Casablanca, Morocco: As their smartphone screens lit up with ride requests last month, Uber drivers in the Moroccan city of Casablanca must have thought that business was booming.
Instead, they found themselves surrounded by irate local taxi drivers, who forced them from their vehicles and handed them over to the police, the latest in a string of protests in the kingdom against the controversial travel app.
“After the tramway, illegal drivers and now Uber, they are trying to kill us off,” said Abdelouahed, who works for a small local taxi firm. Uber launched in Morocco’s economic hub in 2015 but was banned by local authorities after just one month.
It has recently found itself the target of increasingly brash protests organised by owners of Casablanca’s famous tomato red cabs. “When you open Uber on your phone, you see drivers swarming around you like a virus,” said Nordine, a fifty-something driver sat on the hood of his taxi.
“And like a virus, you need radical solutions. Trap them.” In one protest last month, dozens of taxi drivers posed as would-be passengers, flooding the app with requests before forcing the Uber drivers from their vehicles, much to the bemusement of onlookers.
The management of taxis in Morocco normally falls to local government. The transport ministry has so far kept quiet as to why Uber continues to operate in the streets of Casablanca.
Local media said recently that as many as 30 separate protests against app drivers had been held, ranging from threats, car chases and even ambushes.