NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 2- The last time a protest by taxi drivers was held in Nairobi, it was against the entry of Uber; but after having their day, it’s now the turn of Uber drivers and partners to take to the streets, over what they say are unreasonably low fares introduced recently.
“Uber must go!” a section of the hundreds of Uber drivers chanted before they were quickly cautioned by one of their association official.
“No, Uber should not go, we need it. We have the specific issues we want addressed,” he warned before another chorus was started, “Uber must shape up or ship out!”
Uber drivers who chose to continue with business were not spared by the protestors, who coerced them to join the demonstration in some instances leaving customers stranded.
The protest started along Ojijo road with a few police officers being deployed to ensure law and order prevailed and to avoid a traffic snarl up on the busy road.
On arrival at The Mirage where the Uber offices are located, there were no officials to listen to their grievances, a move that angered the protestors who are members of the Kenya Digital Taxi Association.
Here, the operators vented their frustrations over the recent move by the online taxi company to slash fares which they say is affecting their revenue base.
“We are partners and not servants,” they would say while facing the building, in hope someone was watching or just listening.
One of the banners read, “You could have all the reasons to work but this is unacceptable. Stop this digital slavery.”
The fury started after Uber announced a 35 percent fare reduction last week in a move aimed at attracting more riders.
They said they would offer the drivers Sh150 for the 79 peak hours and Sh450 for the 69 off-peak hours as compensation but this has not satisfied the drivers and partners hence the strike.
It is estimated that Uber has 3,000 taxis operating in Nairobi alone, with others in Mombasa and Thika.
The demanded a crisis meeting for the “partners” to agree on the contentious issues.
The Kenya Digital Taxi Association Chairman Emmanuel Kasina cautioned that they will be lobbying aggrieved members who may want to join alternative companies offering similar services.
“Uber made a drastic change to our contract without consulting us effectively as partners,” he lamented. “That is going to impact negatively to our businesses. We will not be able to make a return on our investments.”
He cautioned that,” all these people are mature enough to know we have local based products that we can work with, if they make business sense.”
Kasina even claimed that their biggest competitors currently are boda boda operators who are milking from their misfortunes.
“We just want sincere consultations,” he said.
According to him, they will not be able to service their loans since they have to buy incentives for customers like newspapers, make calls among other expenses.
They also want Uber to reduce commission due to the company which is currently at 25 and 20 percent depending with when one joined the platform.