Kenya: State Steps Up Measures to Restore Sanity in Boda Boda Sector

17 February 2020

The government has put in place measures to restore sanity in the boda boda transport sector in the country.

The motorcycle transport industry is largely blamed for increased road accidents and insecurity.

The State wants to expand the mandate of the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to include the boda boda riders.


A report by the National Crime Research Centre (NCRC) describes the boda boda industry as one of the leading causes of road accidents, a purveyor of petty and major crimes in the country and teenage pregnancies.

To address the menace, the NCRC report, a product of a survey conducted in 24 counties in 2019, wants NTSA to work with the national police and county governments to weed out rogue and criminal riders from the industry. The report which is currently before the National Assembly proposes mandatory formal motorcycle training for all operators.

The operators will be required to acquire rider's licence, certificate of good conduct, helmet and reflector jackets before being allowed on the Kenyan roads.

The proposals, which also entail registering, regulating, monitoring and governing the industry, must, however, be adopted by the MPs first before they are implemented through policy changes and legislative framework changes.

This may lead to the amendment of the NTSA Act among other sector laws. The lack of regulatory framework in the industry has seen the upsurge of criminals.


NCRC, now a unit domiciled at the Interior ministry following the executive order No. 1 of 2018, visited 24 of the 47 counties to collect data and establish the security challenges in the boda boda motorcycle transport industry and how to fix the loose ends.

The survey was based on the fact that motorcycles are increasingly becoming a popular means of transport for many rural and urban dwellers.

However, the sector has been infiltrated by muggers and other criminals since the sector is operating with minimal regulation.

The operators have become lynch mobs who know no traffic rules or even courtesy to pedestrians.

"NTSA in conjunction with the police should carry out compliance and regular inspections, crackdown on riders who violate traffic rules," the report says noting that the lack of proper policing, regulations and close monitoring has led to the wanton recklessness, impunity, violence and siege mentality among the operators.

According to the report, the most prevalent boda boda motorcycle related crimes include causing death by dangerous riding 79.5 per cent, general theft 76.7 per cent, breaching of public order and creating disturbance 66.2 per cent, assault 57 per cent, robbery and robbery with violence 52.9 per cent.


Riding under the influence of alcohol accounted for 52.7 per cent, usage of drugs 49.5 per cent, handling and trafficking of dangerous drugs 42.1 per cent, kidnapping and abduction 26.2 per cent, bribery 23.1 per cent, defilement 17.8 per cent, rape 17.2 per cent.

Other than the criminal elements, also targeted include those operating without insurance cover, overloading, over-speeding, operating unregistered motorbikes, riders without licences as well as riding under the influence of alcohol.

A concern for the industry, according to the report, is the fact that it is dominated by a fairly youthful population of men between the ages of 26 to 33 (38.2 per cent of the entire population), largely male- 97.4 per cent and female 2.6 per cent.

They are less educated, not professionally trained and of lower social standing operating in a context of weak policing, regulation and oversight.

"The national police should undertake intelligence led policing in gathering information and profiling criminal or rogue operators and upscale patrols and enforce public safety regulations like wearing helmets, reflector jackets and carrying only one passenger," reads the report.

Further, NCRC wants NTSA to collaborate with the County Transport Safety Committees (CTSC) to designate specific zones for operations for the boda bodas in counties.

It seeks to establish a database for all the operators in the country through mandatory registration, refresher training and testing.


Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi, an IT expert says that the database will help in addressing the challenge of impunity, recklessness and criminals infiltrating the trade as registration makes it possible to track legitimate riders.

"The current informality status offers great incentives for criminals to thrive as was the case in the matatu industry where notorious criminal gangs like Mungiki, Baghdad boys among others, reigned supreme," Mr Osotsi says.

Other than the police, NTSA and county governments, the report also has specific recommendations to motorcycle dealers and sellers, boda boda owners, riders associations and saccos and the general public.

Mr Barasa Nyukuri, a governance expert says that currently, chances of being hit by a boda boda rider are high compared to a car.

"They ride recklessly and everywhere including pavements- on the wrong sides of the road or against traffic and they do not observe traffic lights among other traffic rules," Mr Nyukuri says.

"This has made crossing Nairobi streets risky because, despite clear traffic rules, you may not know from which side a rider will emerge," he added.

The other boda boda crimes include smuggling of goods across borders 15.9 per cent, theft of motor vehicle 14.2 per cent fraud and forgery related offences 13 per cent handling stolen property 12.8 per cent, burglary 11.3 per cent and motorcycle hijackings 10.4 per cent.

The seemingly ineffective governance of the sector has increased cases of crime and accidents with significant costs to public safety as the operators turn into new face of crime and impunity.


Complaints of criminals on boda boda attacking people are common occurrences in the country. For instance in Nairobi's Buru Buru Police Station, at least 50 cases related to boda boda crimes are reported each day.

They range from snatching ladies handbags, phones, robberies, and carjacking among others. Nevertheless, the boda boda among other motorcycle riders have also been on the receiving end.

Crimes committed against them include murder 62.2 per cent, robbery and robbery with violence 85.2 per cent, indecent assault 7.1 per cent assault 28.9 per cent.

The others are motorist causing death by dangerous driving 29.3 per cent, theft of motorcycle and motorcycle parts 86.5 per cent, general stealing 49.2 per cent and kidnapping and abduction 28.0 per cent. Mr Nyukuri says that it is against this background that regulating the industry is crucial in ensuring "a secure, orderly and reliable part of public transport in the country."


The use of the boda bodas at night has also drawn precaution as the study established higher incidences of victimisation related to crimes late in the night.

The actions by the riders is attributed to greed and desire for quick wealth 10.6 per cent, peer pressure 7.9 per cent, criminal mindset tendencies 3.2 per cent, collusion of boda boda operators with some law enforcement officers 14 per cent, drug and substance abuse 17.5 per cent.

The others are pervasive unemployment and idleness 48.3 per cent as well as high levels of illiteracy 6.3 per cent.

Consequences of the crimes include related deaths 52.9 per cent, smuggling of contraband goods into the country 5.5 per cent, increase in drug and substance abuse 1.9 per cent.

There is also family disintegration 2.6 per cent, increase in teenage pregnancies and school dropouts 9.8 per cent, loss of jobs 7.7 per cent, increase in poverty levels 8.1 per cent and breach of public order and creating disturbance 1.5 per cent.

The survey was done in Bungoma, Busia, Garissa, Homa Bay, Kajiado, Kiambu, Kilifi, Kisumu, Kwale, Lamu Mandera, Marsabit, Migori, Mombasa, Nairobi, Narok, Siaya, Taita Taveta, Tana River, Tharaka Nithi, Trans Nzoia, Turkana, Wajir and West Pokot counties.

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