Draft law regulating ride-hailing services referred to parliament
Hundreds of thousands of ride-hailing drivers fear losing livelihood, millions of users depended on services
The Egyptian cabinet referred a draft law—to regulate the operations of ride-hailing companies—to parliament on Wednesday. This comes in the wake of a verdict issued by Egypt’s Administrative Court on Tuesday to suspend the operations of Uber and Careem.
The draft law was approved by the cabinet in November 2017. It is intended to provide a legal framework for firms like Uber and Careem. At the time, Minister of Investment Sahar Nasr said the bill will be referred to the State Council for review, but no further action was taken until now.
The ban has raised deep concerns among the hundreds of thousands of drivers at both companies, along with the millions of users who have been looking to the services as a better alternative to other forms of transportation.
The verdict came after 42 taxi drivers sought, a year ago, to shut down the two companies’ operations in the country ,accusing them of“illegally operating” in Egypt. Alaa Mohamed, head of Cairo’s taxi association in Giza, told Daily News Egypt on Wednesday that taxi drivers resorted to the judiciary after the government ignored their demands to ban Careem and Uber’s services, saying, “the competition is unfair; their drivers enjoy advantages we don’t have, as they don’t have to pay license fees like we do.”
Mohamed added that the two firms have threatened their interests, adding, “now there are a lot of taxi drivers who are in jail because their work is decreasing, and they couldn’t afford to pay their installments. If the government wants them to continue operating, they have to assure applying equality between us, as they now operate illegally.” He insisted that they did not file their case to seek exposure, explaining,“we want our rights. It’s a vital issue.”
US-based Uber stated it respects “the ruling of the Egyptian judiciary and cannot comment in detail on ongoing legal proceedings,” adding that it will appeal the decision and continue to operate in Egypt, while Dubaibased Careem said in a statement that it has not officially been notified of the ban and that its operations in Egypt will continue as usual.
“I think the decision will not be applied,” said Amr Abdulkasem, founder of the Uber Egypt Club page on Facebook and one of the company’s drivers.Amr, 32 years old and a father of two, added that he works for Uber alongside his job with EgyptAir as a traffic officer.He started working with the ride-hailing company more than three years ago.
Uber sent, following the verdict, a message to all its drivers assuring them that it will appeal the decision, and that its services will continue as normal. Meanwhile, drivers expressed their deep concerns on Uber and Careem Egypt-related groups on Facebook, worried that the companies’ activities may cease inside Egypt, and fearing security restrictions on the streets.
Mahmoud Elmasry, who started working for Uber in 2016, said he is very concerned to operate in the streets after the court order. “I am afraid to accept a trip now, as my car might get confiscated by the police. Uber sent us a message to operate normally, but I don’t think it will save us if we get in trouble.”
Elmasry, 25, added that he has not paid his car installment s yet, saying ,“every Uber captain has to pay from EGP 2,000-3,000 in installments or other financial obligations.We are more than 150,000 drivers, married, fathers, and young people,who found in this firm an opportunity to make a living.We don’t know what will happen next.”
Uber said that it is a significant net contributor to the local economies where it operates and has enabled more than 150,000 economic opportunities in Egypt in 2017 alone, serving millions of users since its launch in 2014. It also said that it has been working alongside multiple government ministers over the last two years to form a new ride-hailing framework.
Uber has invested millions in the country and is looking to expand its services to more cities and in remote areas. It is also set to introduce public bus services inside Egypt. Meanwhile, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi met in September last year with the director of public policy planning and strategy, Justin Kintz, to discuss opportunities to expand the company’s investments in the country during the upcoming years.
The applications’ users, too, are concerned about what happens next. Rovane El-Tair, a translator, said she thinks what happened is “a conspiracy” against Uber and Careem from taxi drivers, adding that she “depends on the ride-hailing services as they’re more comfortable and safer than traditional taxi cars.” However, she noted that Uber should have taken strict procedures to end “theft and kidnapping” incidents that were reported by users, as well as perform background checks for its drivers.“We went to those firms seeking an alternative to the bad attitudes of taxi drivers who insist on taking higher fares.”
Rovane, 25, usually uses Uber,as she mostly moves around with her only child, saying, “I can share the data of the driver and the trip with my husband or mother.So it’s safer than other transport methods.”
Egypt’s Administrative Court on Tuesday suspended the licenses of ridehailing companies Careem and Uber
The court verdict came after 42 taxi drivers sought, a year ago, to shut down the two companies’ operations in the country