Over the last couple of years, the country has experienced a budding increase in tech startups that have remarkably revolutionised life as we know it. A huge majority of these online based companies have carved a niche by offering delivery and transportation services such as food, drinks, groceries and even people.
At the heart of their operations is a group behind the limelight; service providers who are possibly deprived of the glam and respect that litter this ecosystem. They are perceived to be a perpetual nag by lawmakers and other road users.
Evidently, Nairobi has seen an increase of boda boda riders, much to the annoyance of residents. With a smartphone secured at the centre of the motorbike handlebar, they are clad in multiple merchandise, flaunting different competing brands across the city.
The culture was unprecedented and so was the havoc that came with it. Suddenly, you need to look at both sides of a one- way traffic street in case a rogue boda boda rider has decided to evade traffic. Pedestrian walkways are no longer that, they have been turned into an expressway by boda bodas.
As expected, boda boda related incidences have been on the rise, from reckless accidents, to petty crimes from criminal who have taken advantage of the disguise that comes with a helmet and the ease of speeding away with a motorbike.
In return, the government, especially the county Government of Nairobi has blanketed the whole nuisance with strict regulations that not only affect law abiding hard working bodaboda riders but also nipped operations of these tech startups.
Currently, there are strict policies preventing almost all riders from entering the CBD without proper, and unattainable ‘licensing’.
What that has done is limited operations of a number of shops in the CBD with online presence. They can no longer offer delivery services of the items they sell from the CBD at will neither can a shop owner order for a hot meal as before. You can also no longer hop onto a bodaboda ride to connect fast to an adjacent street.
In addition, as is typical with ambiguous laws in the country, the County Government askaris have taken advantage and started harassing private bodaboda operators.
Regardless of the type of motorbike, you risk being towed to the county offices and paying hefty towing and storage fines upon setting foot in the CBD.
It is incumbent upon these lawmakers to actively involve companies that work directly or indirectly with boda boda riders as service providers to formulate some sort of operational plans.
Being a symbiotic relationship between bodaboda riders and these tech companies offering them jobs, there shouldn’t be any pushbacks from both ends.
Also, the companies that use bodaboda riders as service providers should devise some form of self-regulatory frameworks to help curtail the burgeoning menace before the entire operations are put to a complete stop by lawmakers who are seemingly growing impatient.
With strict on-boarding procedures, proactive conduct assessment measures and collaboration with law enforcers, bodaboda riders will easily turn from a nuisance to a great aid.
Githinji wa Muhoro via email