Cairo taxi drivers call for protests to ban Uber, Careem services

Menna Alaa El-Din , Wednesday 3 Feb 2016

Since it launched in the capital of Egypt in 2014, Cairo has been the fastest growing city for the San Francisco-based company Uber

File Photo: An Egyptian taxi driver stands on his car as he and others block part of the 6th October bridge in central Cairo, Egypt, Monday, March 25, 2013. (AP)

Egypt's traditional taxi drivers called on Tuesday for a Thursday protest to demand the government immediately ban taxi applications Uber and Careem.

The planned protest would be the first against the the two increasingly popular companies since they made their debut on Cairo streets two years ago.

The anonymous call for the protest, set to take place at 6pm Cairo time in Mostafa Mahmoud Square, calls for the suspension of the taxi apps as they are "operating as taxis yet were unlicensed as such."

The drivers argue that Uber and Careem are negatively affecting the rights of taxi drivers.

While it is not clear who has called for the protests, Alaa Mohamed, head of the city’s taxi association in Giza, said that his association endorses the calls as “legitimate demands.”

Mohamed says that, as of yet, they will not participate in the protests until they are assured that the protest is legal, by obtaining police permission.

In November, Uber announced an investment of $250 million to expand in the MENA region, where the service has been growing since its arrival.

Cairo has been the fastest growing city for the San Francisco-based company since its launch in the Egyptian capital in November 2014, with the on-demand car service application expanding into Alexandria in November 2015.

Dubai-based Careem has been booming in Egypt, with thousands of their cars providing services in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. 

"The market in Cairo is really big, taxis don't need to fight with us over customers," said Hadeer Shalaby, Careem's general manager. 

On legalisation, Shalaby says they are licensed as a technology company in Cairo, yet she agrees that the legalisation of their cars and a working model is still needed. 

She says she hopes to reach a solution regarding the legalisation of cars with officials in Cairo, just like they did with Dubai's Road and Traffic Authority (RTA). 

Careem says it has provided thousands of work opportunities every month to unemployed Egyptians, elaborating that their service is not only important for customers, but for their drivers or 'captains,' as they prefer to call them. 

Following the calls, angry customers criticised the taxis' protests, calling on them to improve their services and “stop ripping off Egyptians through taximeters,” arguing that people “would not have resorted to private taxi services like Uber and Careem if the traditional taxis service was actually satisfactory.” 

A hashtag “Taxi In Egypt” was launched on Twitter where users shared their negative experiences with traditional taxi drivers.

This is the first time since the applications’ launch in the Middle East that the private taxi services are facing dissent by traditional taxi drivers.

France has been witnessing a series of protests by taxi drivers, the latest outcry on Tuesday was when they partially blocked roads on the edge of Paris and other areas to protest against what they say is unfair competition from the likes of Uber.

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