Exclusive: Boda boda riders to launch campaign against ride-hailing companies

SafeBoda riders

An association of motorcycle taxi riders in Kampala called Boda Boda Industry Uganda (BIU) is rolling out a drive against their counterparts who have joined the digital section of the industry, SautiTech has exclusively learnt.

Formed early this year, BIU is probably the strongest association of boda boda riders in Kampala, having merged several other groups, including Century Boda Boda Riders Association and Kampala Metropolitan Boda Boda Entrepreneurs [Kambe].

The association is headed by Muhammad Kasujja, who Saturday morning revealed to this website that he will be launching a campaign this coming Monday to rally his colleagues against joining ride-hailing companies, which he says are exploiting “naïve” boda boda riders.

In Kampala, the known motorcycle ride-hailing companies are UberBoda, SafeBoda, DialJack, and TaxifyBoda.

Combined, these companies have around 10,000 riders registered with them. After joining these companies, boda boda riders no longer pay allegiance to the traditional associations of riders.

Against that backdrop, Kasujja says these companies have destabilized the boda boda industry. To illustrate this, he gives an example of digital motorcycle riders picking a passenger from any location, which is against the traditional boda boda stage rules, according to Kasujja.

Muhammad Kasujja says that most boda boda riders in Kampala are unsuspicious, a trait he believes the ride-hailing companies are taking advantage of to “use them to achieve their goals.”

“Most boda boda riders are myopic and they don’t easily scrutinize and understand things,” he said during a phone interview. “That’s why they are easy to convince to use.”

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Kasujja says that most of the riders joined these companies because of the incentives they were offering, but as time went on they started removing them, a thing, he adds, has frustrated some of the riders who are already quitting.

Kasujja says he can name more than thirty riders who have since quit the ride-hailing sector. A SafeBoda official has previously told us that some of their riders left when Taxify launched since it was giving better incentives at the time. We also talked to several riders who have said their friends have quit. The problem of incentivizing riders is still a big one in the ride-hailing industry.

Kasujja also says that he doesn’t buy the idea that a company can come from a foreign country to come and “help Ugandan boda boda riders … how?”

One other thing Kasujja is using to project a negative outlook on ride-hailing companies is that they don’t sign agreements with riders in case “one tries to cheat the other.”

The campaign

The campaign which will be launched on Monday, according to Kasujja, will focus on revealing to riders that they are being cheated and exploited. “Knowledge is better than everything,” he said.

Kasujja says that there are more advantages to being out of the ride-hailing industry than being part. Essentially, he wants them to quit what he terms at a scheme that is “sucking” life out Boda Boda riders.

Asked on whether he has met some of the leaders of these companies, he said they (BIU) have so far met with met with SafeBoda but there were no fruits borne. He has also set up an appointment with Taxify.

While Kasujja gives these reasons for having an ax to grind with these companies, seen from another angle, he is a man seeing his power being shaken by the revolution of the boda boda industry.

Currently, there are no policies regulating the stretching boda boda industry in Kampala. Most of these associations have taken advantage of that loophole to set up schemes that benefit only the leaders. For instance, some, as we saw with Boda Boda 2010, their patron Abdallah Kitatta was using the association to help his godfather Gen. Kale Kayihura to do police work. With Kayihura’s backing, Kitatta assumed enormous power which he abused to perpetrate criminal activities which he was supposed to help fight.

There are other senior army generals like Salim Saleh and Henry Tumukunde who have been linked to these associations. Before joining BIU, Kasujja was a leader in Century Boda Boda which is also said to having backing from “above”.

Kasujja says he has already informed authorities about his campaign. They will do rallies from one boda boda stage to another.

Read more from SautiTech:

IGP Ochola orders protection of SafeBoda riders amid brutal attacks from regular counterparts

Exclusive: Inside 2 years of Uber in Uganda

Riders react as SafeBoda removes incentives

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