Uber drivers stuck as company suspends operations

Friday April 3 2020

A special hire taxi in Kampala. Several special

A special hire taxi in Kampala. Several special hire taxi companies are struggling following the President's directive to suspend both public and private means of transport. File Photo 

By CHRISTINE KASEMIIRE

28-year-old Samuel Otim fends for his family through the money earned from using his car for Uber services.

Now, his wife, mother and two brothers are at risk of suffering the effects of his unemployment after the transport service company announced it had suspended operations for two weeks.

“As announced by President Yoweri Museveni on March 30, 2020, there will be a restriction of all movement within Uganda for a period of 14 days. Based on this directive, Uber will temporarily cease operations of UberX and UberBODA for the period of the lockdown, subject to any further government announcements,” an email issued to Uber customers on Wednesday reads in part.

The suspension took effect on March 31.

Ms Michelle Tsamba, who works for an agency representing Uber in sub Saharan Africa, confirmed the suspension in an email, saying the suspension would go on until when the lock down is lifted

According to Mr Otim, the suspension means they cannot work and as such are not generating any income.

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“The situation is now hard because we are not earning. We were earning daily and the ban came instantly,” he says.

On an ordinary day, Otim takes home Shs60,000 after driving around 15 trips.

He now says, there is no choice for him but to wait until the President lifts the ban which will see him earn some money for his livelihood.

“We are waiting for the 14 days to get done then we see if we can get back on the road, it will be okay. That’s the target now, wait for the days to get done and see what happens next,” he says with optimism.

The ban on private transport came days after the President had banned public transport.

According to the youthful driver, those few days were very busy for the car service.
However, the increased traffic also came with its challenges.

“It was busy, we were busy because it was the only option at the moment. But since it was too busy, sometimes the network has issues and you might have to cancel some trips because you cannot get to everyone,” he explains adding that the shortfalls led to earning of relatively the same amount of money as before the public transport ban.

Mr Otim is one of the many drivers employed by Uber, a commuter transport service with reach in Kampala and Greater Kampala areas.

Uber had not responded to Daily Monitor’s inquiries by press time.

President Museveni announced a restriction of motor vehicle movement with some exceptions on Monday night and invoked a curfew to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in Uganda, which currently has 44 positive cases.

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