President William Ruto on Monday launched Boda Boda Care, a training and empowerment initiative targeting operators of motorcycle taxis.
Under the programme, the government will pay for one year's insurance cover for 117,000 boda boda operators who have received road safety and first aid training, are licensed and are members of a savings and credit cooperative society (Sacco).
The programme, which is being run by the Transport and Health ministries alongside the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and St Johns Ambulance, is aimed at providing insurance and equipping the riders with life-saving skills to ensure that they comply with National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) regulations.
Speaking during the launch at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre on Monday, President Ruto said the programme also aims to enlist more riders to the NHIF and ensure that they are able to handle medical emergencies in case of accidents.
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"We will identify 117,000 riders and pay NHIF for them and their families for the next one year. However, they must have already been trained, have a licence, have received emergency training from St John Ambulance and be a member of a Sacco," said President Ruto.
The President said he would consult with the Council of Governors, the National Youth Service and Members of Parliament to ensure that the total cost of training and licensing comes down from Sh10,500 (Sh7,000 for training and Sh3,050 for licensing) to Sh2,500.
Boda boda riders will also benefit from a scheme that will see them swap their petroleum-powered motorbikes for electric ones.
"From September 1, 2023, we will have received 10,000 electric motorbikes and by December this year, 100,000 will be here. From then on, riders will be allowed to hand over their petrol bikes to the government for replacement with an electric one," the president said.
"We will also remove VAT on electric charging and battery swapping stations, [as well as] on all infrastructure around charging stations. We will also ensure cheaper electricity tariffs at charging stations and reduce VAT on lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles and bicycles to 10 per cent," he added.
While announcing the launch of the second phase of the Hustler Fund, which will see groups of 10 borrowing between Sh20,000 and Sh200,000, Dr Ruto urged boda boda riders to join Saccos to benefit from the fund.
"As of now, Kenyans have borrowed Sh31 billion from the Hustler Fund and 7.1 million people are borrowing every day. There are 1.8 million boda boda operators contributing about Sh1 billion daily," said the President.
Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha said that, while the NHIF has done well in providing coverage to the formal sector, it has been hampered by a lack of clear identification and source of income details.
"Insurance uptake among the working population is relatively low, with only 28.7 per cent of people aged 15-49 having health insurance, according to the results of the 2022 Kenya Demographic Health Survey," said Ms Nakhumicha.
She added that NHIF uptake among boda boda operators has also been hampered by a lack of awareness, with many Kenyans unable to understand the concept of insurance, as well as a belief that insurance is a service reserved for the rich.
In addition to in-patient and out-patient care, the new policy will also cover mental health, spouses and children, as well as emergency evacuation.
"I look forward to continuing to support and work with the informal sector to ensure that health insurance is provided, and I would encourage other groups to negotiate health insurance for their members," the CS said.
Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen said the country was losing many people to road accidents every year, including boda boda operators.
"For a long time our nation hasn't taken road safety very seriously. We lose more people to road accidents than to diseases. Most of those who lose their lives are boda boda riders," said Murkomen.
"Our goal is to have less than 100 boda boda deaths per year in the next five years. As for the electric bikes, we already have about 1,000 in use. This is the new revolution. It helps us save money, fuel and the environment. To encourage this, we will remove some taxes to promote electric mobility," he added.
Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja announced that the county government in partnership with NTSA will establish four vocational training centres in Kangemi, Dandora, Waithaka and Mathare to train riders. He also ordered the release of 20,000 impounded motorcycles.