"The committee said it was concerned by complaints of e-taxi companies raking in profits, while drivers struggle to service loans after reduction of fares by the taxi firms.

 

Story By JAMES MBAKA, @ONCHIRIMBAKA of The Star

A parliamentary committee yesterday said it will put in place stringent regulations to control digital taxis. The Transport committee, chaired by Starehe MP Maina Kamanda, said the new regulations include fare capping. This will ensure that both traditional taxi drivers and those who operate using apps benefit from pricing models.

 

The committee said it was concerned by complaints of e-taxi companies raking in profits, while drivers struggle to service loans after reduction of fares by the taxi firms. “We have to reach a level where you live and let others live. You cannot live alone. We will have to come up with regulations on the minimum and maximum fares you can charge per kilometre,” Kamanda said. He added, “It is for you to come up with rates that are agreeable to everybody, otherwise we will be forced to come up with regulations.”

Uber bosses, who appeared before the House team, were asked to explain a decision to reduce their fares from a minimum of Sh60 per kilometre to the current Sh35, in what has set them at loggerheads with the cab operators. The operators argue the fares are too low and that the situation threatens their livelihoods. Uber Kenya, through its country lead Kagure Wamunyu, however defended itself against accusations that it is exploiting cab drivers, and pushing traditional taxi cabs out of business. “We are aware that recently some driver partners have expressed concern about their earnings,” she said. Wamunyu added, “When we cut prices last year, it was to encourage more people to take trips. By helping driver partners stay busy, we hoped to improve the amount of money they make. And we saw an increase in the number of trips taken by the new and existing riders, and, in many cases, higher than average earnings for driver partners.” Last month, Uber was allegedly told to vacate its representative office in Nairobi in what was linked to failure to contain a strike by its drivers.

Reports stated the firm was forced to leave its office at The Mirage in Westlands by the landlord, but Uber denied the allegation it was forced out. Sources at the building said the landlord issued a vacate order to Uber over a weekend after the striking drivers became unruly, forcing other businesses to shut down. “We would like to confirm that our offices at The Mirage have not been closed,” an Uber spokesperson said via an email to the Star. Uber conducts training lessons for its drivers at The Mirage, a newly built office block in Westlands, Nairobi. Drivers who tried to access the premises the following day were turned away by security guards. “I wanted to inquire about my account details but I have been told to wait for a week until Uber finds another office,” an Uber driver said.

A section of Uber taxi drivers went on strike to demand higher rates. The drivers marched to Parliament demanding fair operation and the revision of rates. The Uber taxi platform calculates fares based on distance covered and time spent. The price is Sh30 for every kilometre covered and Sh4 per minute, in addition to a base fare of Sh100.

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