In recent years, the motorbike taxi has taken off in Kenya. For those without a car, it’s a cheap form of transportation, and the country’s fleet of motorbikes provides an estimated 2.5 million rides every day. As well as being affordable, motorbike taxis (or ‘boda bodas’ as they’re called locally) can get through the traffic where cars can’t. They can reach villages off the beaten track where the roads don’t yet go.
But they’re also dangerous. Drivers aren’t trained, and no special license is required to go into business as a taxi. Motorbikes are often cheap imports from China, and they can be unreliable. They are regularly overloaded. Helmets, if worn, are often substandard. Despite efforts to tighten the rules, motorcycling deaths have risen eight-fold in the last decade.
Dutch social enterprise Koneksie believe they have a way of making the roads safer at the same time as creating jobs and opportunities in Kenya. They’ve designed a motorbike for African roads that will be manufactured in Kenya.
The bike is called the Kibo, and it’s a 150cc workhorse designed with African road conditions in mind. Eight different designs were developed before the right balance was found, resulting in a bike that’s robust but comfortable for a driver and a passenger. It’s built on a trellis frame, making it easy to strap on loads. And here’s the road safety bit – the motorbike comes bundled with a two day driver training package, insurance, a maintenance warranty and a helmet.
As well as the bike itself, the company is setting up a taxi company in Nairobi. It will have well trained and friendly drivers who will model safer driving – and also cater to those who currently shun boda bodas because they are unsafe. The Kibo Taxi Service will provide some healthy competition in the taxi market, encouraging others to improve their safety measures too.
In terms of price, the Kibo is pitched halfway between the quality Japanese imports and the affordable Chinese ones. It’s twice the price of the cheapest bikes, but they only last an average of two years before they’re wrecked, whereas the Kibo should go for a whole lot longer. It should get cheaper too. Currently parts are manufactured elsewhere and the bikes are assembled in Nairobi. As production scales up, more components will be made locally, creating jobs and bringing down the price of the bike.
Motorcycle taxis hopefully won’t be the last word on urban transport in Kenya. But for now, the Kibo is a nice example of design for the 9o% and business at the bottom of the pyramid. And if you’re in Kenya and you want one, here’s the website.