GREETINGS, it is my hope that you have all woken up in one piece. The year is slowing winding down and many of us have our fingers and toes tightly crossed that we see the New Year. For most columnists, December is the month that they look back and highlight the things that grabbed people’s attention.
I would have loved to do the same but there have been just too many things to account. So instead I will pick just one aspect that wowed me in 2016 and from the little research I did, wowed a string of other people as well.
When I came to India in July, one of the things that grabbed my soul was the introduction of Uber, the ride share service. I have to admit that it took a while before I grasped the whole concept and at first I thought it was just like any other taxi service but after it was literally drilled into me, I got it.
One thing that was clear right from the start was the fact that the service is of very high quality and the drivers appeared to be very well trained and credibly friendly and some what exposed.
This is pun intended here, many Indians that I have met and chatted with didn’t know that Africa was a continent and so when I say that I am from Tanzania, the next question is, is that in South Africa? The Uber drivers somehow always had an inkling where Tanzania is or would ask which part of the continent the country is in.
The icing of the cake for many users of this service is the fair pricing system. While I have always enjoyed the services of traditional taxi services, nothing drives me up the wall like being charged because of our appearance and not the actual distance to your distinction.
Those who are regular readers of this page know that in my 40 odd years on this planet, I have travelled and lived in a number of African countries namely Rwanda, Zambia, Uganda and Kenya. I have many memories of these places but none like in Uganda and this is largely because I was older then. I especially enjoyed the sneaking out at night to the various nightclubs. We lived in one of the poshest areas of Kampala, a place called Kololo and it also happened to be a very hilly place.
Our house was three storeys high and so in order to sneak out without being noticed, we had to throw down our clothes, deodorant and perfume in a bag and later dress from downstairs. Most times, the adventure was successful in that we managed to sneak out and not get found out and other times not.
I remember these times now because whenever we leave the clubs and say that we are going to Kololo, the ridiculous charges that come up always bring bile to my mouth. I am told Uber is also in Tanzania, it is very reassuring.
Personally I think the introduction of this service should be seen as a blessing to the taxi driver community. I picked a number of things, for starters difficult as it may be hard to believe, there are taxi drivers near the Askari Monument for a decade and during this time, they have refused to hop onto the smartphone bandwagon, hopefully the many advantages of this service will change their perspective.
Uber drivers all over the world have testified that their lives have been made better ten folds because of the service and so there is every reason to join these companies. If there is one thing that I have been saying this year is that technology brings opportunities, the onus of striking the iron when it is hot, remains with you.