Fare headache: Why Boda boda ride is now for the ‘rich’

Fare headache: Why Boda boda ride is now for the ‘rich’
Some of the first boda-boda riders to use the outbound lane of the Juba Bridge immediately after its reopening on December 2, 2021 (photo credit: Simon Deng)

​Ater Malou Atem is one of the hundreds of youths who earn a living from the public transport sector. He plies the Referendum route each morning before retreating to his humble abode with hopes of better business opportunities the following day.

But the hyperinflation that has hit the country recently is slowly driving Atem out of business as commuters who once depended on the boda boda mode of transport now devise new ways to cope with the hard realities of high cost of living.

In Juba, where a majority of citizens depend on public transport, fare has gone up nearly tenfold in the last few weeks.

The prices of spare parts and fuel have also shot up.

“A litre of super petrol fuel used to cost between 200 and SSP 460 and the jerrycan from 7000 to SSP 8000 in past, and now the litre has become 1000 to SSP1100; a jerrycans from 20000 to SSP22000,” Atem lamented.

“Engine oils used to be 5,000 to SSP 6000 and now their prices range between SSP7000 for National oil, 9000, and SSP11,000 Emirates oils,” he added.

The mix of inflation and the ramifications that come with it ultimately causes pain in the pockets of ordinary citizens whether they are using public transport or private means.

But for those whose financial strengths only restrict them to public transport, arbitrary increase in prices means extra spending.

“We would use boda boda frequently, but now it is very expensive and we have resorted to footing if the place is near. I am dealing in spare parts and I can be called by my customers in garages to deliver spares. A few weeks ago, boda to nearby garages in Mahata Yei and Konyo used to be SSP 300 but now everything is SSP500 and SSP1000,” said Emanuel Ladu Aloro, a spare parts dealer in Hai Malakal.

The father of two explained that the high cost of transport reduces his daily income.

A few months ago, Sarah Atimako, who works in the hotel industry, used to rely boda boda to get to work. Not any more.

Today, she treks to work because of increased fare to save something from her meagre daily earnings.

“The issue of fare increment, particularly the boda boda that I usually use, is really messing my pockets. Ii is taking almost all my daily payments. The worst part about it is that you can’t even budget [for the fare] because it keeps on fluctuating. They increase it every other time,” Sarah lamented.

Meanwhile Jerry Majur Makuach, a boda boda operator said that higher and unstable fuel prices had forced them to adjust fare periodically.

“The boda boda fees move with prices of the fuel in the town. You know now the litter in every petrol station including Nilepet has reached SSP 1000. No single petrol station sells below that” Majur complained.

He mentioned that a huge number of daily customers have resorted to tricycle or public transport due to the high prices.

“Most customers who were there that time when our highest charge were between 500 and 1000 ran when our higher charges started from 1000 to SSP2000 for far places like Airport and Bilpham,” he said

“But now many of our customers ran to auto-rickshaw (tricycle) saying that our prices are very expensive and they cannot afford,” he added.

“In our station here at Hai Malakal, if you want to go to juba we charge people with 800 but that time it use to be 500 and even 400 for our daily customs because fuel and prices of spares were low now they are very high,” he said.

“Prices have change and people have change too the move to either tuktuk or bogo buses, we are left with the few customers who can afford and those who are doing deal in the town.”