Uganda Orders All Commercial Bikes to Join e-Hailing Apps, Could Lagos Have Done The Same?


Life may not remain the same for commercial bikes and taxi operators in Uganda after the current Covid-19 pandemic. The government of the nation’s capital and most populous city, Kampala has rolled out a new set of guidelines that mandates traditional commercial bike (boda-boda) and taxi operators to go digital or cease to exist once the lockdown is lifted.

According to the Kampala Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago, beginning from the first week after lockdown is lifted, all boda-boda motorcycles shall be required to operate under digital companies like Safe Boda, Uber, Bolt among others.

The Mayor also noted that about 970 parks have been mapped out across the city and 385 of them will be phased out. Although more details were not provided, he said that there will be boda-boda free zones in the city.

Quoting the framework paper he received, Mr Lukwago also noted that, boda-bodas will be allowed to operate up to 7 pm (curfew time) for 21 days until all of them are registered under the platforms.

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Kampala Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago.

The same guideline will apply for taxis. However, they will be initially banned for 21 days during which they will be required to register with the ministry of transport. After 42 days – 3 weeks after registration is expected to have been completed, only registered taxis will be allowed to operate in the city under strict rules.

Nevertheless, the Mayor also blamed the technocrats for coming up with laws without engaging the government and transport stakeholders.

“This is not fair at all because we already have boda-boda and taxi ordinances in place but government has instead overlooked them. How do you come up with such policies when you haven’t engaged leaders of taxis and boda-bodas!” 

Lord Mayor of Kampala, Erias Lukwago.

A Tale of Two Cities

In January, the Lagos state government rolled out restriction for the commercial bike space. The new law prohibits commercial motorcycles, including bike-hailing startups like Gokada, Max and Opay, from operating in some areas of the state, notably the major business areas.

This move according to the government was necessary to ensure safe transportation in Lagos. The law which went into place in February has seen the various ride-hailing startups move to other verticals to utilise their infrastructures.

Recently, following the COVID-19 outbreak, the Lagos government effected a full ban on motorcycle activities across the state.

Beyond the bike space, the government has also been taking active steps towards regulating the ride-hailing startups; Uber, Bolt and others like the traditional taxi players.

This is a sharp contrast to the proposed guideline in Uganda. By the terms of the guidelines, all boda-boda motorcycles shall operate under digital companies. This brings a whole new outlook to the space.

A boda boda rider in Uganda.

With over 200,000 boda-boda drivers in Kampala, the industry remains largely unregulated. But with the registration on digital platforms, riders will need to provide vehicle details and documents, be literate enough to operate a smartphone as well to navigate the platform’s app.

All these provide details for the government to better regulate the space and address the safety/security concerns.

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Safeboda is a Ugandan bike hailing startup.

“We are basically mooting plans to improve mobility of taxis and boda-bodas and streamline the entire transport in the city.” Mr Peter Kaujju, Head of Public and Corporate Affairs of Kampala’s Capital City Authority, (KCCA).

On the other hand, it will open up the ride-hailing space in the country to more innovations and increase patronage for the various available platforms. These are benefits that have been stifled in Lagos.

Somewhat similar to the Lagos situation, however, will be that riders who don’t meet up with the requirements will need to buckle up or move to other cities to ply their trade.

According to the KCCA, the guideline is only still but a proposal and the state cabinet will be tasked with making the final decision.

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