Photo: Traffic police inspect a bodaboda rider’s particulars at Magomeni area in Dar es Salaam. Emmanuel Herman.
Motorcycle taxi operators in Dar es Salaam should be rubbing their hands with glee after former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa recently offered them a helping hand.
Speaking at a meeting with bodaboda operators at Leaders Club grounds, in Dar es Salaam, Lowassa promised to end drivers’ dependency on employers. He promised to fundraise money to buy motorcycles that riders could access through loans from Savings and Credit Co-operatives (SACCOS).
The motorcycles offer a quick means of transport in Dar es Salaam and other cities. Most of the city’s residents prefer bodabodas to commuter buses because they can more easily weave through traffic jams.
At least 50 percent of bodaboda drives work for employers, according to data released by the chairman of bodaboda riders in Ilala District, Jackson Mfugale.
“Most of us here have no motorcycles, we are just working for our bosses, and they are the ones who take a big share, though we (riders) are the ones exposed to risks of accidents and getting killed by robbers,” he said.
He said the average amount of money submitted to the bosses every evening after a driver’s shift is over is Tsh10,000 (about $7).
Bodabodas help beat traffic jams
The bodaboda business has been growing year after year following the increase of traffic jams in major cities like Dar es Salaam, Mwanza Mbeya and Arusha.
Halima Abdul, who operates a mobile money transfer business at Mwenge bus stand, said the bodabodas are a great help to her because she can rush to the bank any time to deposit cash and quickly return to her workstation.
“Earlier, it was difficult for me to use commuter buses to go to the bank, and it was very expensive to hire a taxi, but with bodabodas I can use only 10 minutes to get there and another 10 minutes to get back to my office,” she said.
Sylivester Ishengoma, who has just started work at one of the companies in the city, said had it not been for bodabodas he would not have been in the office on the day urbanafrica.net interviewed him.
“I was almost late for my interview, I decided to drop from the bus, which had already spent almost 45 minutes at traffic rights, I decided to take a bodaboda and I got there in 10 minutes,” he said.
Despite being a solution to traffic congestion, bodabodas have some challenges. Safety and security are not guaranteed.
At least 8,241 road accidents in 2013 involved bodabodas, according to the national traffic report. Of those, 6,831 caused 1,058 deaths and injured 6,578 other people. At least 870 bodaboda riders died in 2013. Bodaboda accidents contributed to 18.5 percent of the total number of accidents in the year.
To improve bodaboda safety, government departments are giving safety training to motorcycle riders. In early April, 750 motorcyclists in Dar es Salaam graduated from a three-month course jointly conducted by the Automobile Association of Tanzania (AAT) and the Tanzania Traffic Police force.
AAT President Nizar Jivan said the training aimed at equipping bodaboda riders with skills and knowledge about traffic rules and principles. He said the target was to train at least 1,000 riders but only 750 managed to make it to the end of the course.
Also, the National Institute of Transport, in collaboration with traffic police, has been offering training to various groups of bodaboda riders in the city.
Deus Nkwama, a bodaboda rider at Ubungo, said training has helped many drivers understand the principles and rules of using roads. He said the training has helped reduce accidents and save lives.
Head of the traffic police department, Mohamed Mpinga said traffic police in collaboration with NIT have already provided training to at least 4,000 bodaboda riders countrywide.
There was a total of 10,036 registered bodabodas in the country, as of May 2013. In Dar es Salaam alone, there were at least 4,432 of them.
Bodabodas barred from city centre
While government has been working to improve the safety of bodaboda operations, there has also been a move to clamp down on criminal activities associated with bodabodas.
In March this year Mpinga announced a police operation to stop bodabodas from entering and operating in the Dar city centre. This measure was taken following the increase of criminal incidents involving bodabodas, he said.
According to police, bodaboda riders have been involved in robberies of banks and shops in the city. Moreover, criminals use bodabodas to grab wallets, mobile phones, watches and other valuables.
On April 15, 2014, three armed robbers invaded Barclays bank, Kinondoni branch and made away with Tsh300 million (about $190,000). According to Kinondoni region Police Commander, Camillius Wambura, the culprits managed to escape using bodabodas, which can easily penetrate Dar es Salaam’s busy streets. The Citizen later revealed that the robbery was faked.
Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (Sumatra) official, David Mzirai said his office was supporting the move to ban bodabodas from the city centre and there was not a single bodaboda registered by his office to operate in the city centre. Thus all of them are registered to operate in other areas of the city.
While bodabodas are banned from operating in the city centre they are allowed to provide services in other parts of the city. Few of them dare to enter the city centre, but police and city militiamen are at alert. Those who do enter the city are arrested and have their bodabodas seized. To get the bodaboda back one must pay a fine of Tsh30,000 (about $19).
Florence Mugarula is a reporter for the The Citizen newspaper in Tanzania. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism (BAJ-Hons) from the University of Dar es Salaam. He also attended a sub-editing training course for six months at Nation Media Group (NMG) in Nairobi, Kenya.He can be contacted at email@example.com.Read older posts from this section