Uber says committed to Egypt, announces $20 million investment

CAIRO (Reuters) - Uber is committed to Egypt despite challenges presented by sweeping economic reforms and record inflation, the company said on Tuesday as it announced $20 million of investment in its new support center in Cairo.

The Egyptian pound has lost half its value and fuel prices have jumped by up to 50 percent since the North African country floated the currency in November as part of reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a $12 billion loan aimed at reviving the economy.

“Those reforms don’t change in any way Uber’s commitment to Egypt. We’re here to stay and we’ll continue to invest to be able to serve citizens over here,” said the ride-hailing company’s Europe, Middle East and Africa chief Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty.

Egypt has been working on luring back foreign investors that fled after a 2011 uprising, including various economic reforms and a new investment law that offers incentives to businessmen.

“Those reforms did create a number of challenges, very clearly, and in particular for drivers ... the cost of driving a car and running a business has increased a lot,” Gore-Coty said.

Inflation has dipped over the past couple of months after reaching a record-high in July but was still above 30 percent in September.

Uber has had to make deals with local car dealerships to provide its drivers with affordable vehicles and adjust its ride prices to ensure its workers weren’t hit too hard by inflation, the regional chief said.

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The San Francisco-based company opened its new Cairo Centre of Excellence on Tuesday and said it will spend $20 million on the facility over the next five years to enhance Uber’s service throughout the region, Gore-Coty said.

Uber had 2 million users and gave jobs to 60,000 drivers in Egypt last year, he added.

The company is also in negotiations with the Egyptian government to launch a national bus service aimed at reducing the country’s traffic congestion.

(This story corrects figure to 60,000 drivers from 600,000 in 9th paragraph)

Reporting by Arwa Gaballa; Editing by David Goodman