Taxi operator Uber facing tough rivalry in Nairobi


VENTURES AFRICA – A battle is brewing over the future of the taxi travel in Kenya between Nairobi’s small businesses wanting to launch “Uber of Kenya” and the US global transportation network firm, Uber, it emerged late on Monday.

In Kenya, the San Francisco-based Uber is fighting Kenyan companies like Easy Taxi and Maramoja that believe that the Kenyan taxi operators can build a more custom-made business than Uber.

These two companies claim that their apps present better licensing of drivers in Nairobi – a high-crime city with insufficient methods to do background safety inspections.

The two companies take cash and payment through mobile phones in Kenya, where according to the World Bank’s figures, less than 3 percent of people have credit cards. However, over 90 percent of Kenyans have mobile phones.

Uber, which launched in Nairobi in January this year, contends it is presenting its customers with the same ease of use that they would had they called for an Uber service in New York or London. “We want to keep the user experience as magical as possible,” Alastair Curtis, a South African who launched Uber in Lagos and Nairobi, told Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

In order to fight the concerns about driver selection, Uber operates a private security firm that conducts background safety inspections on all its drivers and calls references, Curtis added. In addition, he said Uber was working with cellphone firms in a bid to develop a mobile-payment system that will work as faultlessly as the current credit-card setup.