It can be argued that one potential accelerator for Covid-19 spread are boda boda riders due to their high mobility and contact with many different people as they carry out their daily errands and activities. Motorbikes play a huge role in keeping the city and county economies moving and it is statistically assumed that one rider meets 3 new contacts on average per day.
It is this very movement that makes motorbike riders important allies in the fight against Covid-19 though. After all, they cannot be done away with as a major conduit for movement which fuels businesses for millions of people who rely on fast, cheap mobility as we build the economy. So, why not work with them and their wide networks and high mobility to spread awareness about slowing down the pandemic?
This is exactly what Mastercard Foundation is doing in partnership with Africa Lion Advisory – a company that advises on unique projects in the Kenya and the region. Since 2020, the two organizations have been training and creating awareness among riders, and in turn the riders have been helping to mitigate the spread of the virus. In phase one of the initiative for instance, ALA rolled out a USSD based curriculum on the disease, with a focus towards motorbike operators in Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. This arm of the program was also supported by provision of merchandise that go hand in hand with the fight, like masks, reflector jackets with Covid-19 messaging, and hand sanitizers. There was also key messaging in form of an animated video series.
Phase 2 saw successful activation of the USSD training in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. 6,300 operators were trained in Kenya, 3,600 in Uganda and 2,900 in Rwanda. This phase has also seen enhanced conversations with regulators and associations to better reach and coordinate the operators.
This is a program that has not only had a huge positive social impact but economic as well. Bulk orders for merchandise for instance were a much-needed lifeline for businesses that were still facing the economic devastation that the pandemic brought along with it. This reflected on their bottom line, and also created employment. Additionally, the riders who participated were able to carry on with their business safely, and at the same time play their part in slowing down spread. We have a few words from the riders about their experiences with the pandemic and on getting back on their feet.
One such case of how the partnership between Africa Lion Advisory has had positive impact on the fight against the pandemic is that of Judy Wanjiku Karanja, a painter and motor bike operator from Githurai. Her business got a severe hit when Covid checked in because she could no longer go to people’s houses to paint and renovate. She was better able to get back on her feet with provision of masks, sanitizers and reflector jackets from ALA since her clients could see that she’s careful, and opened their homes to her again.
Moses Njuguna, another rider, says that “Before I carry any passenger, I sanitize the pillion, the passenger and myself because Corona is real. I ensure that both of us take the precautions including sanitizing and wear a face masks.”
In the words of another business owner Njoki Njogu “Covid-19, in the beginning, was really bad…but now business has begun to pick up. And through this training with ALA and Mastercard Foundation, we have been able to see a lot of sales because guys are coming for the training and at the same time, they are managing to get bikes and spares from us. The measures we are going to employ after this training is that each client will have to wash their hands when they come in, everyone must mask up and we shall try as much as possible to maintain social distance in the shop.”
These are clear examples of how people are taking up the fight in their individual capacities because their realize that a big part of the fight against Covid is individual. It really is upto us and we have to continue keeping our guard up since the pandemic is still with us.