UBER branding saga: Why Ghana’s MoT and GPRTU got it wrong

BY: Mac-Jordan Degadjor
UBER branding saga:

Ridesharing service, Uber has allegedly been issued a one-month ultimatum by Ghana’s Ministry of Transport to brand vehicles operating for the Uber service just like the ordinary taxi cabs in Ghana.

This comes off after the Commercial Taxi Drivers Association of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union [GPRTU] petitioned the Ministry of Transport [MoT] to take action over what they described as a breach of Legislative Instrument (LI) 2180 regulation 130 by Uber operators in Ghana.

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According to the association, the Legislative Instrument demands that all taxi operators brand their vehicles in the accepted taxi colors and display a taxi sign on top of their vehicles. However, Uber drivers nonetheless use personal vehicles with no semblance to the regular taxis.

What (LI) 2180 Regulation 130 Entails

Legislative Instrument 2180, regulation 130 spells out the following laws which taxis operating in Ghana must abide by:

  1. The owner of a taxi shall;
    a. Paint the wings of the taxi in a shade of yellow to the extent required by the licensing authority.
    b. With the approval of the Licensing Authority, carry a Neon sign with a word “TAXI” clearly written at the front end of the roof of the car.
    c. Display at the right-hand side bottom corner of the front windshield, the Taxi Transport Association or taxi unions logo.
  2. a. A person driving a taxi shall not use the taxi to convey a passenger if the taxi:
    b. It is in a condition that makes it unsafe,
    c. Is not a suitable for conveying passengers, or
    d. Does not conform to the requirements of those Regulations.

 


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State of Taxi Service in Ghana

Taxi service has been a part of the socio-economic life of Ghanaians for decades. Their number one goal is to transport passengers to their destinations using the shortest possible routes.

Opel Kadett, Opel Astra, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, KIA Pride, and KIA Picanto are some of the car models that are converted into taxis in Ghana.
These cars are normally painted in two colors: Yellow and Blue, Red and Yellow, Silver and Yellow, White and Yellow and sometimes, Black and Yellow (see photo above).

The argument that, private vehicles operating for the Uber service should be branded just like the traditional taxi cabs in Ghana doesn’t make any sense.
Traditional taxis need that branding because otherwise, they will be difficult to spot and hail when one is standing by the roadside. With Uber, you “hail” them using an app, therefore the gaudy colors are of zero use.


Argument Against Uber in Ghana

Globally, the most common anti-Uber argument I’ve heard so far is the fact that they aren’t considered a taxi service and thus get to skirt the regulations local taxi companies need to adhere to as is the case with the Commercial Taxi Drivers Association. The association argued that Uber drivers in Ghana are exempt from the payment of the Vehicle Insurance Tax every quarter, therefore you should be made to commercialize their cars into taxis by spraying their four doors and changing their number plates to yellow.

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Below are some of the arguments being made against Uber:
1. Uber is signing up drivers who are using private vehicles for commercial or taxi services which are against the law.
2. As per the law of Ghana, one must use commercial driver’s license to drive a commercial vehicle.
3. It’s in our laws that, one has to be registered as a taxi to offer taxi services in Ghana.
4. Unlike car rental companies who own and rent their cars, Uber doesn’t own the cars the hailing app.

What Uber Brings to Ghana’s Transport System

Uber is currently doing to the traditional taxi cab services in countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa) where they operate, what Expedia/Kayak and Amazon did to travel agents and the vast majority of bookstores respectively. This process is called DISRUPTION.

With the introduction of Uber’s ridesharing service in Ghana, private car owners have turned their vehicles into public cabs which transport passengers/riders from point A to B through the use of a mobile application. Not having to wait for dirty, smelly, and non-air-conditioned taxi cabs and unprofessional drivers who most of the time are looking for ways to cheat you, Uber has provided Ghanaians a safe and comfortable means of moving from one location to another without worrying about their safety.
The long-standing monopoly taxi cabs in Ghana have been enjoying is being challenged by Uber’s disruptive business model.

1. Safety with Uber
Through the Uber app, the rider is able to tell the driver’s identity, photo, phone number, car type and registration number. This is one comforting feature Ghanaians should embrace over traditional taxi cabs which don’t offer any of these features.
Should a rider leave any of their belongings in an Uber operated car, they can be traced and the item returned (which hardly happens with local taxicabs).

2. Easy to Use Mobile App
Uber’s mobile application is very easy and stress-free use as it is available for all mobile platforms (Android, iOS, and Windows).
From signing up, to entering your details and hailing for a ride, you’ll find that Uber’s app saves you a lot of time and gives you much convenience. You don’t have to worry about making mistakes because you have to confirm everything that you type in, and you will be able to keep track of exactly what is going on with the driver that you requested a ride from.

3. Cheap and Fair Pricing
In Ghana, local taxi cabs charge by calculating the distance from your initial location to the final destination which is completely based on approximation.
Uber’s pricing is cheaper and fair compared to local taxi cabs whose fares are not regulated. Their prices get adjusted during surge periods when there is a greater demand for their services but that is beneficial to the drivers. According to Uber adjusted their fares.

According to @AbenaNyamekyeO on Twitter, “Uber adjusted their fares. Spilt an Uber estimate into two in some cases, and you may get a traditional cab for the same distance but in general, Uber’s prices are cheaper.”

Before Uber, Ghana had LetDrive, GoldenCab and other private taxi cab services. Is the uproar against Uber because it is cheaper and convenient to riders?
Partnership and Way Forward for Uber, MoT and GPRTU

At the moment, there isn’t real-time data readily available on traffic situation across Ghana. The Ministry of Transportation and Ghana Private Road Transport Union [GPRTU] should partner Uber for real-time data of Accra’s traffic situation. Uber’s technology enables the company to gather reams of data about the state of transportation and traffic in the more than 450 cities it serves worldwide.


By analyzing a lot of trips over time, Uber can reliably estimate how long it takes to get from one area to another and that should be a priority for the Ministry instead of requesting Uber operators to brand their vehicles like local taxi cabs.

Better data is needed for transportation planning. Real-time information that is accessible, secure and interoperable that can help the Ministry of Transportation, Ghana Highway Authority, and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly improve planning and traffic management. Also, Ghana Revenue Authority should come out and clear the air on whether Uber has or hasn’t been paying tax on the revenues earned by them and the drivers.

Author: Mac-Jordan Degadjor

He’s currently pursuing his Master of Arts degree in Communication and Technology at the University of Alberta, Canada.
Follow him on Twitter: @MacJordan