NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 1- American taxi service Uber has been hailed as convenient and affordable by some residents of Nairobi, but it seems their competitors are not amused.
The company has lately been on the receiving end, not only in Kenya but also in other places like France where local taxi drivers complain that, “Uber has taken what is ours. We have lost business.”
On Monday, the Kenya Taxi Cab Association demanded withdrawal of operations by Uber from Nairobi until a level playing field is established.
The taxi drivers complained that Uber is not compliant with requirements imposed by the County and the National Government.
The Association Organising Secretary Job Nzioka said the Uber services are only cheaper because they are not subjected to hefty levies by authorities.
“We are trying to pass the message to the County Government because this is where they are operating. We want them (Uber) kicked out of the market…they have poked their noses into our business without following the due channels,” he said during an interview with Capital FM News.
Nzioka, who distanced his association members from the attacks, said just like in any other business, Uber must adhere to the operating rules.
“According to traffic regulations, you are supposed to have a yellow line to operate a taxi as a PSV unless you are operating under tour and travels where you work from the office,” he lamented.
“They are not paying the Government what we normally pay.”
According to Nzioka, among the levies of a taxi operator in Nairobi include a monthly parking fee of Sh6,000 and inspection fee amounting to Sh5,000.
The taxi operators also used to pay a Sh7, 000 operating fee which has since been suspended until a case in court is heard and determined.
Uber drivers have witnessed a rising spate of violence from other taxi operators, with several incidences reported over the weekend.
Maureen Murunga told Capital News how her children were caught up in a scuffle between an Uber taxi driver and local competitors on Saturday.
“My two kids, they are twins, were in the back seat with my nanny and they had no idea of what was happening. They were hysterical, crying…they asked my nanny to step out telling her they did not have any problem with the passengers but Uber,” Murunga, in an edgy voice said.
She has since reported the matter to Muthangari Police station.
“My kids were screaming and these men did not even care. They did not have a sense of humanity,” she said.
Uber spokesperson Samantha Allenberg told Capital FM News that they have been engaging various taxi associations since last year, in a bid to resolve the contentious issues.
“We are working with all relevant stakeholders in Nairobi to resolve this as a matter of urgency. We hope tourists, business travelers and residents alike can enjoy a safe, affordable, hassle-free time travelling however they choose to get around Nairobi,” she said.
“Uber is all about keeping Nairobi moving – connecting people to safe, reliable and flexible transport at the tap of a button.”
Police have also launched investigations following complaints of harassment, intimidation and assault on Uber drivers, by local taxi drivers who are accusing them of taking away their businesses.
“We have received numerous complaints from Uber taxi drivers complaining how they are being harassed by these other drivers and even assaulted and this is a matter we are taking very seriously,” Police Spokesman Charles Owino said on telephone.
“The complaints we have received include people registering in their system and requesting a taxi then when the Uber taxi arrives they attack him,” he said, but did not give statistics of the number of cases reported, or dwell into specific cases.