Recognizing how the Okada business has become a means of sustenance for some unemployed youths, Former President, John Mahama has promised to legalize the ‘okada’ business in the country.
During his tour of Kpando in the Volta Region, John Mahama stated that “our law says okada is illegal, but it is a reality it has come to stay and you can’t stop it. So, I say when we come into the office, we legalize it but we will regulate it.” The question is, should okada business in Ghana be legalized?
His decision to legalize the ‘okada’ business in Ghana should he come to power has garnered both praise and disapproval amongst Ghanaians. Many Ghanaians are kicking against the idea since they label it as a threat to human lives.
Cecil Gabrah, transport consultant and road safety expert is one of the many Ghanaians who has registered his displeasure with the idea. “The risk involved is too high. In Accra alone, we have a lot of very fatal cases. Speak to Korle Bu Teaching and 37 Military Hospital and they will give you the daily statistics of fatalities,” he said.
On the other hand, Kofi Bentil, a Senior Vice-President of IMANI Africa said if the government was unwilling to “legalize and properly regulate this important transport and economically viable sub-sector, then they are not prepared to run a country like Ghana”.
Also, Prof Kwaku Danso Boafo, Chairman of the National Democratic Congress’ (NDC) Manifesto Committee believes it’s the right way to go. “Those individuals who are engaged in the business called okada are also citizens of this country. They have to earn a living, and to the best of purposes and to the best of my knowledge, they’ve specialized in the business of riding okadas,” he said.
Despite giving the nod to Mahama’s okada plans, both recognize the menace and dangers posed by the Okada business.
“And to the best of our knowledge, all the studies we did, looking across the country receiving memoranda, talking to Civil Society Organizations and including the okada drivers themselves the best way to handle this issue is to legalize it because if we don’t they continue to be illegal, they’ll continue to cause accidents, they’ll continue to be in confrontation with the police, they’ll continue to be in confrontation with other drivers,” Professor Kwaku Danso Boafo said.
Rwanda: The Benchmark
Rwanda has been tagged the ‘Singapore of Africa’ given its remarkable economic transformation in recent years after the horrific 1994 mass massacre which led to an estimated 500,000 to one million people, mainly Tutsis, dead by the Hutus and more than two million fleeing the country.
Rwanda has become Africa’s most successful knowledge-based economy with the advancement in both human and capital resources.
The motorcycles taxi’s, popularly known as ‘Okada’ in Nigeria and Ghana are well regulated in Rwanda and have shown to contribute immensely to the Rwanda economy. Ghana can surely learn a thing or two from Rwanda and this is why.
Colored vests are worn by drivers to give the specific zones under which the drivers can pick up passengers. Thus, each driver works in their specified zone.
The motor-taxi drivers also have a compulsory helmet to always have on with a spare for their passengers. Drivers are also tagged with ID numbers mainly for identification purposes.
Also, following the success of the “tap-and-go” payment system on public commuter buses in Kigali, the motorcycle taxi’s are being enrolled on a cashless system where the motorcycles will be equipped with GPS-enabled devices that will calculate kilometers covered and the fare to be paid by passengers.
The Pros and Cons
Should the ‘Okada Business’ in Ghana be legalized? There’s going to be a lot of benefits yet some disadvantages. Aside, from the provision of jobs and a source of income for the youth, the okada business may help the local economy.
According to a survey conducted by KTPress in 2015, the Rwanda motor taxi business was said to contribute $1billion to the Rwandan economy.
Given this benefit, however, the okada business also poses a great demerit. According to the World Health Organisation Global Status Report on Road Safety in 2015, there are 26.6 road traffic deaths per 100,000 people compared with 17.4 per 100,000 globally in Africa. Motorcyclists make up 23% of all road traffic deaths.
If Ghana should take the route of legalizing ‘okada’ business then it must learn the success and the pitfalls of doing so from Rwanda.