Uber is 6 years old in Kenya today.
The e-cab service launched in Nairobi back in early 2015, and over the years, it has navigated itself in a volatile market to be one of the top-rated products of its kind.
At that time, e-taxi services were limited to Western markets, but that has changed considerably following the launch of competing e-cab apps, both from outside and within Kenya (check out how excited one of us was when he took a ride in an Uber).
Besides a series of issues limited to the Kenya market, Uber has faced a fair share of problems internally at its corporate offices, as well as other markets that have prompted the company to adjust some of its policies.
2017, for instance, was one of its worst years as far as progress was concerned. The company was faulted for allegedly fostering sexual harassment cases.
In the same instance, Uber’s board was not satisfied with the manner that the company was being headed. Its co-founder and CEO at that time had to exit the organization amid pressure from investors.
So, how has the company done in the Kenya market so far? Well, we have rounded up some developments associated with the cab company over the years.
Cash and mobile money payments
Uber started testing cash and mobile money payments back in mid-2015.
This was a key development because not all people want to link their cards to the services.
The feature has since grown, and now, it is quite common to complete your trips with cash or mobile money payments to drivers – bearing in mind that Kenya is big on mobile money products thanks to a foundation set by M-PESA.
Animosity between Uber and traditional taxi services
This was expected because at times, people do not like change brought forth by technology.
Nairobi was particularly the hotspot of brawls among Uber and traditional taxi drivers.
Of course, the fights stopped because you can’t fight with technology, especially when its offerings are all inclusive and beneficial to big pool of people.
It was so bad that taxi drivers wanted Uber to exit the Kenyan market because the company was ‘forcing them out of business.’
Nevertheless, when was the last time you witnessed the animosity between the two groups? Probably a long time ago, because they have learned to co-exist, and are likely under an Uber (or any other e-taxi app) umbrella.
One year after launch, Uber hit 100K monthly users in Nairobi. It then launched in Uganda, Tanzania and Ghana.
In addition, Uber launched a service that would let a customer pay for someone else’s trip. You could also pre-book a trip.
The company launched its services in Thika, months after it had launched in Mombasa.
Taxes and strikes
Towards the end of 2016, it KRA and Uber agreed that the former was a software company, and was therefore exempted from paying taxes. However, the burden of paying VAT was extended to vehicle owners.
Drivers were not happy about constant price adjustments, including a case where fares were to remain the same even when a driver made multiple stops. This angered drivers, and they took it to the roads.
Driver go slow was also witnessed in mid-2019 who cited a series of unmet promises.
This is a key feature that was introduced in August 2017. It allows customers to have a correspondence with drivers without calling them.
Penalizing drivers and riders
There are many cases when customers have complained about driver behaviour. Some riders have been assaulted or intimidated, so Uber had to cement its authority by promising driver expulsion if reported. Uber also updated its community guidelines to make room for the assault cases.
Rude riders were also not spared, so Uber chose to limit their access to the app.
Uber, among other taxi apps, started paying annual license fees in 2019 after the approval of the Nairobi County Finance Bill, 2018.
“Ride-hailing apps and car hire companies will be required to pay operational licenses of Kes.50,000 annually for those who operate less than 50 cars, Kes.100,000 for those who operate between 51 to 100 cars and Kes.300,000 for those who operate more than 100 cars,” said a County rep.
Uber banned a bunch of phones (the devices do not have robust GPS systems). The list also highlighted phone features required by a driver partner.
At the start of the pandemic, Uber suspended night trips, save for a few select cases.
The app has since been updated with details about customer and driver protection practices.
We suspect these practices will be around for a while because the virus is still here, and appears will linger around for the next, very many months.
Uber Cash digital wallet launched in number of African countries in partnership with the fintech firm, Flutterwave.
Uber Cash went live in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast.
In mid-2020, Uber rolled out a new feature to the Kenyan market that made parcel delivery a little bit easier for everyone.
Uber is still here, and we are looking forward to its future plans. When it launched, it was a basic cab app. It has since transformed thanks to the addition of useful features and services; drivers and riders are now more aware of their rights and what they should or should not do during a trip, and the two parties are aware of the consequences should they disobey the app’s guidelines.