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DiDi, Uber, expand across SA

Next week sees the arrival of DiDi’s ride-hailing service in Gauteng, in almost the same breath as Uber’s expansion to 21 smaller cities and towns.

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South Africa’s app-based ride-hailing market has moved into high gear with the news that the latest entrant, Chinese company DiDi, will launch in three cities in Gauteng next week. Following its recent debut in Gqeberha and Cape Town, it will initiate services in Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, and Pretoria on 23 August 2021. 

This comes as Uber announces its expansion into more than 21 smaller cities and towns across South Africa,  making it available in over 40 centres across the country, serving more than 80% of the urban population. The new Uber locations include Polokwane, Mbombela, Mthatha, Thohoyandou, Upington, Margate, Richards Bay, Welkom, Kimberley, Potchefstroom, Klerksdorp and the Garden Route, and mean that it is available in all nine provinces in South Africa.  

Riders in all these locations will be able to choose between Uber Go, which makes use of smaller, fuel-efficient hatchback vehicles, and UberX.

Both companies stressed that they are focused on keeping drivers working.

“Uber is committed to keeping riders moving and drivers earning and despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic in the last year, we are seeing signs of recovery as more consumers are riding with us again,” says Frans Hiemstra, general manager for Uber in Sub-Saharan Africa. “We’re bullish that we can deliver strong growth as we continue to unlock opportunities through the Uber platform and our entry into these new cities is testament to our investment in South Africa”. 

Carina Smith-Allin, DiDi’s head of PR and communications for Sub-Saharan Africa, said: “DiDi was launched in South Africa to offer a necessary, high-quality mobility resource to both riders and driver-partners. The platform promotes income opportunities for drivers, and in a country like ours, where unemployment rates and safety are major concerns, this is not only much-needed but highly valuable. DiDi offers the chance to start making great money independently with competitive service fees, localised support, and pioneering safety features.”

DiDi aligned itself closely with the Western Cape economy during its Cape Town launch, with provincial premier Alan Winde attending its media event there. He praised DiDi, saying: “In South Africa at large, we’re always focused on three fundamental factors, namely safety, job creation and dignity, and DiDi looks to contribute in all of those areas.

“I believe that one of the key areas the government needs to focus on is safe and reliable public transport for all. We want to grow our economy, attract investment opportunities, and create more jobs. And to do all this, we need proper and efficient mobility.”

Both providers this week emphasised the safety features of their services.

“DiDi prides itself on its innovative safety features to benefit users and driving partners, some of which are a first in South Africa,” said Smith-Allin. “Features include facial recognition for drivers, SOS buttons for riders and drivers linked to the local police, 24/7 support via a dedicated safety hotline, preview information for riders and drivers, and safety training for drivers, among others.”

Adaptable, smart geofencing allows drivers to opt-out of servicing unsafe areas, while the platform’s recording monitor checks for any unusual activity during trips, including a change in routes or accidents. There are also linked SOS buttons for riders and an option to unmatch with a driver or rider. Drivers also have complete control over which areas they service based on safety issues and rider availability.

Uber said it is committed to improving access to transportation for riders in smaller cities, focusing on affordability and safety. It has introduced a Safety Toolkit which includes access to an in-app emergency button that connects the driver or rider to third-party security or medical assistance, which it says is a first for the industry. Trusted Contacts allow riders to share their trip status with up to five selected contacts. 

* What DiDi calls “driver-partners” will be able to drive for DiDi from 23 August and earn up to R15000 in referral bonuses for referring riders to the platform

Drivers who are interested in signing up to the Uber platform in its new locations can visit https://www.uber.com/za/en/drive/requirements/ for more information.

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