Uber is set to launch a bus service in Egypt, the most populous Arab country with over 90 million inhabitants and notoriously heavy traffic.
The national bus service will look beyond Cairo to include other major governorates. Uber currently operates in the capital, which the second most populous African city at over 21 million people, as well as Alexandria and Mansoura. Cairo is one of Uber’s fastest growing markets with more than 30,000 drivers in 2016.
Other ride sharing apps such as Careem have also expanded significantly, to the consternation of local taxi drivers, investing in the new startup SWVL that offers modern air-conditioned buses along fixed routes. Uber is hoping to take on Careem by capitalizing on Egypt’s substandard public transport options.
Last month, a train crash killed 37 people and there are regular bus crashes on routes that need urgent repair. Egypt is among the deadliest countries for commuters with over 14,500 crashes in 2015 alone.
Uber’s service would cater to a market of 5.2 million daily commuters on public transport, many of them furious at the doubling of ticket prices to 2 Egyptian pounds (0.11 USD) for the reliable metro system in Cairo.
The ticket prices for the bus service haven’t been fixed yet as discussions continue with authorities, according to an Uber spokesperson. The company is lobbying the government for “progressive regulations that will account for technology in the transport space.”
Ride hailing apps are currently unregulated in Egypt. Uber met with president el-Sisi and his intelligence chief Mohammed Fawzi on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York. The app-based transport companies are pushing for a draft law that strikes a balance between taxi drivers unhappy with the apps’ growing influence while also not deterring foreign investors.
The investment minister said Uber’s commitment would likely come with significant investment in Egypt within three months.
Earlier this year, the New York Times reported that Egypt’s security services met with Uber and Careem executives to request personal details of passengers raising fears of more intense surveillance on Egyptians. Uber was reported to have pushed back against the request but declined to comment further on the matter.