International ride-hailing company Uber will invest $20 million in the next five years in the Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Cairo’s Fifth Settlement, Uber Vice President and Head of Operations EMEA Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty said at the centre’s inauguration Tuesday.
Serving customers in 16 countries, the CoE is the largest in the EMEA (Europe, the Middle Ease and Africa) region, and the second largest in the world, after the one in India.
The investments will be spent on hiring teams, training them and expanding the centre’s facilities.
From a current 400 employees, Uber targets bringing this number to 700 by year-end, and 1,000 by 2020.
“The CoE reflects the welcoming atmosphere for US companies and shows the potential of economic partnership between the two countries,” Thomas Goldberger, the US Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires, said at the inauguration.
Uber’s expansion plans also include launching its services in more cities as well as expanding to remote parts of cities where it already operates, Gore-Coty told Ahram Online.
The ride-hailing service currently operates in Cairo, Alexandria, and Mansoura, in addition to the North Coast during the summer.
Uber mass transportation
Uber has not yet determined which service it will launch for mass transportation, pending the drafting of the legislation that governs ride-hailing apps in Egypt.
Investment and International Cooperation Minister Sahar Nasr, who inaugurated the Centre of Excellence, urged Uber to launch mass transit and encouraged faster expansion in more governorates.
The minister had announced in September that Uber will be launching public bus services, but the company has not yet decided which mass service it will implement.
Uber is currently in talks with the different ministries on how to expand and which model to implement in order to tap the mass transportation market, Abdellatif Waked Uber Egypt's general manager, told the press on Tuesday.
Nasr said that the government is working with Uber to create a “supportive legislative framework” to foster a competitive atmosphere that aims at offering the best service at the best price.
“Our first priority is essentially to make sure that we can get to a regulatory framework that makes all of those innovations possible, such as [this] mass transit product,” Gore-Coty told Ahram Online, speaking of the public bus service, and saying Uber is very much interested in it.
Gore-Coty mentioned UberPOOL as a successful product in other cities, adding that it is too early to specify which service will be implemented in Egypt.
“The conversation with the ministries in the context of this law is going very well, and we are extremely humbled and happy to have the opportunity to participate in this very important step for the regulation that governs mobility in Egypt,” Gore-Coty told Ahram Online.
Uber wants to make sure no legislation will force it to compromise on data privacy of users, Gore-Coty told Ahram Online, adding that this is one of two areas the company is “actively discussing” with the government.
Another main focus is to make sure to remove barriers to entry, including financial and administrative constraints, in order to make it easier for people to become drivers.
For instance, Uber believes drivers should be able to rent a car for a number of hours and share it with other drivers, while making sure there is an appropriate level of safety for riders and drivers, according to Gore-Coty.
Uber is also working on launching soon a chat feature between drivers and customers so they do not have to give their phone numbers to increase the safety level, Gore-Coty announced.
Separately, food-ordering feature UberEATS could also launch in Egypt.
Gore-Coty said the service is very popular and growing fast in cities where it exists.
“I think the natural, next step for us would probably be to bring the service to more cities in Africa, and I’m sure that Egypt will be considered as we get into this launch roadmap,” Gore-Coty told Ahram Online.