By Alex Roberts
Image: Courtesy of Reuters
The opinions are most definitely representative of the EA Scene and we apologize to no one.
Thanks Uber so much for blowing up my inbox with your meaningless platitudes and day late and dollar short narrative towards social equity programs aimed at helping people of color in the US. I’m not going to ask you if you want a medal because I’m sure that you’re printing one out for yourselves right now.
Good for you.
It isn’t that you’re among the dozens, hundreds, thousands of soulless PR drenched performative statements released to the masses like you’re ‘doing something’ (although considering your policies of contract working, sexism, union busting, price gouging during crises and lobbying against regulation, so….thanks?) yours was especially egregious considering that you long since took on a policy of jingoism.
So Black Lives Matter, great, but does the livelihood of your black drivers within the East African region?
‘But,’ you may ask, ‘whatever do you mean?’
Well, glad you asked.
As any taxi driver will tell you, Uber in East Africa has been a massive detriment to the industry, at a scale even beyond the industry damaged within other global markets. They’ve helped to take the taxi industry, a prominent working class industry, and systematically undercut it.
‘Don’t they do that everywhere though?’ Once again, glad you asked. Indeed Uber does, but within an East African market, let’s say, Nairobi, Kenya- they implemented much lower ‘localized fares’ without accounting for the prices of petrol often being double than that of Western markets.
For those of you playing for the home team, this means that Uber drivers in places like Nairobi took home a couple dollars a day. Put on top of this, reduced Uber services (such as Uber ‘Chap Chap’) that undercut Uber itself- and it sure looks like you ‘care’.
Well, in that vein, congratulations.
And once again, thank you sincerely for the meaningless platitudes you’ve sent me to pretend like you suddenly care, but it is too little too late in my view.
You, Uber, have long since undercut any real equity of drivers within the East African region and embraced well-phrased, slick policy slogans that have been directly involved in a continued practice of exploitation. Yours isn’t as much a company as it is a neocolonial structure, one that was deliberate and crafted to be such. The effort was intentional and didn’t ‘devolve’ from the germ of a good idea- you were always like this, or did you forget? You invited us alcohol-loving journos down to your launch party five years ago, trying to leverage and buy off influence through tables of imported European beers.
Since then no matter what you say, drivers in Kenya have not been pleased with you in the slightest (although it goes without question that you have well manicured press statements in polished leaf that would say otherwise). There have been protests, killings, livelihoods destroyed, and a thorough lack of driver vetting. Again you can say otherwise, but I’ll trust my colleague who once had to jump from the back of an Uber after the driver attempted to rape her.
Bet that one didn’t even get a press release, did it? Maybe a lawsuit? Maybe an attempt to muzzle criticism? No? Must have misunderstood all those firsthand accounts too.
So at the end of this little screed- your words go unappreciated. They are hollow, corporate tripe. Buyer beware, this ‘Black Lives Matter’ shift rings of jingoism.