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Boda-Bodas

by Dan Griffin

It doesn’t take a long time for a visitor to Uganda to become acquainted with motorbike taxis.  Boda-bodas are small put-putting little bikes – typically imported from India – and in Uganda they’re everywhere. They tend to be operated by men who for a small fee will bring their passengers and their cargo (which can be virtually anything you can think of that can conceivable be carried in your lap – chickens, furniture, kayaks, etc) a relatively short distance. In the traffic clogged streets of the capital, Kampala, they weave around the cars and matatu hi-aces like a stream around river boulders.

In Bujagali, where most of the whitewater industry in Uganda is based, you see boda-bodas zipping around all over the place, along the pock-marked, potholed roads, and through the bushes along red-dirt walking paths. Often they will have two or three people on the back, a mother or two kids or something like that. Other times they will have a kayaker in full gear, kayak resting across their knees.

The small village is a few kilometres from Jinja, a large regional town at the source of the Nile so boda-boda traffic between the two areas is swift and plentiful. As a passenger you sit on the back, taking care not to burn your leg off the exhaust pipe as you mount the padded seat. The ride along the dirt roads is usually a bumpy one, your arse bouncing around as you try to keep your balance and keep your head down to avoid inhaling the dust kicked up by other vehicles.

The number of boda-bodas on the streets and roads of Uganda has exploded in the past two or three decades. They’re relatively cheap and the credit to purchase them is readily available. They provide a way of living for many Ugandans and, although concerns have been raised about safety and the environmental impact, in a country with ad-hoc public transport, they’re going nowhere.

Fund recipient Dan Griffin was supported to travel to Jinja, Uganda, where he reported on the effects of a newly installed dam on the local population. Dan’s piece appeared in The Irish Times and can be read here