Asiimwe has been earning from boda boda for 15 years
What you need to know:
After dropping out of school in 2001, Margaret Asiimwe had to look for ways to earn a living. After learning how to ride a boda boda, she has never looked back. For the last 15 years, the boda boda business has fed her, paid her bills and with it, she has bought land
At Harukoto stage near the gate of Karuziika Palace of Tooro Kingdom in Fort Portal City, is Margaret Asiimwe, the only woman at that stage, who I discover has been riding a motorcycle for 15 years.
Clad in a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, reflector jacket and helmet, Asiimwe wakes up early in the morning everyday to look for customers.
After dropping out of school in 2001, Asiimwe went to Kampala to look for jobs. She started out as a tout in the Old Taxi Park and for every customer she brought, she earned Shs500 as commission.
Although she did this work for some time, she later discovered motorcylists made a killing doing boda boda business.
“When I worked as a tout, I earned between Shs5,000 and Shs10,000 a day. But my friends who were riding motorcycles near the taxi park earned about Shs30,000 daily,” says Asiimwe.
At this point, Asiimwe requested a friend with a bodaboda to teach her how to ride a motorcycle.
“All he asked for was fuel. For 30 days, I bought fuel of Shs2,000 and at 5pm, he would spend time training me how to ride a motorcycle,”Asiimwe recalls.
During her riding lessons, Asiimwe was paying Shs5,000 to other motorcyclists but during weekends, she bought fuel worth Shs5,000 and spent the whole day riding.
After two months, she was convinced she had mastered how to ride a motorcycle. She then hired a motorcycle and everyday, she would pay the owner Shs10,000.
“It took some time for customers to trust my driving skills. I started by carrying luggage from bus terminals until people were convinced that I could ride a motorcycle safely,” says Asiimwe.
On the first day, she earned Shs15,000, but after one week, she was earning between Shs30,000 and Shs40,000 per day. With a good saving culture and financial discipline, Asiimwe says she saved Shs4million within a year, which she used to buy her own motorcycle at Shs3.5 million in 2002.
In order to diversify her source of income, in 2002, Asiimwe joined a security company, where she worked as night guard. In 2003, the security company transferred her to Mbarara City, but she still relocated with her motorcycle, and continued making money.
She says she hardly made any profits in the first two months because she was new in the areas and clients could not trust her. She also faced stiff competition from men at the stage.
A year later, Asiimwe decided to quit the security company to concentrate on riding the boda boda.
For seven years, Asiimwe was a cyclist at Rugazi stage in Mbarara. In 2010, Asiimwe left Mbarara for FortPortal and continued riding motorcycles. At this point, she bought a second-hand motorcycle at Shs1m.
She concentrated on transporting agricultural produce to market centres because she made more money from this kind of work. In 2012, she paid stage fee of Shs500,000 at Harukoto on the Fort Portal-Kasese Road, where she works every day.
While Asiimwe makes between Shs35,000 and Shs40,000 on a good day, she says many people have joined the boda boda industry and the riders no longer make big profits like they used to do in the past.
For the years she has spent in this business, Asiimwe made savings, which she used to buy a plot of land in Kabahango Village and started constructing a house.
Besides riding a motorcycle, Asiimwe also ventured into bricklaying. She made bricks for sale and this supplemented her daily income.
Asiimwe, a mother of two, is also paying school fees for her late elder brother’s three children . In 2015, Asiimwe bought 2.5 acres of land, which she uses for farming.
“Riding a motorcycle is a business I will never regret. Besides facilitating me to pay bills, I have made tangible achievements out of it,” says Asiimwe.
Last year, Asiimwe mobilised 25 other women from Fort Portal City and Kabarole District and inspired them to join the same business. They have since established an association known as Kabarole Women Boda Boda riders and Farmers Association.
Asiimwe is currently the chairperson of this association. Every month, each member is required to save Shs20,000.
“Within a short period, we have bought six goats using our savings and they are being looked after by one of our members. When we launched this association last year, Gen Salim Saleh advised me on how to make it profitable and he promised to support our cause. We are still waiting for this support,” says Asiimwe.
In January, while officiating Rwenzori Investment Expo at Mountains of the Moon University in Fort Portal, President Museveni promised to boost Kabarole Women Boda Boda riders and Farmers Association with four motorcycles and Shs10 million, which they are yet to receive.
Asiimwe says she plans to continue practicing agriculture on a commercial basis alongside her daily business of riding a motorcycle.
“During the lockdown, I hired five acres of land at Shs750,000 in Harugogo Subcounty, where I planted onions, G-nuts, Irish potatoes and beans. I have injected more Shs1.3 million and I look forward to a good harvest,” she says.
Asiimwe says riding motorcycles has taught her many lessons, including saving. She has also learnt that unlike other businesses, when one owns a motorcycle, every time they are on the road, chances of getting money are high.
Asiimwe says when she started to ride a motorcycle,many people doubted her riding skills. “Many clients would rather entrust me with their luggage than carrying them. Traditionally, this job is dominated by men and it took customers a long time to have confidence in me,” Asiimwe says.
Asiimwe appeals to women to avoid despising jobs. “Why would a woman stay at home and wait for handouts from a man when she can make her own money. You don’t have to be in office to make money. Ride that motocycle, make bricks, sew clothes for sale or any other vocational skill, to earn a living,” she says.
Asiimwe says she has also advised many motorcylists in Fort Portal to work hard, save and buy their own motorcycle as opposed to riding other people’s motorcycles. “When you ride your own motorcycle, you save a lot of money,” she says.
What others say
Monica Nanyazi, a member in the association and boda boda rider, says she was inspired to join this business by Asiimwe. “She has motivated many of us to join the same business and also encouraged us to work hard. Asiimwe is a hard working woman who loves her job unlike other people. She is our hero and role model,” Nanyazi says.