Arne's Observations | How Walter turned a small job into big business

The boda boda entrepreneur

One day he just showed up. Walter is quite an impressive appearance as he zigzags through Kampala’s roads, with his black motorcycle and long dreadlocks appearing from under his helmet. Although there are tens of thousands of motorcycles active in Kampala, most of them commercially ferrying passengers, Walter stands out. Not only because his engine is just a bit stronger than the regular Bajaj (type Boxer) that roam the streets, but also because of his passengers: they are mostly Bazungu (whites).

Exploring the city by boda boda 

Kampala is a beautiful city, but due to the choking traffic jams that normally goes unnoticed. Tourists never spend longer than strictly necessary here, because there aren’t any highlights that most of them would want to spend hours touring. “That is a shame, Kampala has many beautiful sites,” says 25-year-old Walter Wandera. “They are just too far apart. On our boda boda (motorcycle) tour we take visitors to several of these places in just one morning.” 

Brilliant. While tens of thousands of boda boda drivers struggle to make their daily living, Walter found a creative way to attract higher levels of business. “I show them the Namirembe Cathedral, Gadaffi’s Mosque, the royal graveyard, Kampala’s own ‘Beverly Hills’ and most popularly, Idi Amin’s canon,” Walter says. “Sometimes we find the most stunning views of the city, relax at Lake Victoria or go for a nightlife tour.”

Community tourism increasing

Uganda is in the lift. Lonely Planet, the ‘bible for backpackers’, put the country at number one of –one of the various- lists of top-destinations for 2012. Yet the country is hoping for massive influxes of travellers. The large numbers of young Europeans and Americans already roaming the streets suggests that a good summer season is just around the corner. One youth guesthouse owner told me his place is already fully booked for the coming two months.

The modern tourist, and certainly the young one, wants more than to be driven around national parks looking for elephants. They want authentic things, local initiatives, contact with the ‘native’ population so to speak. When Walter started setting up his boda boda tours he managed to tap right into that emerging market.