Johannesburg - Egypt’s capital Cairo has this year surpassed South Africa’s business hub Johannesburg as being internet ride-sharing service Uber’s biggest and busiest African city.
This is according to Uber’s head of operations for Europe, Middle East and Africa - Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty - who spoke to Fin24 on a visit to Johannesburg this week.
Gore-Coty told Fin24 that Cairo has overtaken Johannesburg in the last few months amid Uber's explosive growth in Egypt.
South Africa’s biggest city Johannesburg - which is home to over 4 million people according to Statistics South Africa data - was first to get the Uber service in Africa in 2013.
Johannesburg remains a key hub for Uber as the South African city ranks among Uber’s top five out of 115 cities in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, according to data given to Fin24 by Uber.
Meanwhile, Uber launched in Cairo in November 2014. After Lagos, Cairo is regarded as Africa’s second most populous city with more than 19 million inhabitants in its greater metropolitan area, according to World Bank data.
Demand for Uber in Cairo, subsequently, has surged. Cairo now has over 30 000 driver partners, according to recent statements from the company. Across Africa there are over 60 000 driver-partners, according to Uber.
"What has happened is that Cairo has grown at an incredible pace," Gore-Coty told Fin24.
"Egypt, right now, out of all the African countries we have is probably the fastest growing. There's about 2 000 drivers who are joining the Uber platform every month, which is definitely a lot.
"What we call the green-light hub, which is the support centre for drivers we have in Cairo, is one of the most visited in the world,” he said.
Cairo could also overtake London and Paris in terms of trip numbers in the next year or so, added Gore-Coty.
“It is literally exploding,” Gore-Coty said of demand for Uber in Cairo.
Overall, demand for Uber across Africa is growing strongly and the continent is “one of our fastest growing regions in the world”, said Gore-Coty.
Uber is currently available in 15 African cities across 8 countries.
In South Africa alone, Uber operates in Johannesburg, Tshwane, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Data released by Uber earlier this year revealed that the service has grown to have over 4 000 partner drivers across South Africa.
"It is a country where we see a very fast growth," said Gore-Coty of South Africa.
Uber’s most recent African launches took place in Tanzania, Ghana and Uganda.
"I think for me what I see is that Africa is probably one of the places... where the impact we have on people's lives and on cities is the most pronounced, in my opinion,” Gore-Coty told Fin24.
Factors that have buoyed demand for Uber in Africa include fast-growing cities that suffer with congested traffic, the job opportunities that the service offers and rising car-ownership levels, said Gore-Coty.
Uber’s rise in Africa, though, hasn’t been without its challenges.
In July this year, data provided to Fin24 by the City of Cape Town revealed that 302 Uber cars were impounded between January and June 2016 because drivers did not have metered taxi permits.
For the period January to November 2015, 255 Uber cars were impounded by Cape Town traffic police amid the absence of metered taxi permits. Uber has previously said it is committed to working with regulators to find a route to licensing in South Africa.
And earlier this year, Uber welcomed South Africa’s Cabinet approval of the National Land Transport Amendment Bill which regards Uber operators as metered taxi operators.
"It is something we have truly welcomed,” said Gore-Coty.