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 Daily News Egypt - - Front Page - By Fatma Lotfi

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

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