Uber’s cab hailing service has arrived in Mombasa, Kenya’s second-largest city. The service is launching with a bonus that’s likely to draw lots of users – the first six days are free.

Earlier this week, the service announced a launch in Abuja as it looks to scale up its operations in Africa.  

As we reported earlier, Uber’s move to Mombasa is partially driven by the city’s attractiveness as a tourist destination. Mombasa’s beaches and deep history and culture draw a lot of local and international visitors, and the service is looking to tap into this market with its low cost pricing model.

To celebrate the occasion, Uber identified two Mombasa celebrities, DJ Lenium and Miss Tourism Mombasa Tima Keilah, to be their ‘Rider Zeros’, the first passengers to use the service.

Users in Mombasa will get six days of free rides starting at 7am on 23 March until midnight on 28 March. The free trips are limited to 5 per rider, with the maximum fare for each ride set at 1500.

The free rides are only valid for trips that start and end in the Mombasa area – so don’t plan on taking one across the country…

In anticipation of the demand that the free trips could cause, Uber warns that car availability could be limited during the initial phase, and ETAs may be longer than usual.

The expansion comes in the light of recent reports of threats and attacks on Uber’s drivers in Nairobi. These attacks, attributed to established metered taxi operators, have been driven by the perception that Uber is operating an unfair business model that is eating into the traditional cabs’ margins.

There have also been reports of assaults on passengers by Uber drivers in Nairobi, with calls for the service to introduce an emergency number for passengers.

It should be interesting to see how the service fares in Mombasa, and whether the service will pick up after the free rides come to an end.

Eric Mugendi Author

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