NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
"I will not give up," said Kenyan taxi
driver Moses Karanja on Friday as he tried to wriggle through a
heavy traffic along Uhuru Highway into city center, Nairobi.
"Business is not very good, but I will not join them just yet,"
It is about four years since taxi-hailing apps that include
Uber, Taxify and Little Cabs were introduced in Kenya, but
Karanja and many other taxi drivers across the East African
nation have resisted the apps, sticking to the old way of doing
Karanja normally parks his vehicle at a spot on Kimathi
Street in Nairobi’s central business district, and atop the
vehicle he puts a sign reading "taxi" in hunt for customers.
"I have been in this business for about 15 years, and I love
"On this spot I have parked my vehicle in search for
customers for the last five years," he said.
Initially, it would not take him an hour before he gets a
customer but since the introduction of the hailing apps, Karanja
has faced tough times.
He sometimes sits in the vehicle for up to three hours
without getting calls to pick someone or a customer walking up
He blames it all on the taxi-hailing apps, which, however, he
is not ready to join.
"Those apps have eaten into our business.
"Look at all these vehicles," he said, pointing to several
vehicles of his colleagues parked on the street.
"Most of them have not had any business since morning and it
is because of the apps," he added.
So, why would Karanja and his colleagues cling on the
traditional way of doing business when customers are shifting to
the hailing apps?
"The charges fixed by operators of the hailing apps are so
little," he said.
"For a 5 km journey, the app charges not more than 3 dollars
even when there is traffic, which I believe is so little," he
Karanja, for such a journey, charges between 8 dollars and 10
The low charges by the hailing apps have seen Kenyans,
especially the younger ones, shift to them, denying drivers like
The veteran taxi driver says a majority of his customers are
aged 40 and above.
"I don’t remember the last time I ferried a young person in
my car but I get calls from older clients to deliver items for
them or pick them.
"They want to deal with people they know and trust," he said.
Taxi-hailing apps charges are calculated on distance,
time-spent on the job and there is a base rate per kilometer.
Several recent incidents reported to the police and on social
media of unruliness and even crime for drivers under
taxi-hailing apps have offered the traditional taxi drivers hope
for renewed business.
The incidents involve the drivers demanding more cash
claiming what was offered is little, drivers taking orders and
switching off the apps making customers incur unnecessary
charges and even attempted carjacking.
"Unlike those drivers under apps, for us, most of those who
come for our services know us in person.
"So there is no way we can turn against them and we agree on
cost before we start the journey," said Fred Asiko, a taxi
John Musomi is one of the drivers in Nairobi working under a
taxi-hailing app and has been in the business for two years.
"I joined sometime in late 2016 after working as an
independent driver for three years.
For me, it was a great opportunity because business had gone
down and I could no longer rely on loyal customers," he said
Since joining the app, Musomi said business has improved but
acknowledges that the charges are low.
"Customers pay a dollar base fare plus 0.40 dollars cost per
kilometer, and 0.03 dollars cost per minute.
"It favours one in long distances, but for short distances,
one earns little and it is the reason drivers have been
agitating for higher rates.
"But I am in because every business has its rules," he said.
Bernard Mwaso, a consultant with Edell IT Solutions in
Nairobi, believes that the traditional taxi drivers are fighting
a losing battle, and with time, they may be out of business.
"People want convenience, good service and best rates which
taxi-hailing apps offer, unlike them.
"The drivers may survive now but technology may deny them
business as more Kenyans turn to the apps, including the older
generation," he said.