How taxi drivers make good money while ride-hailing counterparts cry
Since the emergence of ride-hailing in Ghana, the narrative has been that online drivers have destroyed the taxi-driving business and are making a lot of money. But not many people know that the table has turned, and ride-hailing drivers are gnashing now while their taxi driver counterparts are making good money.
In April 2016, Uber launched its activities in Accra before other ride-hailing service providers such as Bolt and Yango joined subsequently.
Their operations and the perception that they had come in to destroy the taxi-driving business created enmity between taxi drivers and ride-hailing drivers. It was so bad that some taxi drivers who did not have a full understanding of the work of their counterparts did not allow them to even park their cars near taxi ranks, thinking they would compete with them over passengers.
However, years down the line, it is emerging that although taxi drivers are not making money as much as they did before the market got infiltrated by ride-hailing companies, they are doing better now than their ride-hailing counterparts.
In conversations with several ride-hailing drivers, they admitted that they have indeed destroyed the taxi-driving business to a large extent but it only paid off in the beginning when there was fierce competition among the ride-hailing companies and they treated their drivers well.
According to them, Bolt has a bigger share of the space now and other ride-hailing companies are struggling to survive, so it has become complacent and doesn’t prioritise the welfare of drivers.
“It is true that we have spoilt taxi drivers’ business. Can you imagine that I picked somebody from Gbawoe in Accra to Dodowa and the fare was just GHC54 but if it was a taxi, the driver might charge between GHC150 and GHC200. Now taxi drivers are making more money than us,” Emmanuel, a Bolt driver said.
There are currently several ride-hailing companies operating in Ghana aside from Bolt, Uber and Yango which are the more popular. However, just like MTN and the other telecommunication companies, Bolt has more ride-hailers (passengers) who patronise its services than the rest because they managed to win the hearts of Ghanaians.
It is worthy of note that the biggest asset of ride-hailing companies is the passengers who patronise their services. This means that although there are other options, unhappy drivers cannot ditch Bolt because it is currently the favourite choice of the majority of Ghanaians. Drivers must drive ride-hailers to make money, so they will be found wanting if they switch from Bolt to other companies which don’t have passengers.
“Bolt is now giving discounts to the passengers instead of the drivers, so it is difficult for the other ride-hailing companies to win them. The more passengers they have the more control they have over the market and the drivers,” Emmanuel added.
Uber used to be the market leader but lost its loyal passengers to Bolt which offered better discounts and implemented better business strategies. It is now struggling to recapture its lost glory by cutting down on the commission charged on its drivers from 25% to 20%, but do they have passengers for the drivers they are baiting with the discounts?
Bolt, on the other hand, places more premium on maintaining and winning more passengers than drivers because they know once they keep their passengers, drivers, despite all the complaints will go nowhere.
According to the ride-hailing drivers, Bolt’s commission payable by them is too high which is compounded by high fuel prices before they make sales to their car owners.
They explained that when they make GHC400 per day, Bolt takes GHC120, the car owner takes GHC70 and if fuel costs are deducted from the remainder, they are left with nothing to write home about.
Simon, another Bolt driver lamented: “For now, the taxi business is far better than the ride-hailing. If you work and get GHC400, Bolt takes GHC120, before you make sales to the car owner, and fuel prices too are high and keep increasing.”
Meanwhile, on the part of taxi drivers, they say it serves the ride-hailing drivers right because they rushed into a novel business without thinking about its future.
Unlike the ride-hailing drivers, whatever money a taxi driver makes after the day’s work, all he does is to pay his driver and take care of fuel costs and the remainder belongs to him.
Vincent, a young man who uses his Toyota Yaris 2021 private car as a taxi instead of ride-hailing said it was a business decision. According to him, he has realised that ride-hailing is worthless compared to taxi-driving.
He explained that he charges his passengers how much he deems fit for a particular distance, but ride-hailing apps decide on the fare for their drivers depending on the demand and sometimes, they lose big time.
“I just carried a passenger from Ashaiman to Nungua and before I came back I made GHC120 this early morning. You can just imagine how much I would make by the end of the day,” Vincent said.
It is instructive to note that taxi drivers in the rural areas where ride-hailing has not gotten to yet have not been affected in any way. Also, just like every business, taxi drivers have bad days too sometimes.