Abidjan has become the 16th African city to host Uber, marking the ride-hailing firm’s first foray into Francophone Africa.
After 12 months of talks with regulators, Uber said on Thursday that it had officially launched in the Ivorian capital, where it is hosting a series of training sessions to bring local drivers on board.
In a statement, the US firm said: “With a population of about 4.7 million, Abidjan is a well-known commercial business hub and top global tourist destination, and the city’s ambitious plans for development and economic expansion make it a perfect fit for Uber.”
Commenting on the firm’s entry into the Ivorian market, Alon Lits, general manager for Sub-Saharan Africa, said the move was underpinned by extensive demand.
“We are both optimistic about the opportunity in Abidjan and committed to enabling meaningful economic opportunities to all licensed taxi operators in the city. Specifically, in Abidjan, our data shows that over 50,000 people have already tried to use the Uber app in the city this past year. This means that for the thousands of taxi operators in Abidjan, there will be new clients for every single driver, in addition to the number they already have now,” he said.
Uber says its investment in African cities is based on a culture of collaboration with national and local authorities that allows it to create solutions tailored for the local population. But the US firm has come under regulatory pressure in many markets in which it operates, including the UK, where it lost its license to operate in London in late November following what regulators said were a pattern of safety failures.
The Ivorian opening follows several years of expansion on the continent, where it has broadened its offer beyond the sedan vehicles that dominate in mature markets. In East Africa, the firm offers UberBoda, a product allowing riders to hail motorcycle taxis, while UberPoa caters for the humble tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) market. The firm has also introduced cash payments in African markets to attract customers without cards.
Uber’s launch in Abidjan follows a pledge by Lits in October to venture deeper into the continent.
Since launching in Johannesburg in August 2013, the $75 billion platform says it has expanded to 16 sub-Saharan African cities, with some 2.7m active monthly riders and just over 59,000 drivers across the continent. Uber is now available in major African hubs including Cape Town, Nairobi and Lagos and has moved into secondary cities including Benin City, Nigeria, and Kumasi, Ghana.
The San Francisco-based tech giant, which floated in New York in May, has faced significant questions over its future profitability as it bears the costs of driver incentives and faces significant regulatory and competition challenges.