Google signage. Picture: ANDREW KELLY/ REUTERS
Google signage. Picture: ANDREW KELLY/ REUTERS

Google said on Monday it is to offer Motorbike Mode on Google Maps in Kenya, the first time bike riders in Africa will access the voice navigation service.

Kenyan roads are full of motorcycle taxis, known as boda bodas, that are much cheaper rides than car taxis.

Google, part of the US firm Alphabet Inc, already provides the service in Asian nations such as India.

"For over a million Kenyans, boda bodas are a convenient and affordable way to move and transport goods from one place to another," Google said.

"With Google Maps’ new Motorbike Mode, users across Kenya will now be able to get directions and turn-by-turn navigation, to suggest routes that are more efficient," it said.

Streets in Kenyan cities and towns are often poorly signposted and frequently congested, making it hard for boda boda drivers to pick up customers when hailed by phone.

"What prevents us from picking some clients is lack of navigation. If the road doesn’t have a clear name and you are new to the area, you get lost," said Ben Chelule, a 24-year-old boda boda driver in Nairobi.

Google said it was also launching its Street View service in Kenya for the first time, allowing users to virtually explore 9,500km of roads in cities such as Nairobi and holiday destinations such as Malindi on the coast via its images.

The company has also set aside 100-million shillings ($992,000) to train Kenyan farmers in digital skills, it added.

Google Kenya manager Charles Murito said the company targeted farmers because they employ 40% of the population and account for a third of GDP. "We want to see the power of technology elevate small-scale farming. We hope that through this initiative, we will see a positive impact in food security, job creation and GDP growth in Kenya."