The General Union of Transport Workers, with the support of the Transport Ministry released a statement in August suspending Uber inspired taxi apps in Sudan. The statement caused anger among Sudanese, with local columnists writing many op-eds on the matter. The decision has also been condemned by the State Minister of Communications and Information Technology.
Facebook users and activists initiated a hashtag against the decision and criticized the justification given by the Transportation Workers Union, namely that the app companies are working against the law by having no commitment to the government to pay taxes, making a lot of money at the expense of public transport and old taxis.
The Secretary General of the Union, Yosif Jamaa, said the companies were exploiting the law of emergency transportation (ET): “they are getting around the law, the ET law isn’t permanent and not to be used all the time, in addition to system flaws, technical issues, and other issues that have no special legislation to address them”, adding that they will keep pushing to stop the apps, and calling on the companies concerned to improve their standards.
Uber inspired transport companies have become popular in Sudan in the past few years; so far there are 13 operating. It all started with Mishwar, and then Tirhal, before Kareem and others emerged.
The business has influenced the lives of both customers and drivers, creating job opportunities for thousands of Sudanese, and offering accessible and affordable transport.
Mudather Abd Algader, an engineer who works with Tirhal on a part-time basis says the company have strict rules and regulations before approving a driver. All drivers must have an up-to-date driving license, valid vehicle license, insurance, and ET permit which protects their legal rights by registering the car as a taxi.
“After providing all the documents, the company does a comprehensive automatic check for the car. Then they make a file for the driver with all his information, the last step is attending a lecture to explain the app, the rules, and how to treat customers”, said Mudather, adding that he makes good money from his side-job, plus enjoys the flexibility of working hours. He said his work improved his awareness of the surroundings in the city, allowed him to meet new people and sometimes help people who couldn’t afford to reach their destination in urgent situations.
Sudanese social media users explained how important these apps are, with the cars in much better shape than old taxis and microbuses. The new taxis are fast and air-conditioned and offer safety and privacy.
Drivers praised the opportunities given to them to make extra money to survive economic hardship and make use of their spare time, especially those for whom it is their main job after being unemployed.
A committee was formed by the cabinet to handle the issue of the apps ban. The Minister of Transport said, “the General Union of Transportation Workers need to improve their conditions and enter the free market of smart apps as competitors, but they cannot suspend the apps as the ministry is responsible for them.”
Mr Eisa Jadeed, an editor at Aljareeda Newspaper said “as a person that uses technology, I see smart apps as the future, not only in Sudan but all over the world. The taxi apps makes life easier, save people time, and provide all means of safety and privacy as the companies have all the drivers’ data”.