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Transportation company Uber may soon be expanding its services to Senegal’s capital.
Uber works much like a common taxi, except drivers and riders find each other through a smartphone app.
But Dakar is a city full of taxis and drivers who do not have smartphones. So Uber will have some difficulty being useful to its residents and making a profit.
Dakar, like most African capitals, has a lot of taxis. In most parts of the city, any time day or night, it is easy to find a ride. But the city is quickly growing. And Uber says it has seen an opportunity to move in.
Francesca Uriri is Uber’s head of communications in West Africa. She told VOA that any progressive city that has a need for safe, dependable transportation “is where we want to be.”
“We are part of a broader mobility movement in establishing smart cities of the future and will continue to explore what our options are in West Africa.”
No fixed addresses
Among other issues Uber will face in Dakar is a lack of exact addresses. Taxi drivers know the city very well and usually find places based on landmarks. So a big question for some residents is how Uber taxis could work in a city that rarely uses map apps.
Sa Ngoné, a Dakar resident, has used Uber’s services while traveling in the United States. He said Uber might work well in Dakar but will need a lot of investment.
“When you are coming to my house, I will not be able to tell you exactly where my house is located on the map…I will have to tell you a building or somewhere, a school somewhere I can pick you [up] from.”
Unlike Ngoné, most Dakar residents do not know about Uber. But similar services, including Allo Taxi, already exist in the city. Allo Taxi is a service you call to set up rides.
However, some say the services already in Dakar are not fully developed, and Uber’s arrival would be a welcome addition.
“I think if this company came in, it would create competition and add something new to the landscape of transportation in Dakar. I think it could work really well,” Dakar resident M. Dieye told VOA.
But for most taxi rides in Dakar, riders and drivers must negotiate prices before getting in. Both think they would be happier if the prices were fixed based on distance and time.
Modou N’Diaye is a taxi driver in Dakar. He told VOA that if Uber brings jobs, “that could help us out a lot.”
Gora Séne has been driving a taxi since 1998. He said often price negotiations lead to him getting paid less than he should. And sometimes conflicts with riders end with him not being paid at all.
Séne says he thinks Uber could do well in Dakar if the company works with local drivers who know the city well.
But whether the drivers will be able to join Uber or compete with them is still an unknown.
Uber has expanded to 23 cities in Africa, including Abuja, Lagos and Accra in West Africa.
I’m Alice Bryant.
Esha Serai reported this story for VOA News. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
app – n. a program on a mobile phone that performs a special function
resident – n. someone who lives in a particular place
opportunity – n. an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done
option – n. the opportunity or ability to choose something or to choose between two or more things
address – n. the words and numbers that are used to describe the location of a home or building
landmark – n. an object or structure on land that is easy to see and recognize
landscape – n. a particular area of activity