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Finance & Innovation

The end of Uber in Nairobi?

Aaron Parecki

Uber versus cab drivers: a common feud with ongoing battles worldwide in places such as New York City, Johannesburg, London and Paris. Taxi drivers in Nairobi, Kenya have now joined in on the Uber wars and, they plan on making a dent in city’s transportation system if their demands aren’t met.  

Nairobi cab drivers aren’t happy with Uber. They claim the transportation app infringes on their business by offering cheaper and fixed-rate fares. So they have called on the government to shut Uber down. The situation took a gruesome turn this week when two cab drivers were arrested on suspicion of attacking an Uber driver.

While Kenya’s main cab drivers organization,Kenya’s United Taxi Organization, has rejected accusations of fronting these attacks, the group has threatened to stop and block all forms of transportation into and out of Nairobi unless the government shuts Uber down.

Passengers are responding to the feud by limiting their use of the service because of safety concerns. Uber drivers are now asking for their own emergency hotline, but so far there isn’t the company infrastructure available to do so. 

With Uber skirmishes being waged worldwide, questions about the very nature of work are arising. How, after all, can the traditional, unionized cab system be harmonized with the mercenary, uncertain work of Uber?  Violence should not be a tactic in business competition, but the escalating conflict shows that Uber is creating widespread fears. Governments will continue to rein in the business model of Uber if this kind of disruption continues.

How Uber could take a page (or fry) from the McDonald’s Model:

McDonalds is arguably the most successful business to thrive globally. While this fast food service is available worldwide, and its name remains the same everywhere, characteristics of the company (with the exception of the Big Mac) differ based on a country’s culture. 

True, Uber does not have Happy Meals (although the company can claim to take you to a McDonald's that has them). What Uber can learn from the fast food chain is cultural adaptation, and respecting minimal workers' rights. McDonald’s considers worker laws and worker rights in the countries it operates in. This includes more than just opportunity: healthcare, insurance, training, and the minimum wage laws the country follows. Uber, in contrast, is currently tangled in countless legal battles across the world. 

A photo posted by PR (@patriciorabago) on

So Uber should first begin to respect and follow the licensing fees and driver laws in the countries it operates in. Maybe then protests and lawsuits will cease and Uber will start to span the globe like McDonald’s.