Cairo taxi drivers press demands to shut down Uber, Careem

Menna Alaa El-Din , Wednesday 10 Feb 2016

A lawsuit is expected to be filed soon by Egypt’s rights lawyer Khaled Ali, who will be representing taxi drivers against the increasingly popular companies

Cairo taxi drivers
Two taxi drivers display banner: "The Egyptian Taxi is the basis" to protest against foreign ride hailing applications Uber, Careem in Downtown Cairo on February 10, 2015 (Photo: Suhail Saleh)

Cairo’s taxi drivers on Wednesday repeated their demands to the Egyptian government to immediately ban taxi service operators Uber and Careem.

In a press conference hosted by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights at the Egyptian press syndicate, taxi representatives said that foreign companies are creating “strife between Egyptian drivers and riders.”

They also called on Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Prime Minister Sherif Ismail to interfere to ban the services.

An initiative under the name “We’re the real taxi, not the outsiders” was launched at the press conference, with taxi drivers behind the action hopeful that Wednesday’s press conference would be the beginning of a successful campaign.

Mahmoud Abo-Ali, one of the taxi drivers speaking on stage, said that the San Franicso-based Uber and Dubai-based Careem were operating in Egypt to “steal our bread.”

Many taxi-riders have argued that people “would not have resorted to private taxi services like Uber and Careem if the normal taxis services were actually satisfactory.”

However, many taxi drivers believe that there is an organised campaign by the media and private driver companies to defame them.

“There is an organised campaign against us on social media to portray us as horrible drivers who are sexual harassers with rigid taximeters,” Sherif El-Sayed, one of the taxi drivers speaking at the press syndicate said.

Taxi drivers chanted against the private companies, saying that they were “American infiltrators.”

“We can’t stand this, we can’t stand this, you have robbed us,” taxi drivers chanted.

Another taxi driver, Walid Mohamed Sayed, told Ahram Online that he does not refute the fact that there are problematic issues with the behaviour of some taxi drivers.

Indeed, many taxi riders have been calling on taxi drivers through social media outlets to “stop ripping off Egyptians through [rigged] taximeters.”  

However, Sayed added that he believes that the taxi drivers syndicate and the interior ministry should be the only parties that handle problems between drivers and passengers.

“Uber and Careem are both companies that came to Egypt to fool the state and the local taxi drivers… They don’t pay the right taxes, and they’re using the gasoline of the country," Sayed said. 

Taxi drivers also argue that they have to pay thousands of Egyptian pounds to obtain a taxi license. 

Speaking to Ahram Online, Uber Cairo’s Operation Manager Abdellatif Waked said they are not against taxi drivers and that they understand the fact that they might be upset about some aspects of their operations.

“Cairo has about 20 million people, the market is large, so it is possible that it can accommodate taxi drivers, Uber, and other competitors,” Waked said.

Waked also argued that they’re trying to encourage taxi drivers to join the “Uber platform,” adding that the service is open for negotiations and discussions with taxi drivers to include them in the system.

“There are many taxi drivers who have actually joined us as Uber drivers,” Waked elaborated, saying that "the door is always open for more to work with us."

Waked said Uber is licensed as a technology company in all the countries it operates in, stressing that they pay taxes and carry commercial registers.

Waked also added that the company’s partners – limousine and tourism companies – actually act as offices for anyone who wants to join Uber as a driver, saying these outlets are licensed and have their own commercial registers.

Dubai based Careem also insists it is operating legally in Egypt.

In a recent interview with Ahram Online, Careem’s General Manager Hadeer Shalaby said they have provided thousands of work opportunities every month to unemployed Egyptians, arguing that their service is not only important for customers, but for their drivers or “captains,” as they prefer to call them.

A lawsuit is expected to be filed soon by Egypt’s rights lawyer Khaled Ali, who will be representing taxi drivers against the foreign companies.

This is the first time since the applications’ launch in the Middle East that the private services have faced a lawsuit from taxi drivers. 

In France, two Uber executives are set to face criminal charges on Thursday for the “illegal storage of personal information and the operation of a service that puts passengers in touch with car-service drivers that have no professional licenses.” 

The trial comes following a series of protests by taxi drivers in France. The latest outcry by French taxi drivers against Uber came on Tuesday when drivers partially blocked roads on the edge of Paris and other areas to protest against what they say is unfair competition from such companies.

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