A Nexus of violence and unemployment of Boda-Boda Cyclist in Uganda: A post analytical review on justice for young people



Given the rapid unemployment rate rise in Uganda, both in the formal and informal sectors, youths resorted to boda-boda cycling making it the second-largest source of income after agriculture. With a limited number of resources, Uganda possesses one of the world’s highest youth populations which has made resources limited resorting to Boda Boda riding and making it their source of income hence it grew rapidly. This is attached to a much more informal economy with casual labour, self-employed production, and services hence accounting for roughly 60% of cash-earning activities. However, despite the heavy contribution of boda-bodas to Uganda’s economy and the transport system in general, they are continuously mistreated by the lawmakers worsened during the covid 19 period. This was and still is a big threat to their business and the entire economy. Unfortunately, it is one of the least researched areas for business continuity. Such violence was in an attempt to implement Covid-19 safety precautions following the lockdown. This study investigates the repercussions of Covid-19 pandemic mistreatments on the commercial livelihood of boda-boda cyclists. Using the phenomenology approach, I’ve provided

a detailed analysis of the brutal treatment of boda-boda riders during the covid 19 period which resulted in the reduction in hours worked, confiscation of motorbikes, death, and arrest hence unemployment. 



Developing Economy, Youth Unemployment, Democracy, Violence, Pandemic, Boda-boda cyclists, Business Continuity; 




In the capital city, Kampala alone, the Boda-boda sector is thought to be hiring over 400,000 persons and provides a living with their dependants (The Independent, 2022). However, amidst making a significant input, the Boda-boda industry, which is a component of the informal economy, is still not well represented in a steady state. Regarding offering welfare benefits to Boda-boda cyclists as a component of its shadow economy, Uganda is still lagging behind the rest of East Africa. The profession has no links to the social security apparatus, which places its workers in a very precarious position (Phillips, 2015). Nearly 78% of Ugandan nationals are under 30 years, making up a sizable portion of the country’s youths. Young adults are abandoning farming and turning to the service and manufacturing sector, according to the research, but although these industries are expanding at far higher rates than agriculture, they still have not generated adequate employment to accommodate the swelling young workforce (Repec.org, n.d.). This is due to the generally untrained or moderately trained youths. Young individuals find it especially challenging to get employment after losing their current position due to this setback. The situation is made worse by the significant danger of lengthy passivity and isolation faced by low-skilled youngsters who must overcome several obstacles to obtain and

keep a job. Many adolescents who lose their occupations start to experience marginalization throughout their idle periods, owing to their incapacity to follow the current fad, and their colleagues reject them. A predominance of the towns centered youth’s budget goes for things like internet and mobiles airtime, transportation, subsistence, and accommodation. Therefore, loss of employment hurts younger people much worse than it does older people, who could have savings they can rely on after the loss of a job. Nevertheless, it is evident that this spike was seen throughout the COVID 19 era considering the prevailing young jobless rate, which rose to 2.44% in 2020 from 1.8% in 2019. The Uganda National Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), a department of both the Ugandan government, and several scholars, nonetheless, ascribe this to factors such as age, sex, education, and domicile. Women have higher chances of finding jobs than male youths, The highly educated ones are more likely to find work than those with more education, those who live in towns have far more career chances than those who stay in villages, and those who are younger are more capable of finding jobs than those who are aged (Egessa et al., 2021). The current regime of Uganda as well as the persons authorized continue to place a lot of emphasis here on literary works that were developed before the COVID 19 era, which is saddening because even during and post the COVID 19 timeframe. However, less consideration is given to the reason for the steep increase in the youth jobless rate, which is the brutal treatment of the Boda-boda cyclists by the law enforcement agencies that resulted in the reduction in hours worked, confiscation of motorbikes, death, and arrest. 


The intensity of the COVID-19 pandemic put the entire world on heightened alert for possible risks to people’s public health and protection if the infection went uncontrolled. Knowing that

COVID-19 already spread over entire borders, several countries, notably Uganda, immediately implemented quarantine measures.

22 Mar 2020 

– Covid-19’s first case was reported in Uganda, all incoming passengers into Uganda were banned, whether by air, land, or water following Entebbe International Airport’s closure.

25 Mar 2020 

– Suspension of public transport, only the sale of essential commodities was allowed.

30 Mar 2020 

14 Apr 2020 

04 May 2020 

– Restrictions on movement, including private vehicles. – Nationwide curfew declared from 7 pm to 6:30 am, closure of all business premises, -Gatherings of beyond 5 persons were banned and only essential workers were allowed to go to work 

– Lockdown was extended for another 21 days 

38,845 people in all had been tasted, with 89 cases recorded, 55 cured, and no recorded fatalities. – Under the condition that SOPs were followed, wholesalers, hardware stores, mechanics, metals and woodworking businesses, insurance companies, legal societies, eateries, and depots were permitted to operate. Many other procedures continued to work as intended.

18 May 2020 

– General retail stores were permitted to re-open as long as they aren’t located near grocery stores, arcades, or shopping


complexes. – Mass transit was authorized, but still only up to 50% of its capability, authorized not in the 42 bordering regions. Boda-bodas were still prohibited from transporting people. – Eateries were relaunched with private rooms and SOPs, three persons, counting the owner, were permitted in each automobile.

21 Jul 2020 

27 Jul 2020 

– 110 cloisters were permitted with SOPs that included keeping customer data. Stylists began using SOPs. The time limit was extended from 7 to 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. 

– Boda-bodas were permitted to transport people once more, but only when wearing a helmet and mask. They must maintain a customer list and end at 6:00 p.m.

1 Sep 2020 

– National COVID-19 Taskforce to consider schools’ and other sectors’ reopening.

20 Sep 2020 

– The president of Uganda announced that schools will reopen for candidates in Senior 4 (S4) and finalists in Senior 6 (S6) on 15th October 2020. The Ministry of Education was to communicate in January 2021 about when schools will reopen for all other students.

Fig 1 shows Covid-19 and lockdown measures in Uganda in order of time (2020) Source: University College London, UCL Institute of Education

Irekpitan (2022) states that the use of such policies led to a scenario that was hazardous to human standards in two key aspects. Firstly, because armed officers are often crucial to the implementation of different policies, the general pandemic raised the risk of breaches inside the already adversarial connection between the populace and police agencies including the ill-suited treatment. During the COVID-19 shutdown, a sizable fraction of Ugandan citizens were exposed to torture and/or prejudice, often by members of the security forces (Katana, et al.,2021). Most youngsters in Uganda dreaded the federal agents, and many of these saw personally how well the cops and Local Defence Units (LDU) caned and tortured people for offences like failing to get at homes by 7 o’clock in the evening. Taking care of their fields beyond curfew or failing to shut their businesses by 7 p.m would result in harsh punishment, including occasional imprisonment, as well as the confiscation of property if not bribes to security agencies weren’t paid. Meanwhile, all of the limitations above affected Boda-boda business continuity since they were rendered jobless, they made already difficult employability issues far worse which affected young people more severely than the others, particularly young males, but worst were the Boda-boda cyclists. Nevertheless, the Boda-boda business could not successfully continue given that it still had difficulties due to Covid-19 travel limitations in addition to economic hardship for their households, and assault from wives and cruel security agents (Harriet, n.d.). Furthermore, few Boda-boda riders have bikes that are completely paid for, most of them purchased theirs on credit, yet others rent Boda-bodas and pay commission to the Boda-boda owners on a regular basis. This was obvious how closure as a precaution itself against Covid-19 spread significantly took hold of the lifestyles of Boda-boda cyclists career-wise because this transportation means was a contributor to daily income initiatives for them. However, the Ugandan government plus all organizations in charge are blind to the truth

that the cruel acts taken against young people during Covid 19 time are indeed the ones today having an inimical hold on their financial environment; instead, they ascribe this issue to certain other sources. Education level, gender differences, location of settlement, and relationship status are a few examples of these variables. Young people with the same skills are more vulnerable to becoming jobless than the ones with less or no academic achievement. Youths who completed institutes of higher education easily stay unemployed than those who ended their education at secondary institutions or primary schools. In comparison to single youths, married youths are at a lower risk of being jobless. Additionally, being divorced raises the likelihood of unemployment while remaining in marriage lessens the likelihood. Similar findings show that male youngsters had higher rates of unemployment compared to females. Furthermore, young people in metropolitan areas are more likely to be unemployed than those in rural areas (Egessa et al., 2021). 


Available works 

Together with the business sector, the government, the responsible organizations and Boda-boda cyclists’ leaders have developed initiatives over the years to assist young people to escape poverty and use them as a vehicle for social transformation (Odeke, (n.d.). Below are among the strategies that are still in place today. 

The Youth Livelihood Program started in the fiscal year 2013–14 and was implemented by the Ugandan government via the Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development(MOGLSD) to tackle youth unemployment and the skills shortage. The initiative aims to enhance youth unemployment and poverty-related self-employment throughout Uganda. The money is distributed to youth organizations that local authorities would help develop and support as an interest-free reserve fund (YLP-Ministry of Gender and social development. (n.d.). In Uganda,

by encouraging the associates to create their own trips software, Boda-boda cyclists are also leveraging new techniques to boost their share of Boda-boda riders. For instance, the KAMBE app was built with components that let its users manage commuter and rider demands, pay union dues, save cash, withdraw, and keep track of transactions. The software eliminates the need for the members to visit several offices in order to save money. Savings made using the app are immediately deposited into the users’ KAMBE accounts (Evelyn, n.d). The IDS Bulletin (2018), states that the National Youth Policy too was written in 2001 with input from the Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development(MGLSD) to address the marginalization of the young generation, which at the time comprised 29 per cent of the country’s 21.6M residents. The plan promoted allocating funds to encourage youth involvement and incorporation into the mainstream media of economic evolution (Makumbi, 2018). The National Youth Venture Capital Fund, the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development, along with several collaborating financial firms, manage the program, whose main objectives are enterprise expansion, employment generation, and management training opportunities. The goal is to finance youth business innovators’ feasible ventures with loan and seed funds while also establishing the advantages of the mentorship programs offered by stakeholders (Gemma et al., 2015). The Northern Uganda Social Action Fund Youth Opportunities Program was established in 2003 under NUSAF under the OPM to strengthen the abilities of societies in Northern Uganda to comprehensively bracket, prioritize, and strategize for their demands and carry out effective development programs that enhance social and economic opportunities and services. To specifically target adolescents who are under or unemployed, the Youth Opportunity Initiative was adopted as a main youth-focused program in 2005. The Kampala Metropolitan Boda-boda Entrepreneurs SACCO, which is supported by Centenary Bank Uganda, provides fast means for

Boda-boda cyclists to secure credit, which has the potential to improve the lifestyles of more than 48000 Boda-boda cyclists who are participants. SACCO participants obtain motorbikes for their businesses by obtaining loans with a low deposit of Ugx 500,000. Individual Association members get loans of up to UGX 25 million with a down payment of UGX 1.5 million for the purpose of building their residences (Ivudria, 2018). Nevertheless, these organizations haven’t been successful enough to the point where their only focus is on goal-setting instead of goal-implementation. They are only active during election campaigns, and no follow-up has been done to supervise their activities and so, youths are increasingly becoming unemployed given their existence. The reality that none of the aforesaid factors changed both during and following the Covid 19 era, and that they all existed prior to that moment, implies that Covid 19 it’s own played a role in the sharp increase in unemployment levels that is currently having the greatest impact on young people (The world bank, 2011). 



  • This study examines the heinous, inhumane atrocities committed against the Boda-boda riders in Uganda during Covid 19 time and how these deeds severely affected them, resulting in the difficult work circumstances they presently face.
  • This article also proposes approaches for the authorities, young people, and other parties on the possible activities they need to take to battle youth unemployment and also how similar situations might be averted in the event of a subsequent COVID 19 breakout.
  • This idea is also to dispense adequate details for other practitioners and authors to create publications on other comparable datasets to do extraordinary experiments, increase awareness, and provide a platform for reticent people via writing and performance.



I have specifically focused on employment disruptions and Boda-boda business continuity from the World’s various evaluated articles, journals, and all write-ups on unemployment, and the many reasons for youth unemployment to execute the main goal of the paper. I have also assessed the impact of violence on the Boda-boda riders centred on a literature review approach and included a range of subjects about unemployment to cruel treatment and torture, which was conducted by the unfavourable Ugandan Covid-19 policies and armed security agencies during the COVID 19 phase on the youth sector of employment. 


Lockdown SOPs due to COVID-19 resulted in unprecedented reductions in hours worked, affecting workers of all ages, and Boda-boda riders are not an exception. Those who decided to retain their work and remain attached to their existing jobs did not engage in any work at all, they remained employed but not at work since they were for the time inattentive at work and they were not earning any income then (International Labor Organization[ILO], 2022). Boda boda cyclists whose vehicles were seized are frustrated after visiting the police stations several times in demand for them, and the high bribes that they are requested to pay for their motorbikes to be released. This frustration is causing some to remain unemployed during the process and others are committing suicide and hence lose their lives.

RED FLAG OBSERVATIONS ACCORDING TO THE SITUATION ANALYSIS Since the unemployed Boda-boda cyclists are currently not earning any income, poverty is most likely to be the topic of everyday life, and their dependants especially children, are most likely not to attain further education due to a lack of school funds and the money to cater for school requirements by their parents. Thus children are also left with no alternative except to stay home. 

  • Furthermore, these unemployed Boda-boda youths are resorting to crime as a way of sustainability which is still going to increase the uncertainty of people over the safety of their property. Unfortunately, it is going to be the task of the Ugandan government to incur costs for deploying the police and other security departments in the affected areas to fight crime rates.



  • Workforce diversification should be promoted among the youths to cultivate a culture that encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness to enable youths to contribute to their full potential and feel valued and supported. This will improve working conditions, forge-ahead occasions for cost-effective employment, satisfy career welfare and rectitudes and reduce dependency on Boda-Boda cycling as the only source of income. Additionally, Youth should also be ready to join together and perform in different work environments regardless of conditions.
  • The Ugandan government should formulate and implement policies that favor working youths abroad. This is after realizing that youths working abroad are not catered for by the Ugandan government, whereby they are mistreated by the natives and sometimes

killed. This threatens others, including the mass Boda-boda cyclists who would wish to find employment in such countries and hence they decide to occupy the already dense employment opportunities. 

  • Secondly, commercial agriculture has to be codified to increase profitability and avail more Boda-boda youths with an option to engage in cash crop production. This can be done by providing farmers with high-quality fertilizers, and seeds and tackling climatic extremes and pest infestations. Providing quality packaging capabilities, storage, and handling facilities, to meet the desired export quality and sanitary standards.
  • The government of Uganda should formulate policies that limit the mistreatment of people by law enforcement agencies, especially during times of disaster. Such policies should encourage the peaceful implementation of laws within the public to reduce deaths, injuries, and other negative implications incurred by the victims, especially the Boda-boda cyclists.
  • The International Labor Organization should increase pressure on African governments to include youth organizations and Boda-boda SACCOs more in the formulation of youth policies rather than using them as political chips in the political arena. This is since they are more detached from government programs because they aren’t really involved in the formulation process.



Despite trillions of dollars being spent in one year of the response, it is anticipated that the social and economic impacts of the pandemic may persist for years. Reusing young labor initiatives and programs that were not successful before the pandemic would undoubtedly fail in the

post-COVID-19 era. Thus, it’s important to draw lessons from past mistakes and consider other approaches to the problem, the ever-increasing Boda-boda youths’ employment challenge based on the changes brought about by covid 19. 




Egessa, A., Nnyanzi, J. B., & Muwanga, J. (2021). Determinants of youth unemployment in Uganda: The role of gender, education, residence, and age. IZA Journal of Labor Policy, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.2478/izajolp-2021-0008 

Gemma, A., Ibrahim, K., Gemma, A., & Ibrahim, K. (2015). Creating youth employment through entrepreneurship financing: The Uganda Youth Venture Capital Fund. Unknown. https://doi.org/10.22004/AG.ECON.206130 

Harriet, K. (n.d.). The social-economic effects of Covid-19 pandemic on livelihoods of commercial boda-boda motorists in Uganda. Ajol.Info. Retrieved July 30, 2022, from https://www.ajol.info/index.php/lwati/article/view/206262/194492 

IDS Bulletin. (n.d.). Ids.ac.uk. Retrieved July 30, 2022, from https://bulletin.ids.ac.uk/index.php/idsbo/article/view/3008/Online%20article 

Irekpitan O. (2022, April 21). Police Brutality and Human Rights Violations in the COVID-19 Era through the Lens of Selected African Countries. ELTE Law Journal. 

https://eltelawjournal.hu/https-eltelawjournal-hu-wp-content-uploads-2022-03-elj _-2021_2_2-1-pdf/

Ivudria, G. (2018, October 3). Centenary empowers over 48,000 BodaBoda Cyclists with cheap loans. East African Business Week. https://www.busiweek.com/centenary-empowers-over-48000-bodaboda-cyclists with-cheap-loans/ 

Katana, E., Amodan, B. O., Bulage, L., Ario, A. R., Fodjo, J. N. S., Colebunders, R., & Wanyenze, R. K. (2021). Violence and discrimination among Ugandan residents during the COVID-19 lockdown. BMC Public Health, 21(1), 467. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-021-10532-2 

The Independent. (2022, February 21). Boda Boda riders in Kampala ready to negotiate. The Independent Uganda: https://www.independent.co.ug/boda-boda-riders-in-kampala-ready-to-negotiate/ 

YLP – ministry of gender labor & social development. (n.d.). Mglsd.Go.Ug. Retrieved July 30, 2022, from https://mglsd.go.ug/ylp/ 

(N.d.-a). Ohchr.org. Retrieved July 30, 2022, from https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/Documents/Issues/Youth/E.Odeke-Ugan da.pdf 

(N.d.-b). Repec.org. Retrieved July 30, 2022, from https://econpapers.repec.org/paper/agseprcrs/159673.htm(1) 

(N.d.-c). Adb.org. Retrieved July 30, 2022, from https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/626046/covid-19-youth-emplo yment-crisis-asia-pacific.pdf

(N.d.-c). Researchgate.net. Retrieved August 7, 2022, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313845729_Urban_transport_regulation s_and_social_security_protection_of_commercial_motorcycle_operators_as_infor mal_sector_employees_in_Kampala_City_A_leadership_perspective 

(N.d.-d). Ucl.ac.uk. Retrieved July 30, 2022, from https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10111658/1/Young%20People%20COVID%2 0lockdown%20Uganda.pdf 

Uganda’s boda boda riders are taking on new technology and new organizing challenges. (n.d.). Fes.de. Retrieved August 7, 2022, from https://www.fes.de/index.php?eID=dumpFile&t=f&f=59496&token=5d278f0e37 29e81b46d1ec6ae3ff6e3b1efe5142