Ride-sharing companies Uber and Careem said they would continue to offer services in Egypt, pending appeals against a court ruling ordering them to halt operations in the most populous Arab nation.
The case was filed by local taxi drivers who accused San Francisco-based Uber and United Arab Emirates-based Careem of violating Egyptian traffic laws by using private vehicles for commercial purposes. It follows legal challenges Uber has faced in countries around the world. Its licence was revoked last year in London. In December, the European Union’s top court ruled Uber must be regulated as a transportation service.
Uber is “fully committed to working with the entire sector - including taxis - to improve mobility in Egypt together,” Abdellatif Waked, the company’s general manager in Egypt, said in emailed comments. “We will appeal this decision, and continue to be available in Egypt in the meantime.” Careem, in a statement on its Facebook page, also said it would continue its operations.
The two ride-hailing companies have been expanding their services in the nation of more than 96 million, where public transport can barely keep pace with demand and streets are choked with traffic. Careem recently launched a scooter service and also has arrangements with some white taxis. Uber operates three-wheeled tuk-tuks in at least one Red Sea resort area.
The feud with Cairo’s ubiquitous white taxis dates back to shortly after the two companies launched operations in Egypt in 2014. Until then, commuters either used public transport or Cairo’s often-dilapidated and dusty taxis, whose drivers routinely refuse to switch on their meters, leading to frequent disputes over fares.
Taxi drivers complain that the government has not adjusted meter prices enough to cover higher fuel prices as it slashes energy subsidies. Taxi drivers also say they shoulder licensing costs not borne by Uber or Careem drivers.
“A lot of people rely on Uber and Careem for jobs,” said Mostafa, an Uber driver who declined to give his last name. “I know people who quit their jobs and bought cars just so that they can work with Uber because they can make more money that way.”
Drivers with Uber and Careem say they are harassed both by taxi drivers and by police - echoing concerns elsewhere in the region. In Turkey, Uber drivers have been attacked by taxi drivers. Uber’s Waked said the company has been working with the government to draw up a ride-sharing legal framework.
“If they stop operations, you can expect people to default on car loans. It’ll be a mess,” said Mostafa.
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.