Can digitalisation of the transport sector solve major challenges in the industry?

by Abbas Muhamad
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Edward Muwonge, a boda-boda rider operating on the Bolt platform, is keen to understand the
government approach on the issue regarding registration of all boda-boda riders in the city.
He believes that digitalisation of the transport sector can help solve major challenges which have been
hindering the progress of the sector.

Recently, the government announced that it was embarking on the process of registering all boda-boda
riders in the city and ensuring that each of them had a specific stage where they would operate from.

The boda-boda riders have been given a grace period of four months to register or risk not operating
within the city.

According to the city leaders, any boda-boda rider that isn’t registered by July 1, 2022 will be prohibited
from operating in Kampala.

In an inter-ministerial committee comprising of the Ministry of Works and Transport, Ministry of local
government, Kampala Ministry, Police and representatives from boda-boda associations, it was agreed that there was a need to register, and formalize every boda-boda operating in metropolitan Kampala. This is aimed at instilling order in the city.

According to the State Minister for Kampala, Kabuye Kyofatogabye K, each boda-boda rider will be
registered using a copy of their national ID, and given reflective identification jackets unique to each
division. Drivers will also be provided with QR codes and their pictures will be well displayed on their backs
for easy identification.

Despite the numerous challenges facing the boda-boda riders, Muwonge says it is clear that boda-bodas are still a preferred means of transportation.

“Bolt can easily track where I am, and the places I have been. This is not only safe for the customers but
me as a rider also because I feel safe. I only take customers that make requests via Bolt, and these can
easily be tracked using the phone numbers that they register with,” he explains.

Operations Manager Bolt Uganda, Moses Maurice Mugerwa says the government should work together
with the available ride-hailing applications to improve its digitalisation systems to include National IDs as a necessity for registration for both riders and customers.

“They should also encourage all boda-boda riders to register with the said applications, and offer
subsidized rates on the system, so that the customers and riders can get a fair deal. By doing so, there
will be a systematic transport system that offers a safe and convenient way to travel for most Ugandans
and offers boda-boda riders the opportunities to earn a stable income in a secure environment,” he

So far, there are more than 200,000 boda-bodas in Kampala, all providing a source of income to families,
meaning that if the government puts the proposed regulations into effect, the unregistered boda-boda
riders, the majority of whom are the youth, may lose their source of income and earning opportunities.

Mugerwa says this will affect the thousands of recipients that directly or indirectly rely on these boda-
boda riders, adding that boda-bodas offer a quick means of transport for a significant number of city
residents, where traffic congestion remains a major day to day challenge.

Experts note that since this is not the first time that the government has proposed these changes, there
is a need for greater collaboration between the concerned parties to ensure that all parties’ needs are
met. They believe that the challenge of unregistered, unidentified boda-bodas can easily be solved by the
sector through digitalisation, which is already happening in Uganda.

They cited ride-hailing apps like Bolt, Safe boda and Uber have digitized mechanisms that collect relevant
data on riders’ personal details, the areas they visit, and their exact location, all at the same time.

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