Photo: African Urban Transport

The Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, Kenya

Spotlight on... Best practices in the urban motorcycle taxi sector

Okadas and Boda Bodas play a key role for mobility and access in urban (and rural) sub-Saharan Africa. We interviewed Prof. Patrick Hayombe at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, Kenya, about the project Wheels of Change which aims to find ‘good practices and pathways to those practices’ by sharing of experiences between Liberia, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania

  • Please tell us a bit about your project and why this topic is urgent.
  • In the last 20 or so years, motorcycle taxis (MCTs) – and more recently motor tricycle taxis - have fundamentally changed mobility and access in urban (and rural) Sub-Saharan Africa. In many African cities motorcycle taxis - often referred to as Okadas in West Africa or Boda Bodas in East Africa - are responsible for the majority of transport movements of both people and goods and providing hundreds of thousands of jobs to low-skilled or marginalised youth. However, rental, ownership and operational models can differ significantly from one region or country to the other. So does the role and impact of motorcycle taxi unions, with some being no more than ‘cartels’ exploiting their members while others genuinely advocating for the operators’ wellbeing and livelihoods. Equally, responses of city councils vary considerably, ranging from working together with operators and unions to regulate the sector and promote health and safety, to outright banning (albeit often unsuccessful) commercial motorcycle riding. There seems to be a clear need and opportunity here to learn (different) ‘good practices and pathways to those practices’ from the various stakeholders (MCT operators, unions, city council, traffic police, MCT users). This project attempts to articulate this scenario and this topic is urgent to energize the regularization of the MCT Sector.
  • This project is a collaboration with researchers and universities in other countries. Can you tell us more about that?
  • As a collaboration between universities and research institutions in five different Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries and respective cities (Liberia-Monrovia and Kakata, Ghana-Accra and Kumasi, Kenya-Nairobi and Kisumu, Uganda-Kampala, and Tanzania-Dar-es-Salaam and Morogoro). We were be able to capture a wide range of MCT related practices and modi operandi. Each of the institutions involved have conducted a standardised survey and qualitative interviews covering issues related to four of the five clusters (user needs; governance & politics; business models and; safety & health). This has allowed us to have effective sharing of knowledge and experiences in regional virtual and sharing country reports. These ‘lessons learned’ are being taken by respective countries and shared with the local and national stakeholders, especially country reports and policy briefs.
  • The Project Participants and Organization are: Prof. Patrick Hayombe and Dr Fredrick Owino, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, Paul Opiyo, Kisumu Local Interaction Platform (KLIP) from Kenya, Ted Johnson, LIDA, Liberia, Dr. Rosemarie T. Santos, African Methodist Episcopal University, Liberia, Dr Marion Mugisha, Kambogo University, Uganda, Reginald Ghetto, Ardhi University, Tanzania, Simon Ntramah, CSIR/BRRI, Ghana, , Kenya, Kenya, Dr Krijn Peters and Dr Jack Jenkins of Swansea University, United Kingdom.
  • Are there any initial insights from the comparative study?
  • Emerging insights is that the MCT is increasing filling the gap left by formal transport, especially inter rural-urban transport link, last mile connectivity and becoming a major urban industry with considerable multiplier effect but hardly regulated. Governance issues therefore can be sorted through engagement of various motorcycle taxi unions and cooperatives with relevant City authorities and national government structures developing more inclusive regulatory framework. The MCT is big investment and employer of urban youths, both male and female that cannot be ignored. Beyond the City limits and informal settlements, apart from private vehicles, motorbikes services are the only accessible means for the greater portion of the population living at the periphery, the majority of who are the urban poor.

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