Uber continued its unstoppable global expansion on Thursday with a debut in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. To mark the occasion, and generate buzz, the ride-sharing app is offering free rides through midnight on Sunday. Afterwards, Uber customers will be able to pay with cash or credit cards, and soon through mobile payments.
Uber operates in over 460 cities in about 60 countries, 6 of which are in Africa – Morocco, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, and now Uganda. (Rumor has it that Tanzania will be next.) Kampala is ripe for a transportation shakeup. Apart from heavy traffic and less-than-ideal vehicles, taxi passengers are often exploited for little changes in weather or routes.
According to Uber, the launch follows the app’s success in many other growing cities. “We are mindful of the city’s current traffic congestion, and we aim to be part of the solution in improving it, while creating new, fruitful opportunities for drivers. Ultimately, we hope to reduce the strain on the city’s roads, and minimise the environmental impact of traffic congestion that is part of a growing economy,” said Alon Lits, General Manager for Uber Sub-Saharan Africa. The firm also indicated that other African cities, including Dar es Salaam and Accra, will be next in the coming months.
The real question is how local taxi drivers in Kampala will react to Uber’s entrance into the market. While Nigeria has been a pretty smooth country for Uber, the same cannot be said for South Africa and Kenya. Local taxi drivers have gotten in physical fights with Uber drivers in South Africa, and Uber vehicles were set on fire in Kenya.
Uber’s expansion is also a vote of confidence in Uganda’s future, because it would have been easy for the firm just to stick to developed markets with high smartphone concentrations. We’ll see how wise an investment Kampala proves to be.