SA’s Metered Taxi Drivers Have A New App, And Uber Says Bring On The Competition

By Dana Sanchez Published: March 11, 2017, 1:05 am
metered taxi drivers uber appPhoto: African Business Central

South Africa’s Metered Taxi Association plans to launch its own taxi hailing app, YooKoo, to compete with Uber, and Uber says bring it on.

In their latest protest against Uber, members of the SA Metered Taxi Association on Friday blocked highways and entrances to O.R Tambo International, the country’s busiest airport.

Uber says there’s enough business in Africa for everyone, and encourages the competition to use technology to access what it says are abundant economic opportunities.

From ITWeb Africa. Story by Matshelane Mamabolo.

Justin Pratt, head of business at Uber sub-Saharan Africa says it believes the association’s upcoming launch of a new taxi hailing app, YooKoo, should be encouraged in order for their business to remain sustainable.

“We like competition. We think competition is very healthy in this space. There is just so much to do that I don’t think that one can do it all. We encourage that innovation. My personal view is that technology is pretty much good everywhere. I find it very hard to find use cases where technology has been bad.”

Pratt says Uber itself is looking into more opportunities to invest in Africa’s taxi-hailing industry.

“There is going to be significant investment from us in this continent. We care deeply about trying to provide transport to everybody. I think Africa is a continent that can really use the connecting of economic participants to economic opportunity. We are massive believers in that and a lot of people really care about it, so we are excited about where we are going.”

Pratt says Uber’s plan to expand on the content is buoyed by a drop in the price of smartphones, increasingly affordable access to the internet, and the rise in mobile penetration, which the company expects to reach 90 percent by the end of 2017.

“The ability to create macroeconomic growth resides here on this continent, and … 10 years from now (we) will see even more mutual, trust-fund, private equity and VC money chasing opportunity.”

Metered taxi drivers are taking steps to challenge Uber with technology, said Kenny Niemach, chief operations officer of Yookoo Incorporated.

“We created this taxi application for the South African Metered Taxi Association. We recognize their plight, we understood what their situation was. You had another company coming into the country and opening a parallel business. We took it upon ourselves to approach them, we spoke to them and they said we can assist them and we are now just finishing up the legalities of the agreement. Essentially we are in partnership with them.”

Niemach says security and entertainment features on the new app will set it apart in the market and plans are in place to ensure that the cost of the rides becomes the main differentiator. Fare details are not yet available.

The plan is to launch YooKoo in Gauteng by mid-April 2017, “after we do all the vetting and get all the guys on the system,” Niemach said. “This is not just us providing them with technology. We want to be competitive. We also want to restore their dignity and revitalize the industry for them because there is going to have to be support structure in terms of the vehicles, in terms of the call centers and etiquette training. There is a lot involved.”

Yookoo will be rolled out in the rest of South Africa and in other African countries have expressed an interest.

The protest by metered taxi drivers, a few weeks ahead of Yookoo’s launch, is not contradictory, Niemach said.

“You can’t quell anger,” he said. “These are people who have paid (the) government for these routes. They have paid (the) government for these meter taxi association licenses and then you get someone operating a parallel business who has paid nothing, but is eating off their payroll. The SA Taxi Metered Association drivers are suffering. We need to look at both sides and see what Uber has done to the industry.”

Read more at ITWeb Africa.

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