Informal trade: Bodaboda a business that relies on intelligence
Written by Rosemary Wachiye
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A walk around western Province reveals a sight of people riding bicycles and motorcycles commonly known as bodaboda; out and about towns as a means of transport for most middle level people.
It’s a source of income and it offers employment opportunities to many youth who had no privilege to complete their post-secondary education or not got an opportunity to be employed.
Over 500 youth in Webuye have found their daily livelihood in the occupation that has facilitated the paying of bills, school fees and catering for their families.
Speaking to a number of them at Dina area at the Webuye-Malaba highway, revealed how the small scale business venture has been a source of income generation for many since its initiation in the area in early 90s.
Mr.Alex Wafula tells his quest for wealth which started in the year 2000, at the age of 17 after dropping out of school in form two for lack of school fees; by then there were very few motorcycles which were mainly personal.
He began off as a bicycle rider at Matulo to Ngwelo areas in Webuye Constituency making over Sh.300 per day and early 2007 he met a businessman who was renting out his motor bicycles to a group at no fee and he joined the crew that benefitted among the first bicycle leasers.
Just like Mr.Wafula, most motorcycle riders reveal that they don’t ride their own Motorbicycles, they ride motorcycles leased to them for free by business men to whom they pay part of their daily dues.
“The owners of the motorcycles have a set amount of fee that they expect to be handed back at the end of the day; some range from Sh.400 to Sh.500 per day depending on the amount collected,” said Mr. Walter Khakame.
Though the money come in small quantities, through merry go round groups the bodaboda people manage to save a part of their daily earnings to improve their lifestyle.
“I used to contribute Sh.100 every day in the mganda (merry go round) which consist of 60 people and whenever I would be given my share I used to rent out piece of land for plant maize,” said Mr.Wafula.
The piece of land yielded 15 bags of maize which he then sold and managed to plant sugarcane on 3/4 hectare of land which he then sold out at Sh.60, 000 from that he saved Sh.10,000 in the bank and used Sh.50,000 to purchase his own motorcycle.
He now rides his own motorcycle, getting all of his money back unlike when riding a leased motorcycle.
Mr.Wafula cited that on a good day starting from 5.00am to 10.00pm an individual earns an average of Sh.1, 000 which he explains that facilitates the fueling and the rest is used for domestic purpose and savings towards his children’s school fees.
“From the 1,000 shillings I make in a day, Sh 350 goes to fueling, I give Sh 300 to the merry go round and the rest I take home for food and daily up keep,” said Mr.Wafula.
They also explain that the location of operation also matters since it determines the amount of money one can collect; the outskirts of Webuye town having less passengers ends up giving one less income while the main town despite of having many motorcycles circulating around it, it has better possibilities since the motorcyclist makes many rounds and there are equally many passengers.
Motorcycle riding has been a major means of transport for excursion around towns being its fast and affordable means and it can penetrate through interior routs with ease and access roads in bad shape in the rural areas in all weather.
Despite the advantages of motorcycle riding, the cyclists themselves seem to prefer bicycle riding since it doesn’t require fueling or weekly maintenance and oiling which is costly and there is no daily charge of Sh.20 revenue to the Municipal council.
“Bicycle riding brings forth the whole amount one works for with no expenditure whatsoever, the only requirement is zeal and compassion to work,” said Mr. Khakame.
They however, disclose that there is no living example of one individual who started off as a bicycle rider and grew directly to motorcycle riding through his savings since the savings are not enough.
“We have never seen one who started riding a bicycle and later on bough his own motorcycle, most who make it to that always have to sell their land or sugarcane plantation to be able to buy a motorcycle,” they explain.
To Mr.Wafula getting a motorcycle through that is the worst investment since the value of land appreciates everyday while the value for a motorcycle keeps on depreciating and he advices his colleagues not to be tempted to do so.
“Land is sold at Sh.250,000 while a motorcycle only goes at Sh.50,000, so selling land to purchase one may not be a good idea because at the end of the day you may never make enough money to buy piece of land,” said Mr.Wafula.
They also reveal the insecurity cases surrounding motorcycle riding mostly amid late hours of the night where many of their colleagues have been hijacked in their line of duty some have been injured while others unfortunately killed.
“There is need for people to be satisfied with what they make during the day and only work up to 10 pm since most insecurity incidences take place late in the night whereby you may not be sure who you are transporting,” said Mr.Wafula.
They explain to be a successful bodaboda rider, one need to be investment oriented and not just money oriented.