Protest against Uber rocks Cape Town

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Uber protestors have marched through Cape Town city centre. (Dane McDonald, Fin24)
Uber protestors have marched through Cape Town city centre. (Dane McDonald, Fin24)

Cape Town - Metered taxi drivers have expressed their outrage at internet ride hailing company Uber's operations in Cape Town on Thursday by taking to the streets in protest.

Several drivers blocked roads in the city centre in a protest against what they perceive as Uber's flouting of laws around licensing requirements in the transport industry.

Uber is no stranger to controversy and recently the City of Cape Town impounded 65 vehicles for allegedly operating an illegal service. The City of Cape Town wants Uber to comply with the Western Cape province's metered taxi permit system.

In a statement, Uber dismissed the protest.

"Despite today's protest Uber will continue to provide our world-class service to the people of Cape Town. We will continue to train and upskill all partner-drivers and provide them with as many benefits as we can, so they can grow and succeed in their businesses. Safety, reliability, innovation and choice – not protests – are what draw consumers to the transport of the future," an Uber spokesperson told Fin24 via email.

Serious competition

"The rationale behind that is that the City [of Cape Town] says that the vehicles don't have the correct operating licences, but from our side, we've been engaging with the province and the city since early last year to try and figure out what exactly is the correct category to fit the product in," Anthony le Roux, Uber general manager for Cape Town told Fin24 on a drive around the city.

The company has faced a number of similar protests around the world as metered taxi drivers bemoan the fact that Uber does not meet the often strict licensing requirements.

However, the Uber business model is significantly different in that drivers can be owner operators. Meanwhile Uber then acts as a facilitator for rides.

Metered taxi drivers have expressed their outrage at Uber. (Dane McDonald, Fin24)

"The reality here is that you've got a disruptive innovator coming into the market. You've got a business model that doesn't necessarily fit into any operating licence category and really, this is where you see that innovation is leading the regulation," said Le Roux of the company which is now valued at over $40bn.

The company is no doubt providing serious competition to the taxi industry. Uber has grown quickly in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban where it claims it has more than 2 000 drivers. The company plans further expansions throughout Africa as it has also launched a service in Nairobi, Kenya.

"Uber is an ambitious company. We want Uber to be everywhere, including other markets in Africa, so you'll have to 'watch this space'. Each market around the world has its own needs and challenges, so we approach each market entry on a country by country basis," said Le Roux.

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