Enhancing the understanding on safe motorcycle and three-wheeler use for rural transport

The use of motorcycles has increased greatly in Africa in recent years. Motorcycles are often used as taxis, with riders charging a fare to carry passengers or goods. In rural areas, motorcycle taxis play a crucial role in connecting people to services and farms to markets, and in many countries motorcycles are the most commonly found vehicle on rural roads. Attempts by governments to regulate the use of motorcycle taxis – both to improve road safety and for other reasons – have largely failed, with authorities often unable to keep pace with the rapid influx of motorcycles into the continent. In some countries, the use of motorcycles to carry fare-paying passengers is banned, although these bans are not always enforced, especially in rural areas. Similar issues apply to motorised three-wheelers, although their numbers are far fewer.

Project Objectives

The overall aim of the project is to improve knowledge and understanding concerning effective ways of enabling rural people to benefit from the safe use of motorcycles and three-wheelers, with an emphasis on rural motorcycle taxis, rider training, appropriate regulatory frameworks and realistic enforcement methods. The project is focused on four African countries: Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

The research objectives are to work with relevant stakeholders in each country in order to achieve the overall project aim. The essence of the research is to use country studies and the synergies of inter-country exchanges to compile and present research evidence of best practice and appropriate regulatory frameworks for enabling the safe operation of rural motorcycles and three-wheelers to provide good, affordable and inclusive rural access for different groups of people.

Phasing and Methodology

The project is divided into three phases:

    • Phase 1: Inception

    • Phase 2: Research

    • Phase 3: Uptake and Embedment

During the Inception Phase, an understanding of the existing situation was developed in each of the four project countries, through stakeholder mapping and engagement, and through an in-depth literature review. Based on this understanding of the existing situation, the detailed activities of the Research Phase have been developed.

Two of the research activities will cover all four of the project countries. These activities are:

    • A survey to understand the benefits and disadvantage of motorcycles and three-wheelers in rural areas. The output of this activity will give decision-makers a balanced view of the benefits and disbenefits, from the point of view of those people who own, ride and use them, and will also give insights into non-user perspectives. It will add to the overall body of knowledge on the benefits and disbenefits of motorcycles and three-wheelers for rural access, and will assist decision-makers to develop appropriate policies.
    • A review of motorcycle and three-wheeler taxi-related policies and legislation, and their implementation and enforcement. This will look at all available policy and legislation which relates to motorcycles, three-wheelers and their commercial use as taxis, and will involve targeted interviews with the authorities responsible for their application. The output of this activity will enable the identification of recommendations to specific countries based on experience from other project countries.

Further country-specific activities will be carried out in each of the four project countries. These activities are:

    • In Ghana, existing data on crashes, traffic flows, vehicle registrations and other aspects related to motorcycles and three-wheelers will be obtained and re-analysed with a rural focus. The output of this activity will help decision-makers to consider how the decision on whether or not to lift the existing ban on the use of motorcycles as taxis will impact rural communities.
    • In Kenya, a study will be carried out into the health impacts of the use of motorcycles and three-wheelers in rural areas. This may influence use of the Ministry of Health's recently-increased budgets to address motorcycle taxi-related issues.
    • In Tanzania, a draft operating manual for rural motorcycle taxi associations will be prepared, with the aim to maximise the benefits of membership of such associations, for example through improving safety, customer service, vehicle condition and profitability.
    • In Uganda, a study will be carried out to understand barriers faced by some members of the community in use of motorcycle and three-wheeler taxis. The output of this study will enable decision-makers to take into consideration the needs of some of the most vulnerable people, including the elderly, sick, or very poor.

Partner Countries and Beneficiaries

This project is being carried out with the support of the AfCAP partner institutions in each of the project countries:

    • In Ghana, the Ministry of Roads and Highways

    • In Kenya, the Materials Testing and Research Department

    • In Tanzania, the President's Office for Regional Administration and Local Government

    • In Uganda, the National Highways Authority

Beneficiaries of this project will be rural motorcycle owners and operators, as well as rural communities in the project countries. The number of motorcycles and motorised three-wheelers in use in rural areas of the four project countries is unknown, although an estimate of over one million would not be unrealistic.The findings and recommendations are likely to also be applicable to countries beyond the four project countries, and as such, this project has the potential to benefit hundreds of millions of people across Africa.

Capacity building is also an integral part of the project, both of government officials in the project countries and of the project team. 

MTCSafety-AmendTransaid.png Motorcycle transport in Bagamoyo, Tanzania - Photo: Amend/ Transaid

Project Resources and Reports

Motorcycle Safety, Inception Report, January 2018

Project Team Details

​Tom Bishop, Amend tbishop@amend.org
​Caroline Barber, Transaid


Other team members include: Juliet Adu, Francis Afukaar, Hans Mwaipopo, Darren Divall, Gina Porter, Suzy Charman, Neil Rettie, Aggie Krasnolucka-Hickman, Julia Tinkov.