Over the past weeks, the rivalry between Uber and taxi operators in the capital of Kenya, Nairobi has escalated with taxi operators demanding the government to drive their competitor out of the city.
The Kenya United Taxi Organization (KUTO) on Wednesday issued a seven-day ultimatum to the government failure to which they will paralyze transport within the city.
Speaking to the media, the organization’s spokesperson Ashford Mwangi said they are ready to hold a peaceful demonstration at the end of the seven days in an effort to cut off the competing online taxi-hailing service, Uber.
Mwangi said that Uber jumped into business without consulting the stakeholders and is trying to monopolize the taxi business in the city by driving Nairobi taxi operators away.
"We will block roads if Uber is not done away with in a week’s time. We have told our members to park their vehicles at strategic locations and all over town," Mwangi said.
Uber which uses a mobile app to operate, offers cheap rates to its customers, a move that the conventional taxi operators see as a plot to push them out of business.
Uber-taxi crisis elsewhere
Since the introduction of Uber into major cities across the world, fights have erupted with traditional taxi operators arguing that the internet taxi firm offers unfair competition.
In South Africa, Uber had to result to providing security to its drivers after verbal threats from other taxi operators.
Disgruntled over Uber’s popular ride-sharing business, the yellow cabs sued New York city arguing that the former was destroying their business and threatening their livelihoods.
Attacks and intimidation should never be used to settle Business Rivalry
This week, two people were arrested for attacking an Uber operator in Nairobi’s Kileleshwa area. According to the police, the gang shattered the rear window of the taxi, an incident mirroring many others that have been reported in recent weeks.
KUTO denied involvements in the attacks.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Major Gen (Rtd) Joseph Nkaissery slammed down the 7-day ultimatum and directed his Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho to summon the two competitors to find a lasting solution to their rivalry.
In a statement, the country’s Interior Ministry also cautioned those behind the attacks saying that the culprits “will face the wrath of the law”.
“Business rivalry should never be settled through attacks and intimidation but rather through the established legal mechanism of resolving disputes,” it said. “Such barbaric acts cannot and shall not be tolerated,” it added.
Through their online platform, Uber Kenya said “Uber is all about keeping Nairobi moving – bringing safe and reliable transportation at the touch of a button.”
"Recently, you may have heard of cases of isolated intimidation towards Uber driver-partners."
"These cases shock and sadden us, as these driver-partners are simply using the Uber platform to earn a living for themselves and their families."
"We are deeply committed to the safety of riders and driver-partners before, during and after a trip."
Uber launched in Nairobi in January 2015, making it the sixth of the nine African countries- Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Lagos and Cairo - to host the US firm.