I have been to both Nigeria and Rwanda and seen how Okada operations are managed in both countries. If I were to base my opinion on what I saw in Nigeria, I would have said an outright “no” to anyone who coughs about legalizing Okada in Ghana. But the Rwandan example got me and how I am really for the idea of legalizing Okada in Ghana, but strictly on the Rwandan model.
I think the questions we should ask ourselves are 1. whether there is a need, and 2. how best can we do this. Equating the unmanaged illegal Okada operations we see in Ghana today, to a legalized and properly managed one, to then say that it should not be legalized in Ghana, is not fair to the discussion.
Is there a need?
I say yes, there is a need. Maybe we are not paying attention, but when you speak with Uber and Bolt drivers in Ghana, quite a significant number of them will tell you they are university graduates who could not find jobs but Uber and Bolt has given them a livelihood. Similarly, quite a number of JHS and SHS dropouts, who usually end up at slums and become petty thieves and armed robbers, have turned to Okada and are off the robbery gangs. A number of them have granted interviews on camera and have been bold to say that, but for Okada, they would be armed robbers.
Okada is currently illegal in Ghana but that illegality is providing jobs to thousands of Ghanaians, however, no government can claim that as part of their job creation activities, why because we are pretending to have banned it and so we pretend that all the motorbikes we see on are roads are just private vehicles not being used as public transport. Playing the ostrich is only making us lose potential taxes and also deny ourselves the duty to manage it efficiently and ensure lives are protected and people get their livelihoods.
So here are some tips from the Rwandan example, which I have always believed can be a model for Ghana.
The whole issue comes down to job security, earning a stable income, building trust between operators and regulators or state agencies. Once there is a given source of income and this income is backed and supported by government for growth, the operators begin to collaborate more with the government, trust more, and help grow their own sector to boost their livelihoods.
Essential tools and conditions need to be put in place to achieve the success of what could be the next big story in terms of job creation and opportunities for the exceptionally large informal sector and employed youth
In Rwanda, and just like in other developing or developed nations Road Transport as w whole is regulated. Not any one can just be a Taxi driver or an uber driver overnight like it is in Ghana.
Ghana’s case is such that people either belong to co-operatives, which are subsets of GPRTU, a self-styled management and enforcement grouping for transportation. Many road transport operators do not belong to GPRTU, e.g. Uber, Bolt, Yango, Cedi Cab, etc. Daily we hear of new ride hailing services coming up and these are the creation of a collaboration between tech startups and like-minded drivers who are opened to new opportunities leveraging on the growth of Digital inclusion and technology.
In Rwanda, the Rwanda City Authorities in conjunction with The Utilities regulatory authority regulate the Moto Taxi’s. Riders must belong to registered operators, who are also licensed to operate by the government and the city in which they operate. They ensure regular road safety training, observance of strict safety protocols and measures, including compulsory helmet wearing, trip tracking, and even tax filing! In Rwanda Now, Moto-Taxis are now digitized. Click to read Rwanda Moto-Taxis Digitized
They even help in crime prevention and tracking with the Police. Various state institutions are involved in the whole regulatory and management of Public Road transportation in Rwanda e.g. The Police, The City Authorities, The Vehicle Licensing Authorities, The Tax regulators, etc.
Base Point – Public Road Transport must be regulated. It can start with Okada or generally all of them at the same time. It is a matter of regulatory resources.
There must be a conscious effort to build a sustainable simplified employment lead and business lines with little or no government financing, open private sector participation and leverage on Data for growth.
USE Existing Services like Ghana Post GPS
The Ghana Post GPS created in 2017 has since been a pale shadow of itself waiting for actual utilization. Ride Hailing services are heavily using Google Maps when a simple policy directive could compel Ride Hailing services, and public transportation systems to use Ghana Post GPS as a mandatory resource. Legalizing OKADA in Ghana brings to fore the role government can play using this Digital resource in achieving this
Use of GPS and Digital Addressing as an additional feature to track movements and operations even remotely. It also becomes a kind of revenue assurance for GRA as they can predetermined total distanced travelled and with a regulated transport industry prices can be fixed thus giving a predetermined tax rate payable.
Major Partners & Resources RequiredA Public Transport Regulation Desk in PURC or A new setup for that [GRTU in mind]Involvement of DVLA, Ghana Police, GRA, Road Safety Commission etc.Authorizing set ups of startup companies to which OKADA’s must belong.Digital Payment Solutions e.g. MTN MoMo, AirteltiGO Money, Vodafone Cash, Zeepay, G-Money, etc. The introduction of Mobile Money Interoperability even makes it better.