|Partners in crime. Nairobi boda drivers John (left) and Walter (right)|
Through my taxi driver Edwin, I tracked down Walter Obade, 35, who has been a boda driver for three years. He was born in Nyanza, southwestern Kenya, and is from the Luo tribe. Walter, who's married with two children, swore to me there were more than a million bodas in Nairobi and surrounding areas. (Yes, I did question him on this). His sidekick, John Oleomo, 42 is a Maasai and has been a boda driver for the same length of time. He has two wives and four children. There are 14 drivers at their stage in Karen, in Nairobi's southwest. Just days before new traffic rules take effect in Kenya, I went to Java House at Galleria Mall to speak to these partners in crime.
Q: The big difference I notice, coming from Kampala to Nairobi for the first time, is that there aren't as many bodas.
John: The Maasai like keeping cattle, they like keeping animals. Very few Maasai drive bodas. At my stage I’m the only Maasai rider. They like keeping cattle so they normally follow the animals. That’s the job they like most.
|Uganda has its boda king, Walter. Kenya has its boda king, also a Walter.|
Q: Is traffic in Nairobi bad?
Walter: The traffic is very congested but it’s an advantage to us because if there’s a flow of traffic our job will also reduce. If you want to rush you town, you are not seeing the jam, you will take the car. But if you want to rush to town, you are seeing the jam, you’ll come on the bike because you can manoeuvre because of the car.
John: I was working in security when I came to Nairobi. I saw people riding these bikes and I said "let me also try". A well-paying job needs a complex level of education. Like maybe you are a university graduate. But I did not make that education so the only job I can do which is well paying is (driving a) bodaboda. I can support the family very much. In security I was only earning 400 ($4.65 USD) but with the bodaboda when the day’s good I make up to 3,000 ($34.88).
Walter: I used to be a security man also. I found that security was not paying well, so I bought one bike. Before I left the job I confirmed that this thing (boda driving) can pay better than the previous work. When I found out that I can make 1,500 KSh a day I decided to leave the job which was paying 400 KSh a day. When these things started (in Nairobi) we had to try.
|Masai boda drivers are very rare in Kenya, says John.|
Walter: It cost me 75,000 KSh to buy my bike. It was not a lot of money to buy my bike when the job can pay me between 1,500 and 2,500 KSh a day. If you squeeze yourself for one or two years you can manage to get one.
Q: Where do you get the bikes from?
|Walter's red-hot helmet. On fire!|
Q: Who are your normal passengers and where do you go?
John: At first they used to be scared. But as you carry them they become used to it so it becomes normal.
|"I'd rather be safe than stylish".|
Q: Is driving a boda in Nairobi dangerous?
Walter: It’s not easy to get a license because in school you need 7,000 KSh to get the license. I hope with time I’ll get a car. Then I’ll become a private taxi driver.
|The logo on the front of Walter and John's bikes|
Q: Have you had any accidents?
John: There was a time when my bike was knocked but I wasn't injured very much.
|A Manchester beanie is an essential accessory for a Maasai boda driver|
Q: What's the major problem you face being a boda driver in Nairobi?
Q: Do you think there should be more support for boda drivers?
Walter: The job is quite alright, it’s okay. I like it very much. This thing is paying me well, it’s a little bit well paid.
This leather jacket goes for 300 or 400 KSh at the markets. You can afford it. But the correct jacket may be 10,000 KSh. You may not be able to afford."
Sonneti jumper 200 KSh.
Security vest reflective 100 KSh.
Security vest reflective 100 KSh.
from 200 to 500 KSh.
Start at 100 Ksh and go up to 200.
|A shame there's not more female boda drivers in Kenya. These purple heels from Australian label Sportsgirl, which I found at the markets near Adam's Arcade in Nairobi, would look great on any rider. See some more items she could pick from here.|