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The city of Addis Ababa has temporarily prohibited the use of motorcycles due to the upcoming 36th African Union summit, affecting delivery businesses.

The ban, which took effect on February 8, 2023, covers all types of motorcycles and Bajajs (three-wheeled vehicles), except for those used by security and traffic bodies.

According to the announcement, it will be strictly forbidden to operate the vehicles in the city during the specified period. The restrictions on motorcycles will also be in effect until the end of the African Union meeting, lasting for 12 days.

The announcement adds that the decision is aimed at ensuring the smooth functioning of the African Union meeting and ensuring the safety of the delegates and citizens of Addis Ababa.

This is not the first time the city has imposed such a bar. In the past, the city has implemented similar bans during high-level events and public holidays to control traffic and reduce the risk of security threats. The latest ban was passed during the Timket holiday and according to sector players, this is the fourth Ban within a few months.

The decision to put a stop to motor vehicles was made by the city’s Peace and Security Taskforce, under the Addis Ababa Police Commission, according to officials at the Traffic Management Agency (TMA).

Addis Ababa has been grappling with the issue of motorcycles for the past couple of years. Concerned about the increasing number of traffic violations and rising crime among motorcycle drivers, the city banned them from its streets in 2019.

The rules regarding motorcycles have been relaxed since then, with mandatory GPS installation and other permit requirements now in place. In 2022, the city’s transport bureau added a new rule that prohibits motorcyclists from carrying passengers while riding.

While delivery companies like Tikus, and beU have a fleet largely made up of bicycles, startups like Zmall are expected to feel the full impact of the restriction as they only use motorcycles.

Industry players estimate close to 60 courier service providers operate in Ethiopia and there were around 28,000 motorcycles in Addis Ababa at the end of 2021.

“We were not given any prior notice of the ban and found out about it through the media, just like everyone else,” said Temesgen Geberehiwot, Ph.D., CEO of ETTA Technology Solutions, the tech firm behind Zmall, in a statement to Shega.

Zmall, which has a fleet of over 100 motorcycles, states that it has no viable option but to stop its motorcycle operations, putting the livelihoods of its drivers in jeopardy.

“We will continue some parts of our operation using cars, but there is no doubt that this decision will affect hundreds of families and result in millions of birr in damages,” he added.

Tigabu Haile, founder & CEO of Eshi Express, shares Temesgen’s concern and notes the issue extends beyond food delivery, with a domino effect in other sectors.

“Delivery businesses and motorcycles are the very base of our digital economy that provides employment to the youth. It does not make sense why the City continues to sideline us every time something comes up,” Tigabu added.

Both Tigabu and Temesgen believe the city’s authority should prepare for similar future occurrences and find solutions, such as issuing special license plates, to mitigate the negative impacts of the ban.

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Kaleab Girma, an Addis Ababa-based reporter and researcher, with over six years of experience in the field. He currently serves as Shega's Editor-in-Chief and specializes in reporting on small businesses, innovation, technology, and startups in Ethiopia.

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