Uber and Little Cab's battle to control the streets of Nairobi

The arrival of Uber and Little Cab may bring cheaper and more reliable transport by taxi but is unlikely to solve Nairobi’s congestion. Credit: theguardian.com/Tom Cockrem/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Uber is in the middle of a bruising battle for dominance in east Africa’s largest economy: Kenya. The ride-hailing company started operating in the cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Thika last year.

It has already outlasted the online cab operator Easy Taxi, which opted out of the Kenyan market in May this year following a decision by one of its backers, Goldman Sachs, to direct all its investments towards the more profitable Uber.

However, Uber now has a new domestic rival: Safaricom. It’s one of Kenya’s largest companies, 40% owned by Vodafone, with $380m (£265m) profits in 2015. Its own taxi-hailing brand Little Cab, developed in partnership with Kenyan software company Craft Silicon, launched in July with a pricing system significantly cheaper than Uber.

In response, Uber slashed its taxi fare prices by 35% in August. For the drivers, Little Cab currently takes a 15% commission off the taxi fare, while Uber takes 25% commission.

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