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Letter - Formalise taxi industry to address joblessness

2022-11-25  Staff Reporter

Letter - Formalise taxi industry to address joblessness

Zelna Job

As a user of public transport, I often have the chance to engage with taxi drivers on the way to my destination. On one of my recent trips, I had the rare chance to hear a taxi driver speak candidly about his life as a driver in the public transport sector.

Most taxi drivers do not own the vehicles they drive. Many of the same drivers also do not own taxi permits. In fact, taxi drivers, who are both owners of the vehicle and permit, are in the minority.

Many of the vehicles in operation belong to other individuals and or businesses. Often, the owners of the vehicles and permits are employed in other sectors and have their ownership of these taxis and permits purely as a means of topping up an existing salary, a side hustle or as part of their entrepreneurial ambitions. When an individual takes up any form of employment, ultimately, they do it with the aim of arriving at some form of economic self-sufficiency, either through a living wage or through ownership of the product or service. For many taxi drivers, owning the vehicle they drive is a far-fetched dream. Oftentimes, they drive for years and are then replaced with a new driver. Some taxi drivers go into agreements with the owner of the taxi whereby the driver is given the opportunity to buy the vehicle by earning a certain target amount of money over a given period. Some of these targets are nearly impossible to achieve.

Taxi drivers say that it is almost impossible to obtain a taxi permit. The cost for application of a taxi permit is N$10.00 along with a motivation letter which is submitted, for approval, to the Transportation Board in the Ministry of Works and Transport. Drivers complain their applications are often rejected citing that the sector is saturated and cannot accommodate new permit holders. The holders of taxi permits are said to rent the permits to the taxi driver on a monthly basis for exorbitant amounts of money. Often these permit holders do not own any vehicles themselves.


The case for formalising the taxi industry as a solution to rampant unemployment:

Taxi drivers are jobseekers. Since their ownership in the sector is so small, they are merely onlookers. This is evident in the high turnover of drivers.

I believe that the taxi industry can play an important role in job creation for self-employed taxi drivers. Instead of the taxi industry being operated as a side hustle, why not open the industry only to taxi drivers and allow them to operate as drivers/owners?

Unofficial statistics by Namibia Transport and Taxi Union (NTTU) indicate that between the periods 2004 and 2021 approximately 58 000 taxi permits were issued countrywide by Roads Authority.

In a country where the majority of taxi drivers are job seekers, issuing taxi permits to the drivers can allow taxi drivers to become permanently established in the industry. This also means that 58 000 permits issued to 58 000 drivers can allow drivers to remain and grow as business owners. They can now directly enjoy the proceeds of their work on a long-term basis. They will therefore no longer be part of the official unemployment statistics.

When taxi drivers own the taxi sector, they could negotiate for services such as short-term insurance for their vehicles and themselves. They can potentially negotiate for a pension scheme, financing of housing, land and any other service they may wish to procure, since they will now be organized and have the critical mass. 

Under such circumstances, if a person wishes to enter the sector as a taxi driver, they will then be treated as any start-up entrepreneur. In a formalized sector financing of a vehicle is easier to obtain. Taxi related crimes would better be addressed as the taxi is registered to the driver who is also the owner. Traffic violations and tickets could then be better managed when the driver is the owner of the taxi.

Perhaps it is time to reconsider and reorganise the taxi industry.

2022-11-25  Staff Reporter

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