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Opinions of Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Columnist: Ithel Edzi-Babanawo

Uber taking over Accra?

Four years ago, before my romance with Uber, I took a cab to church, while getting down I inadvertently left my phone in the car; as soon I got into the church building, I sadly noticed I did not have my Motorola Droid on me.

I used someone's phone to call my line but to no avail; no one picked the call, later that night the phone was switched off and that was the last time I heard of my Droid!

Two years ago on my way from church home, a cab driver conveniently stopped at a very unsecured place and sat down as I wrestled for my bag with someone in the dark area of Awudome Cemetery in Accra. There have been more unfortunate experiences I've had to endure in the hands of cab drivers in Accra; not to mention how I caught a driver trying to pick my bag as I tried to shut my eyes for few seconds just because I was tired and attempted a power nap.

I started developing a phobia for cabbies in general based on these misfortunes, I naturally developed the habit of sitting down and hold on tightly to my handbag like as though my very life depended on it. I dreaded starting a price bargaining war about a cab ride, it was traumatic at times for me...

Then, one day, a colleague of mine told me about an app which could be downloaded from the Google Play store (am still using a droid but the app is also available for you iPhone lovers too) that could eliminate the hassle of looking for cabs and enable me to get competitive pricing.

Curiosity got the best of me!

Oh, boy am I glad I did get curious because that led me to download UBER unto my phone.

The moment I took my first Uber ride it was love at first sight, or should I say love at first ride. For someone with not very good stories to tell about my wild experiences with cab rides in Ghana, you can imagine how relieved I was to successfully complete a ride via Uber and walk away with an ease on my conscience.

My first Uber encounter: the car was neat, the A/C was blowing full swing; no foul smell from anywhere in the car, the driver was well-kempt (yes I did pay attention) and the price quoted on the drop off was affordable to my purse and fair to my mind.

Uber is basically an app based-on-demand-service that provides transportation from one location to another. The company is rapidly gaining grounds in the African market. Countries like South Africa and most recently Nigeria are experiencing the perks of having Uber operating within them. Uber was launched on June 8th, 2016 in Accra, Ghana with the promise of free rides between Thursday, June 9 and Sunday, June 12, 2016.

There were few technical glitches and few still do exist but I bet you that Uber has taken transportation services to a whole new level for us in Accra. Oh, and I am cured of my taxi-phobia which normally peaked at nights in pre-Uber Ghana.

But let me talk more about Uber: they have a range of cars that suit every need and purpose. You get young and old courteous men or women drivers that put in the extra effort to make your trip to whatever destination an enjoyable, memorable one yes safe experience.

Am not saying Uber is perfect, oh well, OK am saying Uber is perfect for me!

Uber has its perks, like promotions that give you free trips and the possibility to complain and get compensated when something goes wrong during your trip. Now you can say there is a voice for the riders in Accra! No outrageous charges and scandalous attitudes from those unscrupulous drivers that used to monopolize our transport system.

My son left our standing-fan in an Uber car one day. We alerted the system managers and we were patched through to the driver in a jiffy who in turn returned our property in a space of an hour or so after we taught we had lost it. An acquaintance left her purse and phone after a wild night in town; all were returned to her intact.

There have been agitations from the private owners association of cabbie drivers who feel aggrieved for obvious reasons. They are complaining Uber is taking their bread away. They have even gone ahead to say that Uber drivers do not pay taxes (but they do, as a matter of fact) and they are being cheated by the latter.

In my personal opinion, I think these aggrieved drivers are finding it hard to adapt to this revolutionary change and thing called Uber. Some cabbie drivers and their customers actually abhor the competition.

The few times I get to take a taxi when Uber has a system glitch I always advise the cabbie driver after their usual rantings: “if you can’t beat them, join them”. I heard good reviews from drivers who are working for Uber; how they get a nice chunk of revenue even after Uber takes their 25%; how there is always trips to be dispatched at all times of the day and night and all that juicy stuff.

But do not get me wrong now, there are some cabbie drivers that are honest and good out there. I encourage them to continue in their individual efforts to revamp their businesses and create healthy competition. I have been called Madam Uber because I am seeing using the services of Uber a lot, well it works well for me and for most of the people I know that use it.

It's not perfect, but it has so far held its own pretty well I must say.

To those unaware out there, you do not need to be rich to ride Uber as they have prices fit for every pocket and every destination. And I know Uber has its own technical glitches that could make you pull some few hair strands off of your head, considering the recent unfortunate occurrence that involved the stealing of credit card info by hackers from Uber.

Yet the mere fact that there is a transport company that gives impeccable service, great and affordable prices with courteous customer service is just awesome, and I'm all for it. And to those who are grumbling about Uber, well step up your game, who knows, maybe you can out-Uber them, else if you can’t beat them, join them!