Boda Boda Business: We meet Evans Ondiba Joseph stationed at a pavement reserved for Boda Boda riders near DT. Dobie, in Industrial Area, Nairobi. He is clad in a dark blue puffer jacket. A reflective yellow vest is intricately sewn on it to prevent it from flapping in the wind against customers.
He holds two yellow helmets; one for his customer, and the other for himself. It is not long before a customer arrives and asks to be transported to the junction of Mombasa Road and Enterprise Road. Evans hands her a helmet and a yellow reflective vest that is inscribed with the registration number of his motorcycle, and they depart. Within twenty minutes, Evans is back at his station.
This is not the first customer that he has served. He has been a Boda Boda rider in Nairobi since 2014. Over this period, the father of two has not only become financially independent but also built a residential plot in Choka area, along Kangundo Road. “I started my Boda Boda job in 2014. Although I didn’t have adequate capital, I was fortunate to find an investor who invested in my dream and helped me acquire my first motorbike at Sh. 87,000,” he says.
It was not easy for him to get customers when he first hit the road four years ago. He was new and unknown. To make matters worse, many customers appeared to have their “boda”, whom they trusted and relied on for travel. “Many customers would insist on riders they were well acquainted with,” he says. “It took time to build trust and reliability, especially because Boda Bodas are widely associated with carelessness and disregard for traffic rules that sometimes end in fatalities.”
But Evans was determined to make it work. “I stuck to my guns, occasionally, I dug into my pocket to fuel my bike.” Three months later, his patience began to pay off. His daily income started rising from the average of Sh. 200 that he had been making on good days. “It hit Sh. 300, then Sh. 400, and by the end of that year, Sh. 500,” he says.
Within two years, he started making Sh. 1,000 per day. Today, he easily makes Sh. 50,000 in a month. Over this period, Evans has acquired four more commercial motorcycles and employed four young men. “They operate the motorcycles based on an agreement that each of them must remit Sh. 400 daily and keep what remains. My riders make Sh. 600 each on a bad day,” he says.
But this has not been his biggest milestone. “There is nothing that can surpass owning a home,” he says. His home is the most treasured reward and the result of a long journey of diligent saving that culminated in a plot, and eventually five rooms. “I started by saving 50 percent of the amount I made daily. I would deposit it in my M-Pesa account and allow it to accumulate for a week. I would then withdraw and deposit it in a bank,” he says.
By 2016, Evans had saved Sh. 400,000. He bought a 50 by 50 plot near Choka, along Kangundo Road and in 2017, he started to build a stone-block residential plot. Today, he has set up five rooms on one side of the plot. “I have taken two rooms for my family, and rented out the remaining three,” he says. “I am now saving to build a few more on the other side of my plot.”
For Evans, being able to save money on his phone has made his dream come true since most of his customers are on M-PESA. They conveniently pay for their rides via mobile money and he promptly sends it to his mobile wallet or bank account. “My fares range between Sh. 50 to Sh. 100 which attracts no charge, a great advantage to me and my clients.
Evans’ journey to success is a testimony to the potential that the Boda Boda industry holds. For example, in 2017, the Boda Boda industry generated Sh. 219 billion, making the sector one of the key drivers of the economy. According to the Motorcycle Assemblers association of Kenya (MAAK), there are currently over 600,000 Boda Boda bikes on Kenyan roads that make an approximate amount of Sh. 1000 per day. This means that in a day, Boda Boda business riders take home Sh. 600 million daily.
“I consider myself lucky to be a homeowner in Nairobi courtesy of my Boda Boda business. There are thousands of people who have good jobs and who work in big offices and yet they are still tenants.”