Imagine that you live in Kumasi and you have to attend an important meeting in Accra, you received the notification the night before, you book a flight because if you have to drive all the way to Accra because you will be late. Upon getting to Accra, your friend who promised to give you one of his cars to use in Accra calls to inform you the car has developed a fault and he cannot pick you up because he is busy. You decide to pick a taxi but the driver quotes an amount that you cannot come to terms with, you do not even have enough cash on you. Then you remember that you ever downloaded an app called UBER that can take you to your destination. So you pull your smart phone from your pocket, check the price from your location to your destination and it is moderate, and also check the distance of the car from where you are and they are more than necessary cars available. You do the obvious, book the car and pay through mobile money at your arrival. As you enjoy the ride to your destination, you pass through some streets that are restricted (taxis are not allowed on the street), then you smile and ask yourself what would have happened if you used the taxi. Yes, that is the beauty of technology! You can book a cab from the comfort of your room in a discomfortable situation, maybe when it is raining. The major towns of operation in Ghana are Accra and Kumasi.
Uber and taxify are transport services provided using private cars, they are registered on an app that is accessible to everyone. A passenger calls for a car with a smart phone using the uber app, the driver calls the passenger and follows the location to pick the passenger to her or his destination. Most of the cars that run as uber are usually 2018 Toyota Camry, 2018 Honda, 2018 Kia Matrix , Daewoo Matiz or Chevrolet Matiz; and is able to carry a maximum of 4 passengers. On average, uber is cheaper and convenient because one does not have to walk from their home to the roadside in search of a taxi or a vehicle to convey them to their destination. Again, you do not have to argue with drivers over price because the price is calculated as you moved. And then, even if you do not have cash on you, you pay through mobile money or with a Visa card (some debit or prepaid cards are however not compatible with uber). One outstanding feature
about uber is that you are able to pass streets that restricted for public means of transport like trotro (or Trosky) and taxi. There are a few women in the business too. I sometimes wonder if these drivers are aware they are rendering useful service to their clients or they are just interested in the money they will make from the clients. I have a few short stories to tell about my experience with uber…
I received an email from an organization in Accra to attend a job interview, having stayed and moved around Accra in the past few years, I know some parts of Accra a bit but I could not seem to identify the part of Dansoman the interview was going to take place. I booked
an uber and they took me to my destination for a cool fee. The weather was quite hot and the driver put on his air condition and played some cool reggae which helped me calm down as we drove towards my destination (I was actually nervous). He tried to engage me in a conversation but I was busy enjoying some girls-girls chit chats and gossips on WhatsApp. There was another instance when we had an exam one morning but it rained throughout the night to the next morning and uber was our saviour that day.
One day I boarded a taxi and the driver and I got into a conversation, he lamented
how sales were no longer good because of and how people no longer patronized the services of taxis especially for dropping. According to him, many taxis have become stations cars: they wait at one place, get passengers, drop them at a destination and wait for their turn to load again. Apart from some people who keep the contacts of taxi drivers and call them to drop their children off at school or drop them at the market or the office, they do not get many passengers who pick dropping like in the past. Interestingly, some of the taxi drivers have registered their cars with uber, so they double as taxi and uber. The challenge for these registered uber taxis is that they cannot drive in some areas or street because they have the taxi sign on them.
The über service however has some challenges, the major and biggest challenge is the mapping and location settings. Sometimes you book a car at a location and the driver receives a notification for another location very different from where you are. For example,
if you are at Kotei in Kumasi and book the service, the drive may receive the notification that you are at Kentinkrono, two different locations. If the one booking the car is new in the vicinity, it becomes difficult for her or him to give direction to the driver to pick them up to their location. Another challenge has to do with the network. When you arrive at the location and the driver tries to calculate the fare, the network jams up and the amount to pay doesn’t show, hence the driver may use his or her discretion to charge the passenger, which may be below or above the actual cost of the ride, whichever way, someone is going to run at a loss. Then again, some uber drivers will deliberately use longer routes especially when they know you are new in the area, they want you to pay more because the app will record higher fares once the trip is longer.
It is not common to hear stories of taxi drivers kidnapping passengers or robbing them when they pick them. Most people do not take note of the details of cars they board (registered number, colour, make, etc). It becomes easy for fraudsters to take advantage of their victims if these features are not observed. Uber saved a lot of people from such fraudsters. That is why it is rather unfortunate that recently there have reports of uber drivers robbing people in some countries such as Nigeria which is making the use of the service unreliable. Some people are taking advantage of the service to dupe innocent people.
Most über drivers have also become annoyingly chatty. Most uber drivers want their passengers to rate them so they try to
engage them in a conversation as they drive them to their destinations. Sometimes, you just realise that the driver is “forcing” to be nice but the nice is not going well. It can be frustrating when the driver brings up a conversation that is boring, some passengers try to be polite and so cope with the boredom till they get to their destination, some passengers are however able to register their displeasure to the drivers. Some drivers may even play music that is irritating, sometime we just bear. The reason most of them actually try to be nice is because they want customers to rate them five (5) stars and write nice compliments about them.
The über and taxify services are useful to a lot of people, I think that the challenges
outlined above should be looked at to make the service more convenient for the both drivers and users, until then, let us manage it like that. And please do not stop using taxis, we may not realise but we are kicking some people out their jobs to create jobs for some other people. CHEERS!!!
NB; apart from my personal photos, all photos are downloaded from google.