Nakiganda the boda boda repairer

For four years, while studying for her ordinary level in secondary school, Nakiganda Rosette constantly admired a lady mechanic called Betty Kamya. She was so unique to Nakiganda because she repaired motorcycles, the practice of which is dominated by men throughout the industry. Betty Kamya did not know that she was acting as a role model and inspiration to Nakiganda.

After completing her senior four at Kikaaya College in 2019, 17-year-old Nakiganda has set her sights on becoming a fully-fledged mechanic specializing in motorcycles. She immediately started working at a motorcycle garage the day after her final examination paper. “ I decided to start working without pay at a garage so that I would learn and get experience [on how] to repair boda bodas,” she said.

Boda boda (border to border) is the local term for motorcycle-taxis in Uganda. Recent reports suggest that Uganda might have over a million boda bodas, with roughly 200,000 in the city of Kampala.

Nakiganda continued: “I don’t want to continue with secondary education because in Uganda today it is very difficult to find a job! I want to get enough experience from working here then make enough money to take me to a vocational institute so that I get the necessary papers. But for now I still want to work to get first hand training.”

Nakiganda, who lives with her parents and is the fourth born of seven siblings, said her mother was very happy with her decision. She said her father is equally comfortable with the idea.

Salim Abudu is a colleague at the garage Nakiganda works in. He praised her efforts but also noted that at the beginning she was showing signs of giving up. He explained how he also started as a spanner boy but now he has mastered the motorcycle in and out. He strongly believes Nakiganda’s plans will work because she seems focused.

Nakiganda plans to have her own garage soon; she says she already knows what is necessary to set up a garage. “After I have saved enough money I will be able to start my own business. When I set up my garage, I will employ two people to help me: one to repair boda bodas and the other to sell the spare parts. I will be the overall boss,” she says with a beaming smile on her face. “Actually, when I have done everything as I wish, I will be able to join a vocational institution without disturbing my parents for school fees.”

Nakiganda’s words of encouragement to girls is that they should try their hands at jobs like repairing motorcycles and see if it’s something they’ll actually love like she does.

(I.L.)