Oversupply of Transport Mode Is Danger! Experts Advise On Increasing Boda-Boda, Private Car-Use in Kampala


Boda-boda motorists navigate the streets of Kampala as traffic jam beefs-up. (PHOTO: Nicholas Bamulanzeki)

Kampala | RedPepper Digital – A section of transport and mobility experts have expressed concern over an existing imbalance and oversupply of some transport modes, particularly, the boda-bodas and private motor vehicles in the Kampala metropolitan area.

The Boda-boda sector remains one of the key sources of employment for many Ugandan youths with the number of motorists growing to a whopping 350,000 boda-boda in the Great Kampala Metropolitan Area (GKMA).

While sharing insights at the GKMA urban Mobility Media consultative meeting at Fairway Hotel on Thursday, Nico McLachlan, a Paratransit Reform expert, and the Senior Technical Advisor, (STA) expressed fear that the outcome of this isn’t sustainable and can be a danger to the public and road users.

Chairperson – GMKA Urban Mobility Consultative Forum,, Amanda Ngabirano stresses a point at the media briefing on Thursday at Fairway Hotel, Kampala (COURTESY PHOTO)

He also indicated that boda bodas are a typical last and first-mile mode, and with this, they are able to operate more efficiently. He said it’s understandable that the enforcement can’t do so much now, as the situation is simply unmanageable.

“The distress the traffic officers and law enforcement deal with in efforts to ensure the boda-boda motorists adhere to road and traffic safety is mindboggling! In Kampala, today, we still have motorists with numberless bikes, riding through red traffic lights, moreover with no helmets and permits,” said McLachlan illustrating the oversupply of boda-boda.

Traffic flow composed of Boda-boda cyclists, matatus (taxis) and private cars in downtown Kampala. (FILE PHOTO)

He also added oversupply of boda-boda as a mode of transport jeopardises the safety of users and called for regulation of the surging boda-boda and private car use.

When tasked to elaborate on how government can ensure transport and mobility sanity in Uganda, McLachlan, who was hired by AFD, pointed out that focus on the policy framework and sensitization for cultural change was key on the agenda.

Using the stages lodging, developing route charts and licenses, among others form the basis of order in urban mobility; not enforcement. The culture; a way of behaviour as both transport operators and users, need to change,” added McLachlan.

Amanda Ngabirano, Chairperson – GMKA Urban Mobility Consultative Forum, is joined by Nico McLachlan, a Paratransit Reform expert in a media briefing on Thursday, November 4, at Fairway Hotel, Kampala

On the introduction of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Greater Kampala, the para-transit expert urged the government to think of a multimodal transport system that is inclusive and safe, with a focus on service quality to deliver the desired development and improved mobility.

McLachlan shared his experience with the introduction of BRT in Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa.

“Unlike Uganda, South Africa did not have boda-boda in the cities – involvement of key stakeholders (especially the youths) and operators in implementing transport multi-modality created the basis for the BRT in Cape Town and Johannesburg as pioneer cities for African. “Understanding the benefits encouraged the rallying of masses to welcome the system,” said McLachlan. 

On the oversupply of boda-boda, Amanda Ngabirano, Chairperson of GKMA Urban Mobility Consultative Forum, underscored the importance of the sector as an income source but called for regulation to ensure safety.

“Platforms, like the GKMA Urban Mobility Consultative forum, create an independent platform to bring together the various stakeholders; boda-boda and taxi operators and government to work harmoniously towards an improved public transport system,’ said Ngabirano.

(R-L) Amanda Ngabirano, Chairperson – GMKA Urban Mobility Consultative Forum and Nico McLachlan, a Paratransit Reform expert and Senior Technical Advisor,

When we started these Consultative meetings, the leaders of the different groups (authorities, boda-boda and matatu (taxi) operators) were locking-horns; but after a series of engagements we (GMKA Urban Mobility Consultative Forum) have managed to bring stakeholders on one table in efforts to reach the dream Kampala,” said Mrs Ngabirano on progress registered by the forum.

While explaining the increased private car use, Amanda revealed that public transport access and connectivity to offices remains a challenge.

Speaking on the threat the changes presents to the risk of loss of employment and businesses, Mrs. Ngabirano moved for an impact-based approach where pre-existing operators would be skilled and redeployed in the new multi-modal transport system. This platform has empowered them to negotiate better and realize their role and place in the planned improvements.

“Public office availability and set-up in Great Kampala is a land-use aspect. Lack of adequate public transport access to such spaces remains a risk; McLachlan (para-transit expert) shared earlier that the cause of traffic congestion is not buses or matatus but private cars.

‘If there was spatial distribution of transport network and services, there would be a balanced relationship between land use and public transport,” said Ngabirano.

She also revealed that private car use has increased pollution and congestion in Kampala city.

‘As compared to the 14-seater matatus or buses, you will notice that most of the private cars on the road have one or two people; and that’s not efficient at all,” said Ngabirano

She stressed that when discussing urban planning attention is spread across accessibility, road safety, air quality and social inclusion.

“The issue we see in most African cities is a focus on infrastructure and road expansion, yet it requires integration with other aspects including modal integration as well as a good regulatory framework. Infrastructure cannot be the sole solution to congestion. And congestion isn’t the only problem linked to traffic & transportation.  There’s also a need to address the unhealthy competition between modes, like Nico, the STA indicated,” Ngabirano stressed.

Heavy traffic congestion in one of the Kampala suburbs. (FILE PHOTO)

According to the Ministry of Works and Transport statistics, as of 30th June 2020, a total of 2,302,021 motor vehicles were registered and on the road with over 45percent operating in Greater Kampala.

The experts also called for transport inter-switch to enable the integration of the multi-modal transport systems in the Greater Kampala Metropolitan area(GKMA).

“I don’t see why a boda-boda cyclist rides a passenger from Mukono to Kampala for a distance of over 20kms. That’s a trip for a higher occupancy vehicle,” said Ngabirano.

The GKMA Urban Mobility Consultative Forum is supported by Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES).

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