On the 5th of July, Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima Opened Pandora’s’ Box on the reality of Uber In Uganda, with what was meant to be a simple tweet complaining about the treatment she had received at the hands of an Uber driver. The tweet which says ‘’Uber Drivers in Uganda can’t read maps, they cancel trips, and you get charged. Avoid Uber In Uganda’’
The tweet, however, kicked off a storm, and it became full thread where she tried to explain to herself to angry Uber drivers who were attacking her for insensitivity, in the thread, she also complains about the unprofessional service, and the fact that on one of the trips they actually run out of fuel and got stuck in the middle of nowhere with a driver. The drivers who were answering her on the thread then explained to her what they go through, and in the end, she admits that ‘’the crappy service is beyond the drivers and maybe more about Uber itself.
But why does UBER in Uganda find itself in this place where drivers are complaining, and clients are dissatisfied?
Over a 4-week period, our reporter Ivan Kitaka (Pseudonym) worked as an UBER driver. This article and 9 others to come are a culmination of the over 50 trips he drove as a driver, the meetings he attended, conversations with riders, and will talk about the welfare of drivers and life as an UBER driver.
In a meeting he attended, UBER promised to increase the rates, the drivers committed to only take up trips that pay them more.
In the meeting, UBER promised drivers that the low rates were more to do with an ongoing 120-day promotion. However, a driver our reporter talked to says the promotion ended and instead Uber called them and informed them they were running a new promotion up to January and the drivers should be patient. The driver says the lies don’t add up, and it’s looking more like a scam.
In an email, UBER’s Communications Chief for East Africa Janet Kemboi says that UBER is an alternative source of income and consistently tries their best to increase how much drivers earn.
‘’Uber partners with drivers to provide a flexible and reliable alternative to making a living. It’s that simple. Earn money anytime you want to; just turn on the app. We are always looking at partner economics. We want to make sure Uber is an affordable and reliable thus ensuring demand from riders because more demand means more trips for drivers which mean drivers earn more’’ She says.
But because of the unending complaints by drivers on the low fees, some of the Uber drivers in Uganda say they are able to endure because of the simple fact that Uber is not strict on collecting its 25% share. one of the drivers we talked to says if UBER ever decided to get tough and collect it’s 25%, most drivers would have their accounts suspended.
This is an allegation UBER denied and Janet Kemboi says UBER has ‘’established channels of communication and anyone can speak to us at any time. There are many ways driver-partners can let us know if they have any individual concerns’’
So are riders willing to accept unprofessional service in return for low fees?