Don’t Fight Innovation, Embrace It

Nov 21 , 2018
By Hanna Haile

Hanna Haile ( is an Ethiopian writer and social worker. She is one of the organizers of Poetic Saturdays at Fendika Cultural Centre in Addis Abeba and at Terara Bar & Kitchen in Hawassa, where a stage is open to those who celebrate art through performances on the first and second Saturday of each month.

It is rare to find people doing something that makes them happy as well as being a source of income. Young professionals are underpaid and overworked. Everyone is simply getting by without fully enjoying themselves. Not every work task is meant to be enjoyed, yet the type of work culture that exists has been more exploitative than rewarding.

Recently when I visited Addis Abeba, I used the Ride taxi app as my service of choice when in need of transportation. Given the congestion in the city and the few trustworthy drivers out there, some of which cannot read maps and confuse left with right, Ride has been a fresh breath of air with a business model of continuous self-improvement that allows it to thrive.

Thus, when I heard that the Addis Abeba Transport Authority recently restricted Ride from working with code-3 vehicles, on top of accusing it of carrying out the mandate of the Authority by directing public transportation systems, I was nonplussed.

The Authority’s stance is a crucial example of how change is responded to in our country. Our institutions are quick to reject change even when they are visibly positive. Ride alleviates Addis Abeba’s transportation problem; the fact that the Transport Authority has shut down a portion of its services shows that they are far removed from the residents’ daily annoyance with the transportation system.

Ride has offered people safe and affordable services, and for those drivers of code-3 vehicles, it had offered a flexible source of income. My experience with the drivers is that they are content with a space for learning and gradual improvement this app has provided.

The app company has created a working environment that rewards those who work longer hours and shows how much people want to be invested in. They want to be shown direction as they crave improvement in their daily life. Their future is not in pleasing a boss, or punching in and out of work, but rather in the effort they put into their work.

I was excited two years ago when the new meter taxis were introduced to alleviate the transportation issues facing our capital. The authorities informed us that there was a tariff for the fare.

Unfortunately, I am yet to be transported in a yellow taxi where my fares would be calculated according to the tariff the authorities had provided. Every one of the drivers inform me that the meter calculator is broken, but after a few chit-chats, they reveal how unfair the tariffs are and that they merely choose to ignore them.

The city’s Transport Authority is doing a terrible job of monitoring fares, alleviating congestion and improving access to public transportation.

On what grounds then does it resolve to choke the services of a business with a novel way of addressing commuters’ woes?

The idea that taxi-hailing apps such as Ride are being punished when the city’s transportation problems are created by the Transport Authority and traditional taxi service providers is saddening.

The Authority should have instead improved its regulations, allowed code-3 taxis to operate for public transportation, and even commissioned a taxi-hailing service provider to find ways to make the transport system more flexible and reliable. The yellow taxis will benefit from this over time and public transport would be more accessible and cheaper than now.

With many content drivers and customers, and a system that has proven itself to work, it is dismaying to see the authorities take measures without a justification of how it would improve the lives of the many. It is decisions such as this that make entrepreneurs and innovators hesitant about investing their time and money into ideas that can transform our nation.



PUBLISHED ON Nov 21,2018 [ VOL 19 , NO 969]

Hanna Haile is the founder of Zellan Creative & Cultural Center. She can be reached at (

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