On May 7, Egypt’s parliament approved a law regulating ridesharing companies Uber and Careem and permitting both to operate in the country. The law requires the two companies to obtain renewable licenses; directs drivers to pay annual fees to the government; mandates that vehicles clearly display the name of the car service provider; orders the companies to pay taxes and insurance to the government; and allows the government to determine the conditions of vehicles. It will also require companies to retain user data for 180 days and share the information with authorities if requested.
The new law is a response to a suit filed by forty-two taxi drivers in January 2018. In their suit, the tax drivers argued that those working for the two companies were illegally using private cars as taxis and were not subject to the same taxes and regulations as traditional, metered car services. In early February, taxi drivers in Cairo also held a protest, calling on authorities to shut down the two companies because of their adverse impact on their business and livelihoods.
The taxi drivers’ concerns are not unfounded. In cities around the world, Uber and other car-sharing services have come under fire from traditional taxi services, governments, and other critics. In large metropolises, such as New York City, ridership amongst traditional car services is down. Cairo’s taxi drivers already struggle to make a living with low wages and high fuel prices. Poor reviews from customers are also adding to tax drivers’ troubles in Egypt. Complaints include sexual harassment, price-gouging, drivers smoking in cars, discrimination against customers, and generally unsafe driving practices. By providing alternatives that are arguably more reliable and transparent, Uber and Careem will continue to attract more customers, and Egypt’s taxi drivers will find themselves in an increasingly difficult situation.
Still, there is some hope Egypt’s metered taxis will be able to survive some of the damage caused by Uber and Careem. Apps like WhatsApp Taxi provide much of the same user and driver advantages as ride-sharing apps, like customer satisfaction and safety, but with a focus on metered cars. Mohamed Abdel Moteleb, the founder of the app and a former taxi driver, hopes the service will attract consumers and government investment into Egypt’s metered taxis. Indeed, if the government does not invest in services that help improve the country’s taxi sector, the industry could be at risk of collapse soon.