At Tugende, we create opportunity through ownership. We’re a for-profit social enterprise in Uganda that helps safe, reliable motorcycle taxi (boda-boda) drivers buy their own motorcycles, giving them the means to control their own tools of employment and kick starting a path to financial independence.
We’re the story of a young Ugandan man who challenged the status quo and became an entrepreneur.
Like most of Uganda’s motorcycle taxi industry, Medie Sebi was renting the bike he needed to make a living. But after rent and fuel costs, he was barely making ends meet.
Medie decided to change all that. He asked one of his regular customers to give him a loan to buy his own motorcycle. Once it was rightfully his, Medie used his savings to build a house for his mother.
Inspired by Medie's story and guided by his role as manager, Own Your Own Boda was founded in late 2010, and became Tugende in 2013. We are determined to help thousands of drivers like Medie get the same jump start.
Discover more about our origin and impact in the video below.
Most of Uganda's 100,000+ motorcycle taxi, or boda boda, drivers rent their motorcycles with no fixed contract, meaning the motorcycle can be taken away at any time, leaving the rider jobless. Additionally, after paying for the rent and for fuel, drivers have a hard time building savings and planning for the future.
At Tugende, we offer responsible drivers a loan in the form of a new motorcycle to be paid off over about 18 months. This rent-to-own option has weekly payments slightly higher than the average rental but the security of riding your own motorcycle and reward of building toward ownership and the increased profits it brings.
1. Recruitment and vetting: By working with existing networks of trustworthy boda boda drivers and by getting recommendations from passengers (make one here!), we recruit applicants for Tugende loans. After a brief meeting and application form, Tugende managers visit the applicant's area of work and talk to peers, friends and family.
2. Repayment: Once approved, a driver receives a brand new motorcycle along with required insurance and permits and begins weekly repayment. While we are sensitive to emergencies, multiple missed payments result in impounding of the motorcycle, and multiple impounds can cause the loan to be cancelled. In these cases the partially completed motorcycle loan is offered to the next driver at the top of our waiting list.
3. Ownership: Upon completion of the loan, ownership is signed over to the happy driver!
4. Impact Tracking: Because not having to pay a rental or loan payment means an effective doubling of weekly profit, many drivers choose to use their fully paid off motorcycle as long as possible. Others sell it for a lump-sum or sublet it and return for another new motorcycle from Tugende. We survey our successful customers about what they are doing with their new higher incomes, and answers have ranged from buying land and building houses, to starting new businesses for themselves or their relatives, to putting their children in better schools. We intend to continue following up to get a sense of this impact over time.
Why Motorcycles Matter
Boda bodas matter
Boda bodas, or motorcycle taxis, drive the economy in Uganda and many other countries in East Africa. They help people zip through heavy traffic, travel rough rural roads with no public transportation, and provide an important source of employment for tens of thousands of people. We help boda boda drivers own their motorcycles over 18 months instead of renting indefinitely.
When drivers own their motorcycles and stop renting, their profits double. But ownership is more than that. It creates the job security of knowing your tools won’t be taken away and allows for better savings and planning for the future. Our first 25 successful drivers have invested their new savings in building 7 new houses, starting 9 new side businesses, and starting or increasing school fees for 31 children.
We have a large waiting list, and as we grow to hundreds and thousands of self-made boda CEOs, we can't wait to see what they invest in next. Watch Co-founder Michael Wilkerson's talk at the 2012 Unreasonable Institute for more on why motorcycles really are a vehicle out of poverty.
Michael Wilkerson, Co-Founder and CEO:
Michael first visited Uganda at age 19 and has returned every year since then. He began his career as a journalist with internships at Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper in 2006 and Independent magazine in 2008. He graduated with a BA with honors from Stanford in 2009, and returned to Uganda as a Fulbright Scholar working as a journalist and political science researcher.
Click here to learn more
Michael left Uganda in the fall of 2010 to study as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford, and graduated with an MPhil in Politics in 2012, visiting Uganda frequently during his studies. In part for his work with Tugende, Michael received one of seven Oxford Vice-Chancellor’s Civic Awards in 2012.
As a journalist Michael has been published in Foreign Policy, World Politics Review, the National Journal, the Guardian, and other publications. As an analyst on Uganda he has been interviewed on National Public Radio, the BBC, and a variety of other TV and radio stations. He has been quoted by the New York Times, LA Times, USA Today, and others, and recently co-authored an academic journal article on Uganda’s politics in the Journal of Democracy.
Beyond journalism, Michael worked as an intern at Google in 2011 on the European strategy and planning team for Small Business Marketing in London.
Medie Sebi, Co-founder and Managing Director:
Medie is Tugende’s inspiration and boda boda expert. He originally completed 2 boda boda loans and invested the savings in land and a house for his mother. Medie dropped out of school at age 16 to provide for his family as a motorcycle mechanic and then driver. An extremely fast learner, since starting with Tugende, Medie has become proficient in Microsoft Office and vetting boda boda loan clients.
Gabriel Mukokosi, Assistant Manager:
Gab is former boda boda driver with over 7 years of experience in the motorcycle taxi industry. He also has experience in furniture repair, hardware, electrical wiring, and auto repair. Incredibly responsible and resourceful, Gab once rescued Michael after a car breakdown by tying the muffler back together with rope.
Andrew Mwenda, Co-founder and Advisor. Andrew is a noted Ugandan journalist, TED fellow and founder/owner The Independent magazine (Uganda). He was the first outside investor in Tugende and has provided extensive mentorship, connections and help navigating Uganda’s bureaucracy.
Matt Brown, Co-founder and Advisor. Formerly a journalist and Aga Khan media fellow in Uganda, Matt is now a law student in Toronto. Though not back in Uganda as often as he would like, Matt still plays an active role in advising on Tugende’s strategy and promoting the brand in North America.
Aaron Pattillo, Director and Advisor. Aaron joined the team in September 2012 as an investor and with a functional role in spearheading the company’s fundraising efforts in the U.S. along with providing guidance in ongoing strategic and operational activities. He has a background as a successful social entrepreneur as a co-founder of Khunu along with experience leading some of the pioneering work at the Clinton Foundation to significantly reduce the price and expand the global access of HIV/AIDS medicines. Aaron holds a BA from Colgate University and Master’s degree from Northwestern University.