Of taxicabs, Uber, Taxify, and all that…

Thursday December 6 2018


For starters, a taxi or taxicab is a motor vehicle licensed to transport passengers in return for payment of a fare that’s usually determined by the distance traveled. A typical taxi is fitted with a taximeter which automatically records the distance travelled, and the fare.

Historians tell us that it was on a date like today’s 121 years ago – on December 6, 1897 – that London became the world’s first city to host licensed taxicabs!

Before that, horse-drawn hackney carriages for-hire began operating in both Paris (France) and London (England) in the early 17th century Christian Era (CE). The first documented public hackney coach service for hire was in London, 1605. Beginning in the mid-1830s, the clumsy, four-wheel, multi-horse hackney was gradually replaced in London by the two-wheeled Hansom cab. This was lighter, more agile, pulled by a single horse: an advantage in ‘Hackney & Hansom traffic-congested London in those days.

The hansoms were cheaper to hire, faster – and posed a major threat to the larger, clumsier hackney carriages.

I’m tempted here to compare the ‘Hansom-cabs-vis-à-vis-the hackney carriages’ with the ‘BodaBoda-vis-à-vis-taxicabs’ in Dar es Salaam today… But, NO! Let’s get on with our chosen topic for the day: the taxicab business… A little more than a century ago (when London formally started to ‘host licensed taxicabs’ post-the Hackneys and the Hansoms), the taxicab business is in turmoil again. This is ‘compliments’ of rapid technological advances – namely ‘taxi booking apps.’

Founded in March 2009, the Francisco (California)-based Uber Technologies Inc. is “a peer-to-peer ridesharing, taxi cab, food delivery, bicycle-sharing, and transportation network company.”


We are told “Uber opened the floodgates of a much-dead taxi industry with a taxi-booking mobile app. With drastic shift in consumer needs that value convenience, ‘taxi app’ development is the perfect solution to avail smartphone users with a comprehensive cab-booking app. It almost feels as if users have access to taxis on their fingertips…”

Operating in over 785 metropolises worldwide – including in Dar, Tanzania, since June 2016 – Uber employs over 12,000 workers, and had assets worth $15.3bn in 2017.

Uber isn’t alone in the business! Others are, for example: Taxify; Lyft; Kabee; Hailo; Flywheel; Ola; GrabTaxi (formerly ‘MyTeksi’ of Malaysia); ShuddleTaxi, and the biggest of them all: Didi Chuxing Taxi, operating in 400 Chinese metropolises!

In coming to Tanzania a little more than two years ago, Uber waxed lyrical… “We’re proud to launch Uber in Tanzania at such an exciting point in its growing (?) economy. As Dar es Salaam infrastructure rapidly urbanizes, so will the demand grow for affordable, easy and flexible transport.

We have set the standard for connecting people to world-class offering of affordable and reliable rides at the touch of a button. “Our services complement existing transport options, and we can work together to reduce traffic congestion and the environmental impact of transport in the city.”

Then ‘enters’ the fly in the ointment…

“Local taxi drivers have expressed alarmed concern on the competition Uber poses. Uber fares are considerably cheaper than those of local taxi operators who are said to exploit passengers...’ [April 4, 2017, /www.uberkit.net/blog/all-about-uber-in-tanzania/>]

Talk of the taxicab business being in turmoil -- and this is only the beginning… Tears!