were there including the infrastructure: local manufacturers of carriers and seats. .

It's so nice to see how the boda-boda spread slowly but steadily from the Ugandan-Kenyan border to other regions and boda-boda organisations have been founded in many towms.from the bus to the boda-boda They help to minimise the risks (dangerous driving, not well-maintained bikes, molesting of women-passengers) by registering and licencing their members.

Another development: while the boda-boda bicycle is still spreading to other areas in it-s area of origin, especially in cities, the bicycles are more and more replaced by motobikes. The motobike-taxis have overtaken the name boda-boda as well. It is estimated that in Uganda more than 200 000 men are working as bicycle boda-boda and already almost 70 000 as motorized two-wheeled boda-boda.

We know meanwhile it's not a big deal and doesn't need much funds to start a boda-boda business in areas where it's not yet there. There are still enough regions in East and West and especially sub-saharan-Africa where local transport is THE PROBLEM. The thieves and smugglers from the Ugandan-Kenyan border once have developped solutions for this problem and the northern aid and development organisations should start to learn from them. (Hannes Schindler - Karlsruhe - Germany)

There is just an article in the Monitor (Kampala) July 19, 2004 where an old man describes again how the boda-boda started:

Boda Bodas Originated From This Man's Village

It just takes a sight of a bicycle to recall most of the occurrences in my village in the 60s and 70s. But what comes first is the smuggling of coffee, across the border, in Busia," says Samia Bugwe south MP, Simon Mayende.

Close to fifty bicycles with bags half filled with coffee tied behind their carriers would be ridden across the border - like a whirlwind. It always stirred up my spirit watching them,"

Mayende says Bunyadeti has developed a lot. Mud and wattle houses are being phased out.

"Another thing is that those days people crossed to the Kenyan side of the border through 'no man's' land using bicycles. They shouted "border, border", which loosely means transporting people from one side of the border to the other. From then on, people started referring to them as boda bodas although now it is motorcycles that bear the name," says Mayende as he reminisces the occurrences in his village, Bunyadeti in Busia District.

He was born in Moyo in 1957 to Justice A. O. Ouma and Ms Erina Bachayaya (RIP) but due to the parents' jobs, they kept moving from one place to another.

Bunyadeti is less than a kilometre from the Uganda-Kenya border. It is a flat area with a few rocky hills, where local folks used to graze their cattle and goats. The area is awash with Savannah vegetation on which the locals tilled to grow cotton, maize, cassava, and millet amongst others. But millet was their best food crop - grown in swamps.

These swamps were also fishing grounds for. "We used to go with hooks to trap fish. We had it in plenty and we accompanied almost all our meals with it," Mayende reminisces.

"By the way, I did not study from Busia but I can testify that most of the intelligent people in Uganda originate from my area. This is because they used to eat so many heads of the fish. An example is Chief Justice Odoki," he says with a grin.

The swamps were also swimming pools and bathing places for the locals, although now it is impossible for them to do so because they are infested with crocodiles.However, during the rainy seasons, the swamps would flood. They had to use canoes to cross from one place to another. But the area has experiences dry seasons, with water levels in the swamps reducing.

Most of the locals used to sleep in mud and wattle grass thatched huts - but were not a lazy lot. Some worked in their gardens and sold their harvest at Bunyadeti cooperative society. Some of them would ride bicycles while others would walk along the murram road, carrying animals, foodstuffs like 'nyoyo' (a mixture of boiled fried beans and maize), and other commodities to Tororo railway station market for sale.

Vehicles hardly passed through the village. "I remember UTC buses would pass three kilometres away from our village, although our murram road was good. We used to work communally to maintain our village," he says.

"We were so united. For example, women used to have digging and burial groups and the men used to drink 'malwa' local brew from the same pot. This would cause harmony in the village," says Mayende ...

This industrious culture is helping phase out the mud and wattle huts. "However, modernity is breaking the bond that once existed; people are now starting to get individualistic. For example, some no longer want to drink local brew (malwa) from the pot with others; they prefer to drink beer,"

"Another thing is that our roads are not in good shape because we now use machines to work on them and since various road networks have been introduced, we do not have enough resources to maintain them," Mayende says.

Boda-Boda in the Wikipedia