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November 20, 2018

Cabbies want apps of ‘hostile’ firms deleted

Online Taxi driver protest in Nairobi following a strike called by Uber drivers. /ENOS TECHE
Online Taxi driver protest in Nairobi following a strike called by Uber drivers. /ENOS TECHE

Smarting from the failure of their nine-day strike to push Uber and Taxify to increase fares, digital taxi drivers in Nairobi are encouraging riders to delete both apps.

They feel this will end the firms dominance in the market and pave the way for local competitors, most of whom are complying with guidelines introduced last week to improve the working environment of drivers.

“Uber has refused to amend prices, saying they want to conduct a market study. Taxify came up with a regime that the drivers felt did not capture their aspirations,” Digital Taxi Association chairman David Muteru told the Star.

The guidelines were agreed on after a meeting of sector players. These include Digital App Taxi Providers and the Digital Taxi Forum, which incorporates the Digital Taxi Association of Kenya, Public Transport Operators Union and Ride Share Sacco Society.

The two parties, chaired by the Transport PS, agreed to price cab rides in tandem with the average operating cost of vehicles and classification of the vehicles by the Automobile Association.

Firms are also required to ensure drivers are considered in case of price changes and during promotions.

However, it is unclear how the drivers will convince riders drawn to the low fares of Uber and Taxify to support their boycott. 

Reached for comment, Uber said: We have a zero tolerance policy with respect to violence and intimidation of any kind, and limiting drivers and riders choice is both unacceptable and against our community guidelines.  

LAST RESORT

More than 10 apps have been launched in the last three years in an attempt to take on market leader Uber, which has over 6,000 active drivers across Nairobi and Mombasa and more than 378,000 active riders across Kenya. However, only Estonian app Taxify has managed to gain some traction. 

The most recent app to launch was ShareCab, hoping to lure drivers by charging them a flat monthly rate instead of the commission earnings charged by the current operators.

The push to tune out the international firms has been viewed as the only way fares will be increased, as drivers fear the digital taxi firms may not meet their end of the bargain.

“Uber and Taxify are being hostile to drivers. It is just a reaction from the drivers to what is transpiring in the market today,” Muteru said.

“What has happened is that local companies are becoming amenable to the needs of drivers. 

He said although Taxify has increased its fares, the Sh2-3 increment is not enough to effect change in a drivers life and promote better working conditions.

The lobby group is currently talking to the Automative Association to get a better understanding of what the AA rates will mean, and how the new rates will impact cab fares to incorporate both customers and drivers needs.

Read: The diminishing returns of digital taxi business

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