Locked In, logged out: Pandemic and ride-hailing in South Africa and Kenya

Mohammad Amir Anwar, Elly Otieno, Malte Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This article examines the impact of the pandemic on ride-hailing drivers and their mitigation strategies during lockdown in Africa. Ride-hailing has emerged as one of the latest paid-work opportunities for the continent’s many unemployed. Yet, ride-hailing companies like Uber and Bolt misclassify drivers to avoid regulation and responsibilities towards workers’ welfare. Drawing on 34 in-depth interviews with ride-hailing drivers, driver representatives, and trade unions in South Africa and Kenya, this article makes two arguments. First, the gig economy in Africa provides work opportunities for the unemployed on the continent and simultaneously vitiates the working conditions through the commodification and informalisation of work. Second, the state-directed emergency measures act as a veneer to capital’s efforts to commodify labour and the gig economy platforms have emerged as primary tools for it. Our account points to an urgent need for better regulatory systems to hold platform companies accountable and collective bargaining mechanism in the gig economy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-478
Number of pages22
JournalThe Journal of Modern African Studies
Issue number4
Early online date14 Nov 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Nov 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • ride-hailing
  • COVID 19 pandemic
  • Uber
  • platforms
  • Africa
  • gig economy
  • informality


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