- Title: Uber-style app Careem goes off beaten track in Palestinian West Bank
- Date: 18th July 2017
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) RESIDENT OF RAMALLAH, DALIA HASAN, SAYING: "We saw that it is very good. (The driver) dropped us at exactly where we want, for a very cheap price, he saved us a lot, and I personally think that the idea and their system is very good."
- Embargoed: 1st August 2017 13:45
- Keywords: ride-hailing firm Careem Uber rival Middle East taxi taxi mobile app Ramallah taxi service
- Location: RAMALLAH, WEST BANK / AMMAN, JORDAN
- City: RAMALLAH, WEST BANK / AMMAN, JORDAN
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA0056Q8T8ID
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Careem, a Middle Eastern rival to Uber, has become the first ride-hailing firm to operate in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Dubai-based Careem, whose name is a play on the Arabic word for generous or noble, launched in Ramallah in June, aiming to bring digital simplicity to the Palestinian territory.
There is certainly a market for easier ride-hailing among the nearly 3 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.
But the fact the mobile network is still 2G, that electronic payments are not the norm and that Israeli checkpoints are common, make using the service somewhat cumbersome.
Yet Careem is optimistic about the potential.
"We saw that we have to develop the sector, we have to add the technology and the most important thing is to invest in Palestine. We also have to encourage the big companies in technology to invest in Palestine. After the investment, it is also an opportunity to create jobs," Kareem Zinaty, operations manager for the Levant region, said.
Careem, which launched in 2012 and now operates in 12 countries and more than 80 cities across the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, has said it aims to provide work for one million people across the region by 2018.
While a version of Uber and Israeli app Gett already operate in Israel, they do not venture into Palestinian territory.
Drivers are excited to work with Careem, which they hope will help boost their incomes, especially with unemployment in the West Bank running at nearly 20 percent.
"Most of the people who use it are in my age, I wouldn't say any older, or a little younger than me. They are happy with the service and happy with the price," said one of the more than 100 new drivers, known as "captains" by Careem.
Palestinians have limited self rule in parts of the West Bank, which they want for a future state alongside East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Israel captured those areas in the 1967 Middle East war. It withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but still occupies the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Under interim peace accords, Israel still controls 60 percent of the West Bank, where most of its settlements are located. Careem's drivers have Palestinian license plates, meaning they usually cannot enter Israeli-controlled areas.
In 2015, Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed to expand 3G mobile access to the West Bank by 2016, but have yet to implement the agreement.
In the meantime, the Ramallah municipality has set up public Wifi in parts of the city centre, allowing mobile apps like Careem to be used more easily.
Despite 2G's slower service, Zinaty said their model was an opportunity for telecommunication companies to look into expanding services and technologies to better serve Palestinian start ups and businesses.
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