Renowned online cab-hailing company, Uber, is in yet another controversy, but this time in Kenya. Yesterday, Wednesday February 3rd, members of the United Kenya Taxi Organisation (UKTO) gave the government a seven-day ultimatum to ban Uber from operating in the country. If their demands are not met, the Kenyan government should expect a strike action and street demonstrations until the American-based taxi company leaves the country.
Since last month, Uber drivers have suffered attacks from disgruntled regular taxi drivers who say Uber is bad for their business. Uber drivers are not just harassed by these taxi drivers, their cars have also been vandalised on different occasions. Since then, the company has put its drivers on high alert, asking them to operate with caution.
Why Uber must fall
Local taxi operators claim that the company’s cheap pricing model is denying them their livelihood, as some said that they have gone for days without business. With little or no business coming their way, they can neither fend for themselves nor their families.
“We, therefore, as the United Kenya Taxi Organisation, wish to inform the government that we have loans to service, families to feed, children to educate and other responsibilities to cater for…,” reads their statement, adding that they are not ready to bow out of the transport business for a foreign company.
Samantha Allenberg, Uber Africa’s spokesperson, said that the company has engaged local taxi associations to find a medium of partnership so as to create a level playing field, but apparently their efforts have been unfruitful. “…we do not feel that it should be about Uber or taxi, but rather, Uber and taxi,” she said.
Addressing Uber’s claims, Ashford Mwangi, spokesperson for the UKTO, said that Uber’s strict restrictions makes it difficult for its members to join the online cab-hailing movement, one of which is the fact that the company demands new, or close to new vehicles.
Operating in about 250 cities in 50 countries, the San Francisco-based technology company has been engaged in a series of disputes with traditional taxi drivers and companies in Europe, the United States and India. As of mid-2015, protests were staged in England, Italy, Poland, China, Spain and Germany.
From lawsuits and government restrictions, to protests, the online taxi company is no stranger to controversy. Just last week, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, along with other traditional cab drivers, protested the Uber’s fare cut, calling it greed and monopoly. Regular taxi drivers made complaints similar to that of their counterparts in Kenya, saying that they cannot compete with the rate cuts and that their jobs are threatened. Uber drivers were not happy with the 15 percent fare cut either, saying it was too deep.
As of June 2015, protests against Uber operations have been staged in several countries including France, Canada, China, Italy, Denmark, Germany, and England. Due to these protests, Uber has been banned in countries like Spain, and India. But for the most part, the nature of Uber’s operation – online – has made it difficult for governments to stop them.