1,000 Kenyan drivers sign up with US taxi-hailing firm Uber


Uber drivers in Nairobi. The service has gained popularity in Kenya due to its pricing model that offers a standard cost per kilometre. PHOTO | FILE

Online taxi hailing company Uber says it has signed up nearly 1,000 Kenyan drivers onto its platform since it began operations in January 2015.

The US-based company also announced yesterday that it has clocked eight million kilometres in Kenya since its launch in Nairobi 15 months ago.

“Over 100,000 of you choose Uber every month and since launching in Kenya we have facilitated over a million trips through the platform,” said Uber on its blog.

The taxi hailing app first launched in Nairobi, and in March this year began operations in Mombasa.

It has gained popularity in Kenya due to its pricing model that offers a standard cost per kilometre, charging relatively lower fares compared to traditional taxi operators.

Uber customers are charged for every kilometre covered and time taken to their destination — unlike regular cab drivers who quote their prices based on arbitrary spot negotiations with clients.

Every Uber trip is automatically and openly priced, with riders having the option of getting a fare estimate before hailing the vehicles.

The lower cost pricing model triggered bitter rivalry and street demonstrations between local taxi operators and Uber drivers.

Several Uber cabs were torched and vandalised as the operators opposed the pricing model. Using the Uber pricing model of Sh60 per kilometre, Sh4 per minute and a base fare of Sh100 per ride, the US firm could have made an estimated over Sh800,000,000 in the 15 months it has been running in Kenya.

READ: Uber, regular taxis rivalry turns ugly as drivers fight

Some trips are charged higher depending on traffic jams and availability of the Uber cabs in certain vicinities—indicating that the revenue estimated could be even higher.

Uber keeps 25 per cent of the value of a ride. It does not own any cars but relies on individuals who want to sign up their private vehicles with them. The tech company’s Kenya launch came only months after Brazilian-owned Easy Taxi set up shop in Nairobi.

Easy Taxi, also an online ride-hailing company that uses app technology, launched at the end of 2014, registering 2,000 drivers on its service as of January.

It has however announced plans to exit the Kenyan market. The online taxi hailing business has seen increased activity with new entrants including Mondo Ride also seeking to get a piece of the cake. 

Mondo Ride, which has Romanian roots, started operations in Nairobi mid-January as it first African destination. It is also targeting boda boda hailing in the country.

The growing use of technology and an influx of expatriates has lured the taxi-hailing businesses into Kenya. The expatriates are in most cases looking for the same services that they receive in their home countries.

Nairobi is estimated to have over 10,000 taxis doing 40,000 trips daily, a number that could increase as the service becomes cheaper and readily available via mobile or web based apps.