UBER to Expand Operations in African Countries

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Global ride-hailing company Uber Technologies is in talks with regulators over plans to expand into two West African countries and provide a boat service in Nigerian megacity Lagos, a company executive said on Thursday.

In much of sub-Saharan Africa there are low levels of personal car ownership, rapidly expanding populations and a lack of efficient mass transport systems in fast-growing cities.

Uber, which said it has 36,000 active drivers in sub-Saharan Africa, operates in a number of countries in East Africa and South Africa but is largely absent from West Africa aside from Nigeria and Ghana. Uber has identified West Africa as a region for potential expansion, Chief Business Officer Brooks Entwistle said. He said the company was in talks with regulators in Ivory Coast and Senegal regarding the possible launch of services.

“We are having discussions in Senegal and Dakar, you know and very logical, and again, back to by original point, big cities with great opportunities and so Abidjan and Dakar are logical opportunities for us,” said Entwistle.

A number of motorcycle ride-hailing firms have also targeted West Africa as an area for expansion in the last few months. Ivory Coast and Senegal have two of the world’s fastest growing economies, according to the International Monetary Fund. And Nigeria, which has Africa’s largest economy, is the continent’s most populous nation.

The Uber executive, who described Lagos as “one of the great growth opportunity cities in the world”, said the company has also held discussions with a Lagos bus firm and regulators. “We are looking at of course the waterways here which are very interesting to us as it relates to you know potential service that may include the great geography that you have here, yesterday we inspected a bus company…Lagos bus company, to think about what we could do with buses. But in general we work inside, with whatever frame works the regulators and the government provides,” said Entwistle.

The company launched a boat service in the Indian city of Mumbai in the last few months. He said the talks were in line with a global push by the company to develop products that can work alongside public transit systems. Entwistle said the combination of population growth and congestion made Nigeria, and other cities in the region, attractive.

The United Nations predicts that Nigeria’s population will more than double to 400 million by 2050, which would make it the third most populous country in the world after China and India. Uber faces stiff competition in African cities from Estonian ride-hailing firm Bolt, which until early 2019 was called Taxify. Bolt has grabbed business largely by taking a smaller cut from drivers using its app.

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