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Uber to Expand its Africa Operations

  • Associated Press

An Uber taxi driver sits in his car in Nairobi March 9, 2016.

An Uber taxi driver sits in his car in Nairobi March 9, 2016.

The ride-hailing company said Thursday that it plans to start operating in the capitals of Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania within a month.

Uber already operates in the cities of Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya, Lagos and Abuja in Nigeria and five cities in South Africa, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth.

Uber's South African operation will experiment with a cash payment option in addition to the electronic payment system in its app, said Alon Lits, the company's general manager in sub-Saharan Africa.

Some customers are more comfortable using cash partly because of concerns about the vulnerability of online payments to fraud, even though e-commerce is growing across Africa, he said.

"It's very different to the U.S., where you wouldn't think twice about making an online purchase,'' Lits said.

Additionally, the use of credit and other payment cards in some areas has yet to make big inroads and Uber business in Kenya surged after the introduction of a cash payment option there, he said.

Uber is also working to adapt to other local conditions in Africa. For example, digital mapping in the Ugandan capital of Kampala is relatively limited.

"We've tested pilots where, instead of street addresses, there are actually images of locations. So drivers can navigate aiming for the white gate and the green fence,'' Lits said.

In South Africa, Uber has initiated talks with taxi drivers who use meters and think they are losing income because of Uber and is inviting the drivers to benefit from the ride-hailing app as well.

Last week, taxi drivers threw stones at an Uber car in the affluent Sandton area of Johannesburg, according to South African media. Several people were injured, and some Uber vehicles were damaged, police and witnesses said.