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As the cost of running cars have increased with rising fuel prices and the 25 percent service fee, South African Uber drivers went on strike. Uber Technologies Inc is an American ride sharing, food delivery and transportation service that has operations in over 633 cities across the world. The company continues to rapidly expand in almost all continents including Africa. Uber first launched its African platform in 2013. The corporation currently operates in 11 African cities such as Morocco, Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda.
Uber’s large driver network and brand has helped the company penetrate the African transportation market. However, its five years in Africa has been a rather challenging one. The ride-sharing service has been the source of many price wars, policy disputes and violent protests in the continent. According to Quartz Media, South African and Kenyan drivers have criticized Uber for creating a monopoly, fare price cuts and have began to call themselves Uber slaves. Additionally, the company has had challenges with African governments. For example, the Egyptian government demanded data on the customers, journey and drivers. Handing over such information could have many implications on Uber’s brand image and the legality of the action is still in question.
Thus, perhaps the Uber strike in South Africa was impending. According to Alon Lits, head of sub-Saharan Africa Uber operations, the strike involved Uber drivers going offline and avoiding usage of the app for extended hours. The strike took place at Zoo Lake in Johannesburg.
Despite the petrol price increase to R15.54 for 93 octane (a 5% increase from the original price), Uber confirmed fares would not be adjusted. Lits went on to explain the importance of the 25% service fee. She explained that, “The 25% service fee is designed in a way to ensure that the business is sustainable for both Uber and our driver-partners.”
Samantha Allenberg (an Uber spokesperson) made a statement to Business Tech, “We always consider driver economics in each of the cities that they operate in and after years of global experience, what we‘ve seen in cities across the world is that lower fares mean greater demand, lower pickup times and more trips per hour — increasing earning potential and creating better economics for drivers.”
She went on to reinsure Uber’s commitment to their employees. “We’re committed to supporting the men and women who drive with Uber across South Africa and we understand that fuel is one of the biggest weekly expenses for drivers which is why drivers can access rewards that help them reduce costs and keep more of their earnings. This exclusive program provides deals such as fuel rebates, cell phone deals, maintenance and health care.”
Additionally, the drivers; concerns for their safety was also raised during the strike. Since the arrival of Uber in South Africa, drivers have experienced ongoing intimidation and assault attacks by the metered taxi drivers. Many Uber drivers have accused taxi drivers of inflicting damage on the Uber drivers’ vehicles during their hours of operation. Although Uber recently changed its safety measures, it seems to have been ineffective as violent protests still break out in the nation.
The TAXIFY UBER STRIKE IS IN FULL FORCE pic.twitter.com/UW3IMNjghX
— 🇿🇦 Mabaso (@Perfect_Cookham) June 18, 2018