Why Africa’s Cab Drivers Must Accept The Uber Reality

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Early February this year, criminal gangs attacked drivers for the app-based taxi service, Uber, in Kenya. The attacks lasted for several days and required the intervention of security agencies to be quelled.

The BBC reported that the violence was linked to traditional taxi drivers angered at being undercut by the new service, which often charged far cheaper fares.

Few weeks ago traditional drivers from Johannesburg, Pretoria and Ekurhuleni in South Africa were up in arms against Uber, demanding the authorities develop a protocol to govern the internet-based ride-sharing service.

“We told the government, you can’t just tell us they’re here to stay. The government has to understand our industry is not a government tender. They have to consult. They have to come to us so we can negotiate. They can’t just come to us and tell us what to do,” William Mello, Deputy Chairman of a task team that was dealing with Uber-related issues on behalf of metered taxi drivers, was reported to have said by IOL newspaper.

Earlier in March this year, there had also been a protest by Egypt’s taxi drivers against Uber.

Uber is an app-based transportation network using a smartphone application to receive ride requests.

So far, the protests against Uber are not limited to Africa, as there have been a number of spats in Germany, Spain, France, India and other parts of the world over Uber’s operations.

The complaint in several African countries where Uber operates mainly comes from traditional cab drivers who say that the firm is putting them out of business.

Despite how Uber’s operations may appear in many African countries, one new reality is that it is waking up a number of countries on the need to brace up for technological dynamism.

“What it means is that your business can become ancient and out of tune if you remain comfortable with the way you are or the way things have been,” said Udoka Isikere, Managing Partner, BDC Associates, a consulting firm based in Nigeria and South Africa.

“You may not like Uber as a cab driver or because you think it’s taking jobs from cab drivers in your country, but the reality is that Uber has come to show traditional drivers and Africans as a whole why they need a change in their business models. You may chase out Uber, but somewhere along the line someone else will come up with an initiative in the transport sector that will leave you guessing,” Isikere said.

All over the world taxi drivers are pushing for a regulation that will stop the ‘Uber Revolution’. But checks show that Uber does not own any car and uses local drivers for its service.

Uber gets vehicles from local transporters and invites local investors to buy vehicles and contract them out to the company.

According to analysts, Uber is simply showing entrepreneurs why they need to see opportunities early enough. The analysts are also convinced that the presence of Uber will lead to a healthy competition with the traditional cab drivers, which will bring down rates, for the benefits of the ‘consumers’.

“Traditional taxi drivers are furious, and understandably so. They must now compete with an upstart that, importantly, does not have to meet all the costly licensing and regulatory requirements that they are obliged to meet,” said  Mohamed A. El-Erian, in an article in Bloomberg entitled,’Don’t Stop The Uber Revolution’.

“This is not the end of the traditional taxi industry, which will continue to play an important, albeit smaller, role in the provision of urban transportation. The industry will change, though, with more taxi drivers eventually signing up with Uber, broadening and improving the services they provide to riders,” El-Erian further said.

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