Nigerian drivers’ union may launch taxi-hailing app to rival Uber, Bolt and others

Ejike Kanife
The union believes an indigenous rival app will empower drivers to set prices and agree on a commission that benefits them.
Nigerian drivers' union may launch taxi-hailing app to rival Uber, Bolt and others

Nigerian e-hailing drivers union, the Amalgamated Union of App-based Transporters of Nigeria (AUATON) is considering plans to launch its taxi-hailing app if current app operators like Uber, Bolt and Indrive continue with their “unfriendly policies”. The union believes an indigenous rival app will empower drivers to set prices and agree on a commission that benefits them.

This was revealed by the union’s Chairman of Media Publicity and Technical Committee, Joseph Olawale in a chat with Technext.

He noted that the apps are just technology tools for cab operators who form the backbone of the taxi industry. As such, the technology companies who created the taxi-hailing apps were supposed to present them to the taxi operators and agree on the terms of use and other policy guidelines like pricing, commission, etc.

According to him, the cab-hailing companies instead designed the process to their benefit and dictated the terms of the industry even when they did not own the cars or the financial muscle to provide the volume of vehicles required to power the industry.

AUATON may launch taxi-hailing app to rival Uber, Bolt and others

The app companies have failed to understand that without an agreement between them and driver representatives (union), they can not determine fair prices, apply punishment measures fairly punishment and resolve conflicts. This is why there are agitations by platform operators worldwide“, he explained.

Comrade Joseph, as he is fondly called by fellow drivers, noted that unions are deliberating on having their ride-hailing apps:

Some unions have their apps already. For AUATON, this might be an option soon if the ride-hailing app companies continue to operate unfriendly policies against our members. The app will be a tool for the union members and it’s in order if the union decide to have its app.”

This comes in the wake of protests by drivers against the highhanded policies of taxi-hailing companies. Aggrieved drivers complained about poor pricing, high commissions, lack of security, arbitrary blocking as punishment, poor welfare arrangements for drivers, the inability of drivers to choose trips and pre-collected commissions.

10% ‘Stop blackmailing us with passengers’- striking e-hailing drivers slam Bolt and Uber

On many occasions, protesting drivers have called for an indigenous app that would solve many of these problems.

Comrade Joseph indicated that a formal proposal is not yet on the table at the moment.

Building an Indigenous taxi-hailing app

If the drivers union build their taxi-hailing app, it will not be the first indigenous e-hailing app to be developed in Nigeria.

EkoCab, LagRide and Nairaxi are existing locally developed Indigenous e-hailing apps. However, they have been unable to win a significant market share. Neither have they been able to break into the ranks or topple the leading trio of Uber, Bolt and InDrive.

This is largely because, unlike Uber and Bolt, they were not designed only to make a profit. One of their primary aims was to wrest the market for indigenous players and give power to drivers.

Lagos Government-backed ride-hailing service, "Lagos Ride" is set to hit the streets
Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwoolu testing one of the cabs during the launch of LagRide in 2022

If followed through, the app by AUATON will be entirely powered by the drivers. This means they will decide what the pricing model will be, the commission rates and where the drivers want to operate.

It will essentially be a taxi-hailing app for drivers and by drivers.

Of course, this is predicated on the idea that passengers will naturally choose apps where drivers put their cars. On the app, individual drivers will bargain with riders as service providers. Drivers are the ones rendering the services, not taxi-hailing companies or riders.

While the move is hailed by many drivers, some believe it might not necessarily solve the real issues that they face.

For instance, a driver, Ajibola believes that though the move may take business from the hands of the current operators, it will not necessarily address the multidimensional issues bedevilling the space:

Fuel subsidy: Uber and Bolt drivers union demand a 200% increase in fares after Bolt's 15% increase

There will still be the attendant high cost of living that wipes out all our profits. There is a recurring issue of lack of savings for vehicle maintenance due to the high cost of living. This also does not address concerns about patronage. If the drivers develop their app and set the fares above what is obtainable on other apps, then, it won’t necessarily affect other apps,” he said.

He prescribed that rather than just developing another app, drivers should press for a restart of regulation negotiations where the representatives of the drivers, chiefly the union, will collectively bargain for the interest of drivers.

For him, drivers should rather fight for the power to control the price calculator and be at liberty to set prices without undue influence from the app companies. He suggested that the government can serve as a regulator to protect consumers.

See also: e-Hailing task force members are not touts- AUATON clarifies the position of its enforcement body


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