DiDi SA ramps up expansion plans after Gauteng launch

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 08 Sept 2021

Chinese multinational ride-hailing service DiDi Chuxing is preparing its nationwide expansion in SA, after recently launching in Gauteng.

On 23 August, DiDi launched in three cities in Gauteng: Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Pretoria. The Gauteng expansion comes after the Uber and Bolt competitor, backed by Softbank, set up offices in Cape Town and Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) earlier this year.

DiDi operates in five continents across the globe. The South African expansion marks the e-hailing company’s first presence in Africa and the 17th active country globally.

During a media briefing yesterday, Carina Smith-Allin, DiDi head of public relations and communications for Sub-Saharan Africa, noted that in addition to job-creation, safer and more reliable transport is needed in SA to grow the economy and attract investment opportunities.

She added the company is now focusing on analysing the needs and preferences of riders in other parts of the country, as it looks to establish more operations in SA.

“I would love to share all the details… but we are busy with our expansion plans for SA and for the rest of Africa.

“Our approach as a newbie in SA is to launch where there is a big customer demand. This is because it makes business sense and it also makes sense for drivers and for riders. So you will see us in the high-demand areas soon,” explained Smith-Allin.

On Sunday, DiDi made its Middle East debut, launching in Egypt, she added.

The entry of the company in Egypt is expected to increase competition in the market, following the recent launch of Russian-owned e-hailing firm InDriver in the country, which takes on Bolt and Uber.

DiDi SA offers three services on the platform: DiDi Go, the low-cost alternative for price-sensitive riders; DiDi Express, the standard service for those seeking a balance between price and comfort; and DiDi XL, for those who need more space, with a capacity of up to seven seats.

DiDi Express is charged at a base fare of R15 and a distance rate of R10 per kilometre. The service will compete with Uber’s normal price, which starts from R7.50/km, and Bolt’s normal price, which starts from R6.00/km.

DiDi Go prices range according to the province.

While the company promises more competitive prices than what is available in the local market, it says its safety features outweigh its pricing model.

Smith-Allin continued: “DiDi prides itself on its innovative safety features to benefit users and driving partners, some of which are a first in South Africa.

“We are bringing a global experience and the best technology to ensure safety for our passengers and drivers. Our innovative features include facial recognition for drivers, SOS buttons for riders and drivers linked to the local police, 24/7 support via a dedicated safety hotline, preview information for riders and drivers, and safety training for drivers, among others.”

The user on-boarding process includes a rigorous verification process, which syncs the user profile on the app with their social media profile, she added.

Bertina Tshabalala, manager of DiDi SA driver centres, noted DiDi has set aside a R150 million COVID-19 relief fund for its drivers across the globe.

“Drivers interact with a lot of passengers on a daily basis and we have set aside R150 million to provide our drivers with PPEs and sanitisers to ensure they are protected.

“Furthermore, if a driver tests positive for COVID-19, this means they will be able to take time off work to quarantine and recuperate without having to worry about not receiving an income, as DiDi provides them up to two weeks’ worth of their wages while they are off sick.”

DiDi SA has also committed R1.5 million worth of free trips to help get South Africans to and from vaccination sites in Gauteng, Cape Town and Gqeberha, she noted.