Bicycle boda boda in Masindi, Uganda c. 2009
Motorcycle boda boda in Uganda c. 2010
Boda boda driver in Tanzania c. 2017

Boda bodas are bicycles and motorcycle taxis commonly found in East Africa.[1] While motorcycle taxis like boda bodas are present throughout Africa and beyond, the term boda boda is specific to East Africa.[2] In Kenya, they are more frequently called piki pikis or Boda.[3] Their ubiquitous presence in East African cities is the result of a number of factors including an increasing demand for public transit,[1] the ability to purchase motorcycles on credit,[4] and an influx of cheap imports from Indian manufacturers like Bajaj and high level of unemployment among the youth.[5] In the countries where they are present, boda bodas can provide transportation options to riders and job opportunities to drivers while at the same time resulting in an increase in road hazards and collisions and unnecessary injuries and deaths.[6]



A BBC journalist imagined its origin to be onomatopoeia.[7]

A competing suggestion is that the boda boda had an apocryphal ability to transport people across a border without a need to complete the paperwork using a motor vehicle would necessitate; i.e. from border to border.[8]

The term originally referred to the carrier business within smuggling operations across the Uganda Kenya border in the 1980s and early 1990s. The carriers either walked, used bicycles or motorcycles across the border. It was the carrier business that was locally referred to as boda boda meaning border to border. The rider carriers were known to be very fast and expert riders. Soon enough some people in the bicycle transport business labeled their bicycles with writing boda boda as a proud budge for being fast expert riders. When one wanted a fast ride or delivery they hired a boda to boda rider and the public started referring to them as boda-boda. That is how initially the bicycle transport got the name boda boda. When the motorcycles entered the smuggling and transport businesses they out competed bicycles because of their speed, endurance and potential for distance and thus retained the label boda-boda which was synonymous fast riders.

Number in operation


While there is no doubt boda bodas are commonplace in East African cities like Kampala and Nairobi, estimates of their number vary.

Dar es Salaam

Figures show a substantial increase (nearly 10,000%) of motorcycle imports to Tanzania from 2003 to 2015.[6]

Boda bodas in Kampala

In 2013, one source claims 300,000 were operating in Kampala, Uganda.[4] Data from the Kampala Capital City Authority show 120,000 registered motorcycles in the city around the same time although the number of boda bodas could be higher as some are unregistered according to a representative of the Kampala Boda-boda Riders Association.[5] The same source indicated in 2015 that around 40,000 were operating in central Kampala.[5] Another knowledgeable source suggested in 2015 that the true figure is closer to double that number.[9]

Across Uganda riding boda bodas has become a substantial source of income for many youths, providing livelihood to thousands of families in the country. In Kampala, the business has attracted tour and travel investors with one company 'Uganda Adventure Safaris and Boda Boda Tours' providing city maneuver as one of their exciting tour packages for many visitors and tourists in Kampala.


Unlike in most other cities, motorcycle taxi drivers in Kigali, Rwanda, are generally registered and considered law-abiding.[6] Here, the preferred term for this form of transport is moto.[10]

Potential shift from Boda Boda to bicycles for sustainability reasons


In a study conducted in Mukono, Uganda among students, researchers determined that four factors have possible implications for bicycling. These factors were: the transport system and safety factors, the natural environmental factors, the perceptions of cycling that an individual has, and the demographic characteristics of said individual. A logistic model of the factors likely to cause commuters to change modes to bicycles also highlighted mainly demographic characteristics (age, gender, and the individual's ability to cycle) as predictors of the individual's shift in mode to bicycles. These findings suggested that transport system improvements that could reduce the perceived risks of cycling, could perhaps have some of the greatest benefits to cycling in Uganda.[11]

Ridesharing services




SafeBoda is a ridesharing company for motorcycle taxis providing safe and efficient boda boda rides for those in need of quick travel across several cities in Africa. The startup was founded in November 2014 by Maxime Dieudonne, Rapa Thomson Ricky and Alastair Sussock. In 2014, the motorcycle taxis had their greatest popularity globally in Uganda, with over 80,000 riding the streets of Kampala and that was where SafeBoda was begun. Speaking with CNN,[12] Alastair Sussock said they wanted to seize upon Uganda's burgeoning young population which had relatively easy access to fast internet and smartphones.[13][circular reference] SafeBoda launched operations in Nairobi, Kenya in 2017 and in 2019 they forayed into Nigeria's Ibadan.[14] SafeBoda provides training and helmets to drivers who access fares through its app. Their community of drivers all receive extensive training in road safety, first aid, and bike maintenance in partnership with The Red Cross[15] to make them safe and professional while driving on the streets. SafeBoda drivers are equipped with hygiene hairnets and a spare DOT-Certified helmet[16][circular reference] for their customers. All SafeBoda drivers are identifiable and trackable through their system. In a move to enhance road safety and community well-being, Meridian Group has donated reflectors to Boda Boda drivers.[17]

Safe Motos


SafeMotos was launched in Kigali, Rwanda[18] and has expanded to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[19]



Bolt launched boda boda ridesharing services in Uganda to complement its e-taxi services. It has however suffered criticisms about poor service delivery[20][21] and threatened the termination of their services in February 2019.[22]

Uber Boda


Uber also added their e-boda services in Uganda in March 2018 and operates in Kampala.[23]


See also



  1. ^ a b Poon, Linda (4 Mar 2016). "The Love-Hate Relationship Between East Africa and Its Two-Wheeled Taxis". CityLab. The Atlantic. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  2. ^ "Safety improvements for Uganda's boda boda taxis". Africa Business Report. BBC. 27 March 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2016. In Uganda, they are known as boda bodas...
  3. ^ Tucker, Hailey; Owino, Kelvin. "Boda, Piki and Flip-Flop: Getting From Point A to B in Rural Kenya". Retrieved Oct 5, 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Boda bodas: A deathtrap at your beckon". New Vision. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  5. ^ a b c "The boda boda economy defining the streets of Kampala". Daily Monitor. Nation Media Group. 15 Sep 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Kavuma, Richard (30 June 2015). "Revved and ready to go: Tanzania is set to tackle unstoppable boda boda taxis". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  7. ^ Smith, Chris (2 June 2015). "Boda-bodas: The bikes that keep Uganda moving". newsbeat. BBC. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  8. ^ Denis Walls (2012). A Year in Rwanda. Lulu. p. 121. ISBN 9781471736315. Retrieved 2017-03-22. The word boda boda has a very interesting etymology. It turns out that in the early days of transport between kenya and Uganda, crossings between the two countries were known as going 'border to border' and one of the modern means of transport became a modified new word.
  9. ^ Senthilingam, Meera (25 March 2015). "'Uber for motorbikes' - the smart way to get around in a bustling capital". African Start-Up. CNN. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  10. ^ "Could cashless payments make Rwanda's bus conductor redundant?". BBC. 12 April 2016. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  11. ^ Dzisi, Emmanuel Komla Junior; Lugada, Tracy (July 2021). "Modeling the potential shift from motorcycles (Boda Bodas) to bicycles among young people on a Ugandan university campus". Scientific African. 12: e00741. doi:10.1016/j.sciaf.2021.e00741.
  12. ^ "SafeBoda: The smart way to get on a bike in Kampala". CNN.
  13. ^ Uganda
  14. ^ "Welcome to SafeBoda - Your City Ride".
  15. ^ "How apps are transforming Uganda's motorbike taxis". BBC News. 12 March 2019.
  16. ^ Motorcycle helmet
  17. ^ Newsroom, T. V. M. (2022-08-26). "Meridian Group helped with another significant donation in the past". Retrieved 2024-06-25.
  18. ^ "Tech startups in Africa: Africa uber alles". The Economist. The Economist Newspaper Limited. 23 April 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  19. ^ "Rwanda's SafeMotos to expand to DRC". Disrupt Africa. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  20. ^ Enywaru, Pius. "Taxify Uganda unleashes new lower taxi and boda-boda prices for March". Guru8. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  21. ^ "Why is Taxify becoming the most hated ride-hailing app in Uganda?". Sauti Tech. 7 January 2019. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  22. ^ "Taxify Finally Clears Termination Rumors in Uganda". PC Tech Mag. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  23. ^ "uberBoda has arrived in Kampala". Uber. 29 March 2018. Retrieved 24 March 2019.