Uber launched in Nairobi in January 2015, and the service became a hit among the expatriate community and Nairobi’s tech savvy users. The taxi hailing service has grown in leaps and bounds in the local market a fact attributed to the addition of tweaks to the service. All around the world, Uber has been synonymous with cashless payments only adding cash payments in Hyderabad, India. Nairobi was the second city in the world where Uber begun accepting payments made through mobile money services or cash. The local version of the service also allows enterprise users to tap in with the business mode presented on the app.
Uber which offers the UberX, a low cost option in which drivers use their own cars locally, has in a large way disrupted the taxi business in Kenya. A report carried by local paper Business Daily last week highlighted the growing dissent among local cab drivers, with what they see as increased competition by the taxi hailing service. The events in Kenya are reminiscent of the happenings in France albeit on a smaller scale. In Paris, taxi drivers paralyzed public transport for two days by blocking main transport ways over what they felt was intense competition by the service as well as failure by the government to take serious actions aimed at regulating Uber.
The situation in Kenya seems to have escalated. A Twitter user on Saturday highlighted the plight of one driver whose ride was stoned by taxi drivers at Valley Arcade in Nairobi.
— Sasaka 朝霞 (@sikri_) January 31, 2016
Blogger Robert Alai also shared several screen shots from a Whatsapp group conversation, in what seemed as a plot to launch attacks against Uber drivers in Nairobi by taxi drivers.
— Robert ALAI (@RobertAlai) February 1, 2016
A friend of Techweez took a regular cab this weekend and asked the driver why Uber drivers in Nairobi were facing attacks. According to him, increased competition from Uber, which was taking away their business was given as the main reason. On further prying as to why they have not joined Uber, the driver said Uber discriminates and does not accept old cars, meaning he has little or no option but to compete against them. To which he was asked if they think they can win against Uber. The driver said they are certain they can win. ” Either Uber embraces us all or we all operate as regular cabs”, he retorted. Disruption is indeed painful.