Automotive Industry, Leadership, News

Here is a Three- Point Formula Towards Boda Boda Safety on our Roads.

At the risk of sound­ing like a bro­ken record, I choose to remind my fel­low Kenyans that boda boda is the biggest employ­er in this coun­try. The Teacher Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (TSC), which is Kenya’s largest for­mal employ­er has a respectable work force of near­ly 400,000 Kenyans. On the oth­er hand, the boda boda sec­tor has employed an esti­mat­ed 1.1 mil­lion Kenyans who earn an aver­age of Shs1,000 per rid­er per day. Col­lec­tive­ly, they earn Shs1.1 bil­lion dai­ly which will amount to an esti­mat­ed Shs 401 Bil­lion econ­o­my by the end of 2021. 

No won­der, each boda boda rid­er sup­ports six Kenyans on aver­age. This means that 7.7 mil­lion peo­ple depend on the boda boda sec­tor for their liveli­hoods. Each Boda boda rid­er trans­ports an aver­age of three pas­sen­gers in an hour for about twelve hours dai­ly. Indeed, we are a rid­ing nation because the boda bodas make 39.6 mil­lion rides dai­ly. Accord­ing­ly we must do every­thing pos­si­ble to secure and pros­per this sector. 

The Nation­al Safe­ty and Trans­port Author­i­ty (NTSA) tab­u­lates that there were 6,052 acci­dents on Kenyan roads in the years 2019 and 2020 most of which were motor­cy­cle and pedes­tri­an related. 

To halt this boda boda gravy train of injury and death I sug­gest the fol­low­ing three actions as a quick win. 

The first step which may make me unpop­u­lar dur­ing this polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic down­turn sea­son is to enhance account­abil­i­ty in this sec­tor. Cur­rent­ly, our roads are awash with unli­censed rid­ers. Less than 15 % of Boda Boda rid­ers have valid dri­ving licens­es. They are time bombs on two wheels. These unli­censed and hence untrained rid­ers must be sen­si­bly weed­ed out. Those who sell motor­bikes to them or employ them must also be held account­able. Fun­da­men­tal­ly no motor­cy­cle deal­er should sell a motor­cy­cle to any­one who does not present a valid dri­ving license and no motor­cy­cle own­er should allow any­one on a bike with­out a valid dri­ving license. We need to root this holis­tic account­abil­i­ty approach in law and enforce it tire­less­ly. We just have to be respon­si­ble for com­mon good.

The pos­ses­sion of valid dri­ving licens­es will also help NTSA to esti­mate the num­ber of road­wor­thy motor­cy­cles for strate­gic plan­ning pur­pos­es includ­ing inspec­tions. Cur­rent­ly NTSA has an esti­mat­ed record of 2.5 Mil­lion Motor­cy­cles most of which are either unroad­wor­thy or have been export­ed to neigh­bor­ing countries. 

The sec­ond step is an issue that will pro­tect both rid­ers and their pas­sen­gers – HELMETS. Many head injuries, includ­ing those that lead to untime­ly death, can be pre­vent­ed by high qual­i­ty hel­mets. The World Health Orga­ni­za­tion has revealed that ‘cor­rect hel­met use can lead to a 42% reduc­tion in the risk of fatal injuries and a 69% reduc­tion in the risk of head injuries.’ As such, we must pri­or­i­tize qual­i­ty hel­met usage in the boda boda sec­tor. Embar­rass­ing­ly most avail­able hel­mets in the Kenyan mar­ket today are actu­al­ly a safe­ty threat because they are sub­stan­dard. Kenya Bureau of Stan­dards KEBS must be sup­port­ed to crack down the usage of the exist­ing killer hel­mets on our roads that crash like glass at very min­i­mal impact. 

Third­ly, we must ensure that our roads will enhance boda boda safe­ty. Towards this end, we can bor­row a leaf from WHO’s rec­om­mend­ed road safe­ty strate­gies. One of these strate­gies calls for roads to be designed with the Motor­cy­cles and Bicy­cles in mind. Our exist­ing roads unnec­es­sar­i­ly strain our mul­ti­ple users because they are constricted. 

Experts project that by 2030, there will be five mil­lion motor­cy­cles in Kenya. We must pre­pare for this inevitable dras­tic increase of boda bodas deliv­ery and per­son­al bikes. As such, we must update the boda boda soft­ware by ensur­ing wide­spread train­ing as an oppor­tu­ni­ty for cre­at­ing jobs and licens­ing of rid­ers. We must also clev­er­ly update boda boda hard­ware by ensur­ing full com­pli­ance to reg­u­lar ser­vic­ing of boda bodas and wide­spread usage of qual­i­ty helmets. 

In the same hard­ware vein, I urge our leg­is­la­tors to spear­head leg­is­la­ture that will make Kenya the mar­ket leader of elec­tric motor­bikes. They are cheap­er, health­i­er and sus­tain­able. Think green Act green!

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About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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