Taxi cab operators worldwide have been in the limelight for their anti-Uber stances and protests which have not always won widespread support on grounds that Uber’s pricing model has been driving them out of business.
In Nairobi, Kenya, cabbies are contemplating adjusting to the world of smartphone apps to help them respond competitively to Uber, a taxi hailing service which was launched in the city on January 21, 2015.
Only in January this year, the cabbies had threatened to paralyze transport services if the government did not drive the Uber taxi service from Nairobi.
The Kenyan government however turned down their demands and warned anyone stoking violence would be prosecuted, adding that new laws regarding the regulation of online taxi operators were being drafted.
Whether we like it or not, it seems we have to embrace technology...
Instead of violence and trying to fight a tide that's stronger than you, innovate! #UberTaxiWars— Pixel Guy (@sjmburu) January 31, 2016
Joseph Gitau heads a taxi association in Kenya and has been driving his taxi for almost 30 years, and admitted that Uber has taken a big chunk of the market.
He however said that his association is looking at ways of creating their own mobile platform to compete well with Uber.
“Whether we like it or not, it seems we have to embrace technology you see… because you have to concede when you realise that you cannot win a fight. We cannot fight Uber operators on our streets,” he said.
The competitive fightback has been welcomed by Uber, which sees itself as the driver of competition in the taxi market.
Uber’s general manager for sub-Saharan Africa, Alon Lits, said that the company is focusing on convincing traditional taxi drivers to work for the ride-hailing service, as a key part of the company’s plans to expand across the continent.
U can't stop an idea whose time is finally here.Instead of fighting ,study competition & innovate 2 stay ahead of competition #UberTaxiWars— Christopher Kirwa (@chriskirwa) February 1, 2016
“I think in terms of what it has been of strategy across the continent, I think we will be doing a better job of engaging with taxi operators when we launch into the new market showing them how the technology works. There are huge numbers of taxi operators in the platform in South Africa, a growing number in Kenya, and a growing number in Nigeria. Part of our strategy when we launch into the new markets will be the engagement up front with the taxi operators,” said Lits.
Uber’s experiment in Kenya to let riders pay fares with cash or via mobile money boosted growth in Nairobi, where about 100,000 people open the Uber app once a month.
Uber was born out of the frustration of two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs trying to catch a cab in Paris. Uber’s services have mushroomed since being launched in 2010 and are offered in more than 300 cities worldwide.