The boda boda industry in Kenya has grown tremendously in recent years and can be attributed as one of the most common sources of income that sustain a good number of households in the country.
Have you heard of quitting school to ride boda boda? [Pulse Editor's Opinion]
A look at the rise of the boda boda industry and the emerging issue of youth dropping out of school to become operators
According to a 2022 survey by Kenyan company C&G Plc (distributor of TVS motorcycles), the boda boda industry has provided one million direct employment opportunities. In a day, the industry rakes in an average of Sh1 billion.
Riders are able to make a genuine living out of this form of employment, with C&G noting that an average rider makes at least Sh1,000 from 15 trips each day. Some have confirmed making up to Sh3,000 daily.
It is the allure of monthly incomes of up to Sh90,000 that have seen more and more youths even leave formal employment to become riders in an industry that is still considered to be jua cali (blue-collar).
A boda boda story from the village
In Kisii County, for example, the number of boda bodas comes close to rivalling that of the county's actual human population. While residents of Nairobi complain of car traffic, those in Kisii can spend hours on the road due to snarl-ups caused by boda boda operators.
Last week, a neighbor’s son in Kanyampuotho village, Siaya County, quit school. He claimed Chemistry was tiring and argued that education was no longer an equalizer but only a waste of time.
When asked by his parents what he wanted to do with his life, now that school was a deal-breaker for him, he blurted that he wanted to start hustling at the bottom by buying a motorcycle that would take him to the top.
The parents were justifiably exasperated and tried to talk some sense into him. He, however, remained adamant.
Fueled by the advertisements everywhere that say getting a motorcycle is as easy as an SMS away, the teenager went on to sell his father’s cow at a throwaway price of Sh20,000, and got a boda boda on hire purchase.
He is now ungovernable as he speeds around the village. He believes that, with the two-wheeled low budget vehicle, his future is secure.
Many youth are on this uncertain boda boda road
On the promise of making a few thousand shillings at the end of the day, youth are turning a blind eye to the lifetime investment that is education.
One may argue that times are tough and the economy is in neutral gear, therefore, let the youth brace themselves by putting on heavy jackets to their barely broadened chests and hit the road as riders.
This, however, does not justify the choice when the opportunity cost is education.
Exacerbating this whole issue are companies taking advantage of the poor choices. Using too good deals, they slyly sell boda bodas to gullible youth only to later repossess them when the buyers default on payments. Doing this leaves many depressed and the unemployment sector grows. What other options are available for an uneducated kid in Africa?
Kenyan youth deserve better. Saccos formed by boda boda operators should seek to advise and guide these disenfranchised teenagers not warmly welcome them to an industry that is also known for a very high rate of death and permanent accident-related disabilities.
The industry regulators, as well as government, must also put measures to curtail the sale of boda bodas to youth who seem to be not of age.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Pulse as its publisher.
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