After the recent Uber and Bolt (formerly Taxify) drivers strike, I had the pleasure of speaking to one.
Their problem makes one sad.
When Uber and Bolt launched in Kenya, the fare per kilometer was Ksh. 60, but due to internal competition in the industry, that was reduced eventually to the current Kshs. 14 per kilometer for Bolt and Kshs. 16 for Uber.
The digital taxis are in competition with themselves and this reduction in fare is a culmination of that.
‘I used to put aside money to pay the car loan, but theses days, I can even for a week and barely have any. You’ve seen how most taxi vehicles have been repossessed in Nairobi, Mombasa etc….that tells you something is not right. Banks have made losses from the vehicle sales and most are now desperate to auction the vehicles’, said my taxi driver.
What went wrong?
Kenya being a banditry economy, the digital taxi business which was started by former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, Businessman Chris Kirubi and businessman cum president Uhuru Kenyatta, has suffered the wrath of bad economic policies.
Kenya doesn’t love their young people. In fact, there’s no love in Kenya.
As a man-eat-man society, Kenyan government doesn’t have a good programme that can last more than 10 years without a greedy leader bringing in legislation that scuttles all the good.
Take for example the digital taxi business, other changes that have happened in pricing is, thinking of destinations as a straight line and not as a meandering , jam-filled roads. This has particularly reduced the much needed revenue for the debt-laden drivers.
I used to take a taxi from town at electricity house and I would pay Kshs. 800 if I alight at Umoja Market. Recently, I took a taxi from Carnivore Restaurant, passed through South C to drop a friend, then went to Umoja Estate near Umoja 2, dropped another friend and later alighted at Mutindwa to go home, the Kshs. 600 charge was shocking even to me.
I have seen the income fall in this now saturated industry and it had gone down with many.
In March this year, Stanbic Bank put up 13 Suzuki Altos (Uber Chap Chap) to recover loans advance to the owners who had defaulted.
More would default but didn’t make news. Because Stanbic Bank had advanced loan to over 350 taxi drivers.
Some said the cars were sold at a higher than normal price (they were being sold at a supposedly subsidized cost of Kshs. 835,000). I tend to believe the sold at ‘higher than normal’ argument and that goes back to bandit economy statement I made above.
Sidian Bank had also financed the purchase of over 150 Suzuki Alto cars. The loan attracted 14 per cent per annum within a period of three years.
The point is this, as long as the economy and political institution are non-inclusive, we will continue to have the man eat man society where the 97% of the Kenyan society just gets by, while the few Kirubis and Kenyattas do all manoeuvres with the economy to keep the 97 poor, hungry and suicidal.
There might be a problem with the four to managers of Uber and Bolt, they took bribes so as to call off the strike, but they are also under the same yoke of the 3%.
We must rise up and petition, picket, demonstrate for a better Kenya.
Maybe Uber and Bolt drivers should start by sponsoring a bill in parliament through an MP who will cap the taxi fee rate at a certain economically viable value.
Ultimately, Kenya is a very unequal society that must change.
Are you willing to try?
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