Can Casablanca ban Uber?

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Doit-on s'attendre à une grève des taxis marocains ?
Should we expect a taxi drivers strike soon? (Image via Ahmed Bousserhane)

In a press release sent this morning, Uber says they’d like to “discuss with the different authorities to continue working in the right legal setting.”

Uber’s statement came less than 24 hours after Casablanca authorities issued a press release stating that “Uber Maroc’s activities in Casablanca are illegal” and that its activities are “not authorized, and expose people working there, as well as the drivers involved with the company to sanctions.”

The American startup learned of this development through the media.

Still, Casablanca’s action doesn’t come as surprise. Uber has a tendency to anger authorities seemingly wherever they operate, and many have questioned the legality of the service in Morocco.

Uber’s general manager in Morocco, Meryem Beqziz, told Wamda, when they launched in Casablanca two weeks ago, that the service is “completely in line with the legislation and [they] don’t foresee any sticking points,” noting that Uber is working with tourism transportation companies.

Others disagree.

“Repeating that you're abiding by the rules doesn't change the reality," said blogger Marie-Aude Koiransky in O Maroc. According to Koiransky, Uber works with tourist transportation companies but caters to young locals with local credit cards - not tourists - and doesn't respect the rules imposed on this type of transportation.

UberX let users order private professional drivers in 4x4-type cars for an immediate trip.

For now, Casablanca authorities, which have waited two weeks to take a position, don’t seem to have taken any steps to enforce the law. They simply said that “the authorities of the region of Casablanca will take the necessary measures to put a hold on any activities that might break the laws in the transportation sector.”

Uber does not plan to cease its activities and is, as usual, touting the benefits its service brings to the city of Casablanca, namely more safety for both drivers and users. As some might say: don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness.

“We’re changing a market that has been pretty calm until now and are committed to bringing technological solutions that are adapted to the needs of the citizens to the transportation sector,” Beqziz said in a press release.

She also stated she wanted to “work with the regulators to adapt the regulation to new technologies,” meaning smartphones.

Yassir Elismaili, who manages Uber’s main competitor, Careem, says he has “followed all procedures beforehand, both by studying all the rules, which we respect 100 percent, and by meeting with the different stakeholders, namely the representatives of the taxi and the touristic transpiration organizations.”

He adds: “We’ve noticed a real willingness [from the stakeholders] to modernize the sector and promote new urban mobility uses, even if this means evolving the current rules. It’s also our understanding that the wilaya wants to support a progressive approach, building on consensus.”

iTaxi, an indirect competitor of Uber, is not concerned as they work with taxis.

But will Casablanca really ban Uber?

For now, only a handful of authorities in the world have banned Uber. They include the cities of Geneva, Frankfurt, the U.S. states of Nevada and Oregon, Thailand and, parts of India. In most cases, Uber and the authorities are negotiating a modified version of the service. All is not lost for Uber Maroc.

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