Kenyan taxi operators in fresh protest against Uber

Wednesday November 9 2016

Taxicabs parked along Kimathi Street, Nairobi, on February 8, 2016. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP.

Taxicabs parked along Kimathi Street, Nairobi, on February 8, 2016. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP.  

By PATRICK LANGAT, [email protected]

Kenyan taxi operators Wednesday launched another attack against car-hailing apps, saying they should be regulated or deregistered.

The operators narrowed down to the United States-based technology company Uber, which they said was eating into their profits.

Under the Kenya Taxi Union banner, the operators have given the government a one-week ultimatum to sort out the industry issue, which they said was hurting Kenyans.

"Out of desperation, and in our own country, we now work for them," the union's secretary-general Kevin Kemboi said at Orange House in Nairobi.

ODM party leader Raila Odinga — who was to address the operators — missed the event at his party headquarters.

The party’s executive director Oduor Ong'wen said Mr Odinga was held up in other matters but he would meet them in two weeks.

"It is time to stop the wheels. Your strength is in your unity," said Mr Ong'wen.

Charged meeting

More than 500 members of the union, who also included about 10 representatives from the Digital Taxi Association Kenya, which is composed of drivers using the hailing apps, were at the charged meeting.

"We are paid only Sh26 per kilometre and with that we just cannot break even," said the association’s vice-chairman David Muteru.

He told the union members: "The way you see us here, we are suffering a lot."

Mr Muteru said the government should set a platform to set a standard fare for all taxis.

The taxi union chairman George Kanja said the government should protect them.

"When you say that the developers of the app who earn a chunk of the money do not pay tax and then turn to a suffering driver, you’re killing a whole industry," said Mr Kanja.

The operators said they will meet again on November 15 at Uhuru Park to protest what they said was a slow death of a once-vibrant industry.
‘Not making progress’

"You cannot be creating 10,000 jobs and at the same time firing 100,000 and say this is making progress. It is not!" said Mr Kemboi.

Apart from Uber, other car-hailing apps are Safaricom-backed Littlecab, Mondo among others.

When the Uber app was introduced last year, conventional taxi operators protested against it, even burning cars belonging to operators using the app.