On Monday morning, Kenyans on social media woke up to some very interesting news: that officials of the Kenya Airports Authority, the body in charge of Kenya’s air transport facilities, were colluding with other taxi drivers to harass Uber drivers at the country’s main airport, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.
The update, posted on Facebook, by a Debbie D’Costa, went viral with many online commentators lashing out at KAA for the way it was inconveniencing customers who preferred to use the ride-hailing app to be picked up and dropped off at the airport.
Others were quick to point out that Uber drivers have always had it rough in most airports in the world where local taxi associations have an upper hand when it comes to airport transfers. Taxis operating at the airport, East Africa’s main transit hub, are usually accredited by KAA and allocated parking space. However, many were not having this second line of argument and that prompted a response from KAA in the form of a press statement which was subsequently posted to Facebook.
In the statement, Kenya Airports Authority notes that it “is in discussions with other non-airport registered taxi service providers to establish a commercial arrangement that is similar to the existing arrangement with the registered providers to officially allocate them space to wait and pick up their customers at our airports.”
However, it is another part of its statement that seems to have stirred quite some anger on social media: “We however encourage our customers and airport users to use the officially registered Airport Taxis (Yellow Airport Taxis) that can be found at various designated waiting and pick-up points within the airport.”
Many were quick to note that the reason people were resorting to ride-hailing apps like Uber was because of the transparency involved and the affordable pricing.
KAA is expected to provide an update on how its discussions with new taxi operators at the airport went in due course but it is not lost on anyone the disruption that ride-hailing apps have caused in the market.
Nairobi is currently served by at least half a dozen reliable ride-hailing apps/services. There is Uber which has been around for two years now, Safaricom-backed Little Ride, Taxify, Mondo Ride, Pewin Cabs, a local taxi company that has its own app, among others.