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A month ago, we wrote that Uber, the world’s largest online taxi hailing platform, was finally making it’s way to Kenya. We spoke with a representative, who shared some insight and plans of the taxi app to take over Africa.

TC: So how is it going down there? Why is Nairobi interesting to Uber?

Uber: Things are going great. After much speculation we launched in Nairobi, Kenya on Jan 21, 2015.

Our goal is to offer the Uber platform everywhere, when we decide to launch in a city we first look at a number of factors. Smartphone penetration and network quality, supply of vehicles that will fit the Uber brand and the real opportunity to give passengers and drivers more choices. It made sense to launch in Nairobi given it’s population (3, 138 million+) and size (696.6 per square km). Further Kenyans are progressive and tech savvy and in particular, love products that are cool and offer a new experience, and Uber is doing just that.

Why did Uber skip Nairobi at first and head to Lagos and Cairo before going back? Too early? Other factors?

It made sense to launch in Lagos first because of it’s population (5,195million) and size (999.6 per square km), and then to move onto Cairo again because of its size. But we are thrilled to be in Nairobi and can’t wait for the many exciting opportunities ahead. The introduction of our service will revolutionise the way Kenyans go about their daily lives. Our mission for Nairobi is to provide the safest, most reliable rides at the touch of a button.

Is it true Uber’s got a $20 million budget for Nairobi?

We don’t disclose numbers, but what we can say is we are so excited about launching in Nairobi, bringing the people of Nairobi a service they will love.

What tiers of cabs roll out first?

To clarify, we don’t own cars or employ drivers. We partner with the existing supply of transport operators and our goal is the match demand with supply, which has been steadily growing. Riders can expect UberX vehicles that are Toyota Corolla’s, Fielder’s or equivalent.

Asides from the free rides with, any other upcoming local partnerships?

To kick of their launch, Uber Nairobi also teamed up with local restaurant discovery platform, EatOut, to offer complimentary rides during Nairobi Restaurant Week, which kicked off on 22 January 2015. New users who signed up for Uber with the promo NRW2015 got KES 2000 off their first two Uber rides.

At this stage we have only partnered with Nairobi Restaurant Week, specifically to kick off our launch into the city. We are already planning some awesome partnerships with local companies, going forwards you can expect some very cool partnerships and activations.

Any alternative to credit cards for Kenya? Will Uber Nairobi support Mpesa or right off the bat?

We are exploring the possibility of integrating the Mpesa service in our system, but we don’t have a ETA just yet on when this is likely to roll out.

Have you filled the local management positions?

We are still interviewing for those positions, those who think they have what it takes to be a part of our dynamic team, can visit here.

Chioma Nkemdilim Author

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