A SafeMotos Guide to Motos in Kigali

Motos in Kigali

Considering most of us take moto in Kigali on a regular basis, I thought it would be interesting to get a bit more of a glimpse into the world of moto drivers. I asked Nash from SafeMotos if he’d like to share his experiences so far working alongside Kigali’s drivers and here what he had to say.

After more than a year working with Kigali’s moto taxis it’s kind of cool to take a step back and think about what I’ve learned. For me, it’s been a really eye-opening year that’s brought me on a journey from throwing change at that one driver who refused to give me a fair price to hosting more than forty drivers at my house for brochettes and Jenga.

It’s been cool.

So what have I learned?

  • Drivers are nice! Yeah, I know, huge surprise. But let’s be honest – with generic jackets and helmets and with the odd driver being a total nutter it’s easy for drivers to be somewhere between invisible and the devil. This isn’t the case. Many drivers have (adorable) families that they’re just trying to provide for, they’re not bad guys, they’re just trying to make a living. Behind that is usually a wicked sense of humor, drivers who really care about their fellow drivers, and a sincere desire to leave a customer happy.
  • Some drivers are crazy. Like, literally. The fact is, as in any profession that employs a full 1% of the working age population, there are going to be a couple bad apples. Just, where the street sweeper might give a dirty look, a drunk or drugged or tired driver could kill you. Which leads to my next point.
  • Sorry kids, motos are dangerous. Like really dangerous. Like you’re around 300x times more likely to be killed on the back of a moto than taking a vehicle in Europe or America. Stats are boring (though if you like them email me and we can geek out) but what has hit me more this year has been the personal danger of motos. I asked the reasons behind why some of my friends didn’t take motos and their answers shook me. “Hey Why don’t you take motos?”: “Because my sister died”, “Because a bus hit me on one and broke 11 bones”, “Because I watched that guy’s brains on the ground.” Super fun stuff. This year both me and my SafeMotos co-founder were in our own accidents and it sucked. I have a tagline on some of SafeMotos billboards, “Motos don’t have seatbelts,” that was my thought as I crashed into the side of a pickup truck.
  • So what should you do to be safe? Sorry Kirsty, small plug: Try SafeMotos! Our drivers our good. We know because we use smartphone sensors to watch them drive. If you have an Android phone give it a try! But SafeMotos isn’t the only way to check for safely when taking motos in Kigali. The most obvious way to check for a good driver is to check out their bike. If they have a new bike, they’re probably a good driver as only the most senior drivers get nice new bikes and they usually sell their old crummy bike to fresh from the village guys. Bottom line: Don’t take a driver on an old bike, just don’t.
  • On the flip side, being a driver is really dangerous. Obviously the whole crashing thing, but then drivers are also really vulnerable. Drivers have been telling me they want SafeMotos because of horror stories like murders, hammers to the head, acid, etc. This is why most ‘veteran’ moto drivers mimic typical working hours and prefer not to drive at night.
  • Drivers work really hard! Like, 14 hour days. Drivers typically will work until they make a certain minimum amount for the day, either to pay off the bikes owner or for their family. This means that, while some guys get a busy spurt and clock out early, most work ridiculously long shifts. This is actually one of the most dangerous things to watch out for. Being tired is like being drunk – find somebody who is nice and chipper.
  • Drivers expect to make Rwf 100 per kilometer. All that negotiation you do is song and dance (or exploitation). Really, prices are for all intents and purposes set. With SafeMotos we charge Rwf 129 per kilometer.
  • Drivers are all part of a cooperative and have to pay fees that go towards their own private police force that keeps drivers inline.
  • What do drivers do when they become successful? The first thing they typically do is buy their own bike, then rent out their old bikes to new drivers for passive income.
  • Drivers usually make around Rwf 2,000 per day if they don’t own their bike and around Rwf 7,000 per day if they do. Being a driver is considered a middle class job, something that is quite prestigious for the vast majority of Rwanda’s population.

Want to know more? Ask away! I’m super happy to share what I’ve learned on the motorcycle taxi industry and motos in Kigali. Shoot me an email at nash@safemotos.com.

About SafeMotos

Nash is the cofounder of SafeMotos, a Kigali startup that uses an Android app to connect customers to safer motorcycle taxi drivers. Read about it at http://www.safemotos.com.