A different kind of Uber in Kenya - CNBC Africa

A different kind of Uber in Kenya

East Africa

by Tendai Dube 0

Transportation network company Uber allows passengers in Kenya to pay for their trips with cash. Photo: Flickr

Transportation network company Uber, now allows passengers in Kenya to pay for their trips with cash, the app which used to only deduct your money from your account now allows for a manual transaction of funds between the driver and the passenger.

In a continent where a lot of mistrust in the banking sector exists as well as some discomfort freely supplying credit card details, Kenya is the first African market and second country globally in which Uber users are offered the cash option.

“It is extremely safe, I do understand that there are some hesitations around that,” said Alon Lits, Uber general manager for sub-Saharan Africa.


He explains that the passenger can select the cash option for payment and pay the driver directly or through M-PESA, the mobile-phone based money transfer and micro-financing service.

Lits believes Uber has been such a success because it deviates from the traditional model of manually hailing a taxi.

“Uber was inspired by need; that traditional way of walking down a street, trying to hail a taxi is not convenient, it’s not efficient and our co-founders were in Paris and they thought there has to be a better way to do this – and this is exactly what they developed,” said Lits.

Lits says people in the transport business should use the application to maximise their reach and avoid simply relying on word-of-mouth or marketing budgets to promote their companies.

“Through a partnership with Uber, we help you grow your business scale your downtime and really maximise your earnings,” said Lits

“You can continue to operate the way that you were but now during your downtime you have the ability to get more clients around the city.”

Specifically in Nairobi where traffic is an issue, Lits thinks Uber is an opportunity “to change the city to reduce congestion”.

Uber driver have caused much controversy globally in its disruption of the public transport sector, but Lits explains the applications convenience.

“Using technology, Uber is a smartphone application, which connects riders to drivers at a touch of a button.”

You open the application on your smartphone and it shows you how many cars are around you in the area and how long it will take for the closest car to get to you. It was also built to be secure, once you book your trip, you can see your driver’s details.

“From a safety perspective it’s not getting into a random persons car – you know who that person is and you know what car they drive and you know their number plate details and you can share that information with friends and you can get a notification when that person arrives and at the end of the trip,” explains Lits.

Firstly Uber checks the vehicles and secondly a rating system is in place to rate your driver at the end of the trip, and a driver with a low rating will be asked to come in for retraining.

Something most Uber riders do not know is, that the driver rates the passenger too.

“If you get into the car and you’re rude to your driver, you make a mess – there are consequences for riders too.”


Uber in association with the Kenyan Association for the Deaf recently launched the deaf driver feature in Kenya; a feature which allows deaf or hard-of-hearing drivers to operate in Kenya.

“Drivers have the ability to earn really well, scale their businesses in a way that they couldn’t before and the demand on the rider side,” Lits added.

Once a driver chooses to turn on the special features by flipping a switch inside the app, a light will flash when a new trip is requested as well as the existing audible beep.

The app also alerts the passengers of the driver being deaf or hard-of-hearing however they will no longer be able to call the driver; so if they have any specifics, they will have to provide their instructions via text message.

“What we are really excited about is that job creation opportunity that Uber brings to the deaf community across Nairobi – just in general the job creation opportunity across the continent is a huge one,” said Lits.