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Uber marks 1bn trip milestone in Africa

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Global e-hailing firm Uber says it has created over 20 000 economic opportunities for its e-hailing drivers and couriers in SA since inception over nine years ago.

Providing an overview of its impact on the African continent, the California-headquartered digital economy firm says it is now available in over 40 cities across SA, serving more than 80% of the local urban population.

Over the years, the disruptive e-taxi company has created a public transport system in SA for a market that previously preferred to use their own cars or public transport.

The firm is now the world's largest taxi company, with a market cap of $42.31 billion – making Uber the world's 390th most valuable firm by market cap, according to a report by companiesmarketcap.com.

However, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi reportedly earlier this month told employees via e-mail that the global organisation will slash spending on marketing and incentives, and treat hiring as a “privilege”, citing a “seismic shift” in investor sentiment.

Since inception on the continent, Uber and Uber Eats have collectively reached over 30 million riders and eaters across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), it says.

This week, the company celebrated its one billionth trip milestone in Africa since entering the market. Over 10 billion kilometres of trips have been completed – equivalent to travelling to the moon and back over 5 500 times, it says.

“Since entering the market in 2013, we have created over three million economic opportunities in over 50 SSA cities that we are present in,” says Mpho Sebelebele, Uber South Africa head of communications.

“We pride ourselves in building locally, using global expertise. Each country’s needs are unique, so we take the time to understand each of the market needs so we can be responsive and adapt accordingly.”

However, Uber has faced winds of opposition in SA. It has had to contend with resistance from rival metered taxi operators, who have fought to push Uber partner drivers out of what they say is their territory.

Over the years, violence has erupted between taxi and Uber drivers across the country, with the South African Police Services having to be deployed in several hot spots across cities.

E-hailing drivers in SA have also been vocal about several issues of concern relating to the industry − namely low wages, safety issues and regulatory concerns, with some demanding to become formal employees.

In collaboration with attorneys from Mbuyisa Moleele Attorneys and Leigh Day (London), local Uber drivers have filed a lawsuit in the Johannesburg Labour Court, urging Uber SA to acknowledge its drivers are legally entitled to statutory employment.

Launched six years ago, Uber Eats has expanded the number of restaurants from 1 000 since launch, to over 7 500 merchants across 33 cities in South Africa.

“Business growth has taken off, largely driven by a steady increase in first-time eaters, but also by deliberate upscaling and diversification of the Uber Eats platform through the addition and expansion of grocery and convenience orders, which have grown by 68.5% between April 2021 and April 2022,” it notes.

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