About 85 Boda-Boda riders from Kalongo Boda-Boda Association (KBBA) on Sunday 18th December 2022 converged to animate mass at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Kalongo Parish, Kalongo Town Council.
The mass was celebrated by Rev. Fr. Guido Miotti, who blessed the Boda-Boda riders and urged them to be disciplined at all times, especially when doing their job of transporting passengers and their luggage.
He said that many times the machines are blamed for causing accidents and yet it is the riders who are the operators of these machines and are ultimately responsible. He further cautioned them against excessive consumption of alcohol which is a recipe for accidents as it impairs one’s ability to make rational judgement whenever necessary.
In their petition, the KBBA representative prayed for God’s guidance against temptations that often inflicts their members, and that God intervenes in their marriages so that they also have the opportunity to fulfil the sacrament of holy matrimony.
KBBA is the only association which runs the Boda-Boda business in Kalongo Town Council. Boda-Boda is a lucrative motorcycle transport business that is commonly used in Kalongo Town Council by the population, and this is used as an Ambulance, as well as regular transport for carrying passengers and luggage.
Generally, in Uganda, motorcycle transport is the most popular mode of transport used because of its easy accessibility, affordability and convenience. Commuters prefer the motorcycle because of its ability to navigate through traffic jams, especially in urban areas and furthermore, it’s being a relatively fast means of transport and able to manoeuvre the bad roads in most parts of the countryside.
Young men in their thousands, for lack of employment, often find it as an easier alternative, both those with formal and informal educational backgrounds, similar to other parts of the country, Kalongo Town council motorcycle riders are mostly young people.
According to Mr Opira Vincent Lee, the Chairman of Kalongo Boda-Boda Association (KBBA), Boda Boda business in Kalongo Town Council stated way back in the late 1980s where the bicycle was used as a means of transporting people and their luggage from one location to another. The bicycle was also used in transporting patients from their villages to the main hospital of Dr Ambrosoli Memorial Hospital Kalongo, as many were unable to access ambulance service due to its unavailability and other associated costs.
The Boda-Boda business progressed from bicycle to motorcycle in the mid-2000, and in 2007, this was boosted by the introduction of Boda-Boda loans by Agaru Saving and Credit Cooperative Society Limited (Agaru Sacco) which offered loans on credit to individuals who could contribute some money payable over 12 months and above starting with 26 and the number increased gradually increased in number as many young people started to acquire the motorcycles.
He further said that after the acquisition of the motorcycles, they formed the Association that would help regulate and support the Boda-Boda business and over the years the number has swollen to about 120 riders and motorcycles, but due to disciplinary issues and flouting the association rules and regulations, some of the unscrupulous members were discharged out of the group and currently the number has gone down to 96 members of the association.
Mr Lee emphasized that adherence to the rules and regulations of the association is the bedrock through which the association is premised. Meanwhile, Mr Olal Justine the Vice Chairman of the association, re-iterated that since 2003 when the association started, new members have continued to register while some fall off for various reasons that contravene the rules and regulations such as theft, speeding, loss of customer property, foul language, hygiene and failure to respect other expected norms.
He further said that the association has a structure that comprises the Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, Speaker, Stage Master, Health, Discipline, Security and Advisor all with their deputies. KBBA owns an office space where issues pertaining to association members and its management are discussed.
According to Mr Lee, the association chairman, members contribute 2,000shs. every month towards office rent. Entrance fees for new members now stands at 250,000shs up from 25,000/= way back in 2003. These sums of money are put together and members borrow at 10% payable every two months until the principle is paid up.
In this way, the accruing interest is then saved as revenue emanating from the membership or entrance fee. Other sources of income include fines and penalties following a member’s defaulting or breaching of the rules and regulations of the association.
Well-wishers like the late Councilor V Kalongo Hon. Tekela in 2007 was the first person who gave them 50,000shs. that revolved among members in an arrangement of five people each borrowing 10,000shs. to be used for the purchase of fuel and motorcycle maintenance. He said that they have so far received little help from the member of Parliaments in the area.
On the issue of compliance with the statutory obligation and license (driving Permits), most of the members have difficulty accessing services for procuring motorcycles although other organizations like Tugende and OPAPA are there; but sometimes the process is very expensive as this also involves the processing of the driving permit; you pay upfront of 600,000shs and after you pay 80,000shs every week.
The Speaker Mr Okot Felix noted this as one of the major challenges they are grappling with. Only about one-quarter of the members own personal motorcycles and only a few members have riding permits, the rest are in the process of procuring their permits, but the high cost involved in processing permits has left many struggling.
The stage master Mr Akera Francis is the officer responsible for vetting new entrants and only those who meet the criteria are admitted. He said that they are very keen on this as a way of promoting sanity in the industry. He said that business has nosedived since the Corona outbreak and the current prevailing high fuel prices. He said, before COVID-19, one could make between 30,000shs. to 50,000shs. in one day, but now you can only make between 10,000shs. to 30,000shs if you are lucky. Sometimes you end up going home with less than 10,000shs. when the motorcycle breaks down or you have to change engine oil or top up 2T oil.
As regards the transport fare, Mr. Akera said that normally town service ranges from 1,000shs to 3,000shs, whereas carrying the harvest from the garden always ranges from 3,000shs to 6,000shs depending on distance. Most gardens are within 2kms to 6kms. Carrying a passenger to Kitgum Municipal 45km cost 40,000/-, to Pader Town Council 40km cost 20,000shs same to Patongo Town Council which is 31kms. Others rates depend on distance and the type and/or weight of the luggage to be carried.
The association has both short- and long-term plans; they are optimistic that they are in the right track to achieving their goal. Mr Olal Justine said that their strategy has changed from distributing the dividends to members at the end of every year to better initiatives aimed at boosting members’ socio-economic potential and empowerment.
In this strategic year, KBBA plan to increase its income so as to be able to have sufficient funds that can allow them to buy a goat for each member to rear, multiply and sell to improve their financial status. KBBA has also planned for the mid-to-long term development; such plans include the purchase of a truck that can help carry out its activities as well as generate the necessary income from offering service to the community.
The speaker Mr Okot concluded that this business has helped members in many ways like educating their children, feeding them, and providing for their various needs including home improvement. But this is often not enough for their sustenance and so they supplement by doing some small-scale agriculture.
The Chairman Mr Lee, on behalf of the KBBA, appreciated “The Kalongo Times” for having them, and appealed for support to whoever can give them; especially in areas like procuring affordable motorcycles for members, and cost-effective ways of processing the rider’s permit. They also seek support for any ventures that will help them transform their socio economic status and improve their livelihoods.
The Kalongo Times is a news publication which celebrates progress and development in Kalongo town and the wider Deaconry (formally Kalongo Mission). The Deaconry encompasses present-day Agago, part of Pader, part of Kitgum and part of Abim.