Finding a lady in the driver’s seat is not unusual when you request a taxi. These women are setting themselves apart from stereotypical roles, showing that they are up to the task with hands-on opportunities to make a living.
It is a key form of employment, with many cab-hailing services competing in the same market. The industry employs tens of thousands of digital taxi drivers. Uber alone has over 5,000 drivers and over 360,000 active riders.
Other taxi-hailing apps in the country include Bolt, Little Cab, PTG Travellers, Havi, Wasili, Safeboda.
A Facebook page that addresses the issues of online cab drivers locally, All Online Cab Partners and Drivers Kenya, has over 40,000 members. Another, Uber, Taxify and Little Cabs Partners and Drivers Kenya, has over 80,000.
One lady braving the male-dominated field, Ann Kagunya, opened up about her experiences on KTN Home’s Her Standards, speaking about how she has grown and all that she has learnt after years in the business.
“I joined the Uber platform in 2007 January, and this is my sixth year. I got to know Uber through a friend who got into it about two months before. The issue he faced was navigating the city, and he kept telling me: ‘I think you should do this because you know the city so well,’” said Ann.
She said joining and the application process is straightforward, requiring a few documents for identification and vetting purposes.
“I put my papers in, it took about five weeks to get into the platform because you have to have your PSV badge, certified driving license, and certificate of good conduct,” she said.
When she took on the new, promising career as a digital cab driver, she at first did it casually, working for about two hours a day.
“But two hours became four hours, and four became six. The rest is history as we say. I am driving my car now, but when I started, I was leasing a car. Then I saved up enough to buy my own.”
Ann said the upgrade to driving her car for work has been a good one, as her income from the business is more with the reduction of leasing charges. She is also happy to have more flexibility now.
“Now, it is nice that I have the comfort of working when I want without pressure,” she said.
She described her work day as one that takes eight to 10 hours, varying depending on the day.
“My day starts at 7am and runs till 6pm or 7pm, with breaks in between. My morning begins by getting ready around 6am; after that, I will go online on the app and await my first rider of the day.”
“7am is rush hour so, of course, you will get a request immediately. I also live in a busy area. and so I will spend my day driving around the city,” she said.
A popular TikTok content creator who goes by the name Jenny Kairetu is also a female cab driver. She has garnered a sizeable following from narrating her experiences in the field.
She has 1.4 million likes on the platform and over 120,000 followers. Her clips vary from funny experiences to some frightening ones, and they paint a picture of an interesting job with no boring days.
“Nilifanya Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts and Film at Kenyatta University. I graduated in 2017, right after venturing into production and after that digital marketing. That is what I had been doing for the longest time, but I had a soft spot for driving,” said Jenny in an April interview.
“I was the family driver because all my family members would always request me to take them to various places. And that is how I realised I had a keen interest in driving.”
She said that she finds driving to be therapeutic, so taking on the role did not come as a surprise to her loved ones.
“Employment in Kenya is tricky. One time uko na job, the next hauna. So naturally, I embraced the opportunity that gave me the freedom of self-employment and income security,” said Jenny.
She added that a thrilling part of the career for her is the fact that it is male-dominated, and she sees it as a challenge she can conquer.
“It all started when I saw a female cab driver on TV. She is called Farida Khamisi. I was immediately inspired and I sent her a message on Facebook. After that, she held my hand and showed me how to navigate the industry.”
A big part of the job is freedom, and Ann said. “Some people drive throughout the night, others throughout the day. I do it throughout the day because I feel that that’s safer for me,” said Ann.
“It gets less busy from around 9am to 11am so I will take a break for about an hour at that time. I will also take a lunch break at 3pm for about an hour and that is when I will go offline. Then I will log back online for the rest of the afternoon,” she says, adding that she sometimes takes breaks to run errands and attend to personal business.
On matters safety, Ann stresses that every aspiring female cab driver should listen to their instincts and remain keen on their surroundings.
She said that she has been privileged to have smooth experiences most of the time, and not having been exposed to danger while working. But she looks back at a few scenarios that made her feel uneasy.
“There have been three separate moments when I have felt that something is not right, or I am stressed up after driving someone for a while. At that time, I have told that person that I have to attend to an emergency, and I quickly drop them. In such an instance I will not even ask them to pay.”
The driver said that if she feels threatened, or as though she is headed to an unfamiliar area a bit too far away for her daytime timelines, she will end the trip. “When my guts tell me do not do this I try and listen.”
Ann encourages female drivers to get into the business, praising the work environment as typically friendly.
“ I have two children, a 17-year-old and a 14-year-old. When I started, they were both in primary school and I would drop them off at school before starting work. I try to spend as much time with them as possible,” she said.
Both Ann and Jenny love the job and encourage other women to take it up, noting that it is easy to do and gets better with time and experience. They, however, warn drivers to “always consider everyone a suspect”, having both experienced uncomfortable scenarios with seemingly respectable, even elderly passengers.