More than 300 Uber taxi drivers in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa have protested at falling earnings and asked management to review the rates they charge clients, choking public transportation in the country’s second largest city in the process.
The drivers who converged Tuesday at the seaside Mama Ngina recreational park threatened to down tools Thursday if the Uber management in Nairobi did not respond to their grievances.
Mombasa Uber Partners group Chairman Evanson Mbugua and his Uber Drivers Association counterpart, James Maganga, said they could no longer maintain their vehicles and service bank loans at the same time with the current returns they earned.
Mbugua told the media that they used to make 3,000 shillings (about US$29) daily when they joined Uber Taxis in February last year, following attractive initial incentives but they now hardly make 1,000 shillings (US$9.64) daily.
“We have aired our grievances severally with management in Nairobi. We have gathered here today to put the management on notice that we will down tools on Thursday if the rates we charge clients on different routes are not reviewed,” Mbugua said.
Mbugua said they wanted the charges to be brought closer to market rates for the business to be profitable and stop harassment from other players who feel there is unfair compensation.
“We have been pushing for raised fares but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. We now need change so that we can make ends meet,” Mbugua argued.
According to Maganga, Uber taxis charge 550 shillings (US$5.30) for clients travelling between Mombasa town centre to Moi International Airport while the general market charges 1,200 shillings (US$11.57) for the same trip.
“We buy the same fuel and also pay for maintenance of our vehicles. The rates currently authorised by Uber Taxis are barely enough to sustain our operations. The rates should be reviewed upwards,” Maganga said.
The drivers parked hundreds of their cars at the recreational park and chanted as they vowed to join their counterparts in Nairobi in pushing for a review of the rates, claiming even tuk tuks (three-wheel mini-cabs) were charging higher rates than their luxury vehicles fitted with air conditioning.
According to the drivers, the air conditioning was a compulsory requirement for them to join Uber Taxis as they enable them provide comfort to clients amid the sweltering coastal heat although they consumed a lot of fuel. (US$1 = 103.65 shillings).