Taxi hailing apps in Uganda

September 24, 2017

Taxis operators in Uganda are implementing a radical package of reforms designed to help them compete with ride­sharing firms such as Uber. Although new reforms haven’t been finalized, fare de­regulation will mean the traditional taxi operators will be able to compete for fare rates with likes of Uber. No doubt passengers will hunt for the lowest fare they can get with various taxi firms and Uber, when they book a ride by phone or through an app.There is clear evidence transportation market across Uganda is witnessing significant changes since the rapid expansion of ride hailing apps like Uber.For example Uber has made competition stiffer than ever, forcing traditional taxi firms suffering from a decline in market share to make technology driven innovations.In Kampala, taxi firms have developed their own car hailing applications, besides Uber, under a privately approved pilot project to apply science and technology in passenger transportation, which were now available for public user.What’s significant is that car hailing apps of taxi firms do not increase fares during rush hours.One of the app developers told your blogger that the system he has been working on shows how, after a couple of years of Uber, the way the taxi industry operates will totally change. A different system will also apply when you hail a taxi from Kampala to Entebbe or get one at a rank.In these circumstances, taxis will be able to compete by setting the rates below prescribed maximum.“If you’re hailing it a taxi in the street of Kampala or taking it from a rank in the past, it had a maximum fare. They’ll need to have the price when you go to the driver. But if it’s through an app or on the phone, or any other way that it might be booked, it would be a negotiated fare,” developer said. The 4.0 industrial era is approaching and it is, therefore, vital to encourage transportation firms in Uganda and other parts of Africa to apply advanced technologies. The market will certainly witness positive developments. However, it is of significant importance that management policies ensure healthy competition to benefit both providers and passengers. As a matter of course, the competition will be fierce in both passenger and goods transportation.The supply currently exceeded demand, to some extent, raising a pressing question about appropriate management policies amidst a rapid increase in cars even as transport infrastructure was severely overloaded in large cities like Kampala, Dar Es Salaam and Nairobi.

But with traditional operators polishing their game with support in developing websites, sales network, customer care system and payment services, they have a future in the market. One of the platforms the developer is working on in Uganda connects drivers or car owners with customers to provide passenger and goods transportation services, as well as car leasing. Taxis carrying booked customers would not have to use old methods of charging customers. “I expect that some of them will for quite a while because in this part of the world such changes take time but they won’t have to.” Under old business models, developer said, responsibility fell on the driver as the person the regulator focused on, ensuring they complied with work, health and safety law. That would now fall on the companies.Developer said in Uganda, the regulators are finalising the regulations, with implementation later this year or in 2018. “There has been feedback from industry that they’ll need a bit of time to get things in place. Any start date will take that into ­account. From what I’m hearing from people, they’re looking forward to having a lot more freedom and set up systems in a way that works for them. The old regu­lations told taxi companies in Kampala exactly what to do and how to do it, and what technology to use. They didn’t have a lot of freedom.”Developer said the changes were a step towards a level playing field but failed to ­address some issues and added that fare deregulation meant more competitive fares from a taxi industry perspective, but inequities remained in Kampala metropolitan region which includes Entebbe.Ridesharing cars also needed to be identifiable for safety reasons. Whereas taxi drivers were limited to alcohol reading, private Uber drivers had no known standard limit. “How would a police officer in Kampala know it’s an Uber driver without an identifier on a vehicle?” developer said.Kampala taxi licence owners had seen their plate value drop since the entry of Uber.“People invested in taxi licences with a plan. This was almost their superannuation. We have elderly people in the taxi industry in Kampala and all other major cities in Uganda that were about to retire and looked to this as their investment.” Uber competition in Uganda and other Easts African countries of Kenya and Tanzania from the taxi industry has been termed as a good thing. People have said ridesharing had introduced that competition. It means that other players will be lifting their game and traditional operators we’ll have to continually lift their game. The result is more opportunity and more choice and a better experience for riders. I must state that in Uganda, the fourteen seater vans as also referred to as Taxi but in this post reference is about traditional taxis.

Contador Harrison