By Ogova Ondego
Published March 23, 2016
Uber, a US company that connects riders and drivers at the touch of a button on a smartphone, has on March 23, 2016 brought its service to Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest town and popular holiday destination.
Mombasa, a town of beauty with a vibrant local spirit, is a popular tourist destination, attracting local and international visitors.
â€œFor those who donâ€™t know, Uber moves around millions of global citizens every day offering affordable and reliable rides at the touch of a button,” says Kagure Wamunyu, Operations Manager for Uber Kenya. “By offering a friendly and reliable complement to existing transport options, we can help improve urban mobility in Mombasa, reduce traffic congestion and the environmental impact of vehicles at the same time.â€
Since its launch in Kenya in January 2015, Uber has faced serious, if not violent, opposition from local taxi operators in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Its drivers are often attacked and their vehicles setÂ ablaze as happened in Kilimani and Riruta neighbourhoods of Nairobi on February 22 and March 22, 2016, respectively.
Detractors of Uber accuse the company of undercharging–they claim Uber charges less than half what they usually charge–customers with a view to driving them out of business.
Nate Anderson, acting General Manager for Uber in Kenya, says his company already operates in 400 cities across 70 countries.
Anderson says “Uberâ€™s mission is to change the way citizens of the world move, work and live. It aspires to transform the way people connect with their communities and to bring reliability, convenience and opportunity to transport systems.”
“Whether youâ€™re going to work or going out with friends,” he says, “Uber provides an affordable, safe and reliable way to get across the city.”
But why Uber?
It adds value to service, its owners say.
Uber helps people get a ride without having to wait on the street or walking through unfamiliar neighborhoods to find transport. “Itâ€™s the most convenient way to get a safe, reliable and affordable ride,” Uber says in a media statement.
Saying Uber saves one from “street hails or waiting outside to find a ride,” the media statement says “You can start the Uber app from anywhere and wait safely for your car to arrive.”
“When a driver accepts your request,” Uber says, “you see his or her first name, photo, and license plate number. You can also check whether others have had a good experience with him or her. You can contact the driverâ€”and vice versaâ€” through the app if there is any confusion around pick-up details. ”
Moreover, one can, during the ride, share one’s details–including the specific route and estimated time of arrival–with friends or family for extra peace of mind.
As if to stress he value of Uber, its managers say there is post-ride rating by both passenger and driver and that the feedback is reviewed by the ‘safety team’ that also “investigates any issues.”
Uber, that says it “aspires to transform the way people connect with their communities and to bring reliability, convenience and opportunity to transport systems,” says it embraces transparency and accountability in its service.
“We use GPS to keep a record of where a driver goes during the ride, allowing us to verify that the most efficient routes are being used, which creates accountability and a strong incentive for good behavior,” Uber says.
Uber stresses it screens all drivers “before they can use the Uber app.” It says it also cooperates with law enforcement agencies in cases where the latter provide it with “valid legal process.”
The Mombasa launch, together with the Abuja (Nigerian political capital) one on the same day, brings the number of cities in which Uber operates to 400.