Government can use their mobile sharing platforms to streamline transport industry
COMMENT | REGEAN MUGUME | The Boda Boda business seems to be taking the Transport industry in the central business District of Kampala by storm with the introduction of new players like Taxify, Safe Boda, Uber and Mondo-ride among others. The mobile sharing platforms have recently made it easy and convenient to link Boda Boda riders to customers (Passengers) through a smartphone internet enabled application.
The new sharing platform in the boda boda industry seems to be creating what once appeared impossible; a functioning market for motor vehicle/car -hire services that is governed largely by supply and demand as the transactional orders for bodaboda rides (supply) operates in line with demand.
The innovation comes after several failed attempts by the government to conduct registration of bodaboda riders to guide the regulation of this highly informal industry. Despite being the most popular means of transport due to its ease to navigate through impassable roads, Boda Boda have been associated with social evils like high rates of road accidents, crime rates and traffic rules violation. Notably, the Mulago National Referral hospital alone receives 10 to 20 victims of Boda Boda accidents daily.
A study by Crossroads and UKAID (2014) indicated that the more the boda bodas in the city, the more the roads accidents, especially those caused by the motor cycles. This literally means that with the high rates of youth unemployment, unregulated boda bodas are likely to worsen the road accident situation not only in Kampala but the entire country.
With sharing platform companies like safe bodas,Uber Boda and others, data bases on the riders’ details can be captured not only to guide on the regulation by the Government but also for traceability in case of crime emergencies like theft, murder and terrors as have happened in the past. Therefore, these private transport companies will greatly help the government to control the surging numbers of bodaboda operators as well as streamline importation and first hand(not used) motorcycles in the country.
The new arrangement may also reduce the demand of automobiles (cars, motor vehicles) in the city since they are deemed safe and convenient for the urban population. This will not only reduce the traffic congestion that costs the economy (USD 800 million) according to World Bank(2017) but also save the environment from pollution. With reduced number of cars demand, the spaces used for vehicle parking can be kept green to beautify the urban areas while protecting the environment
Furthermore, the companies increase customer welfare since their application system charges lower prices as compared to the unregistered riders. Customers now prefer using Uber boda or safe boda because it is convenient and cheaper by far as compared to the usual unregistered rides. They offer up to 30% price discount as compared to the traditional usual boda boda riders hence leaving the customer with a saving.
Moreover the customer is saved from the challenge of moving to look for the boda boda rides in places that are sometimes not safe. The application enables customers to predetermine the details of the transactions like the distance of the journey, area of destination hence saving both the rider and customer the time spent in bargaining.
The system also has an inbuilt rating system that requires riders to engage in the emotional labour needs which seeks to establish micro-relationships of making the customer feel good. This attribute enables riders to have good customer relations with the customers with an intention to have a good rating by the customer which is in contrast with the traditional Boda boda riders that associated with poor customer relations and indiscipline.
Meanwhile, the motorcycle riders under this new arrangement are also forced to save some of their money, because the money from the rides paid with credit is only given to them at the end of the week. Given that most of them are youth whose saving culture has been poor, the new system enables them to save and develop them economically hence improving their livelihoods.
Since the system uses internet enabled smartphones and at times allows the mobile money transactions, it is likely to trigger backward and forward linkage demands in the ICT and financial services sectors. This will not only lead to the opening up of businesses in internet and mobile money services but also enhance financial inclusion in the economy leading to economic growth.
In light of these, it is therefore imperative for the Government to engage private companies in the Boda boda online mobile sharing platforms with the aim of formalizing the transport industry. This can be achieved through public private partnerships where the private companies can focus efforts on the effective service provision role as the government regulates the boda boda industry to ensure customers are transported at fair prices in adherence to the traffic and safety rules.
In addition, strong trust structures by platform owning companies should be built to enable privacy and confidentiality. Customers using online systems should be ensured as it can be hacked and pose security threats given that they indicate the geographical location of the prospective customers.
Reagan Mugume is a Research Analyst with the Economic Policy Research Centre, Kampala.