Uber is keen on developing mobile money integration into its taxi hailing app as it prepares to roll out in more African countries.
The San Francisco-based company, which is now live in 45 cities across six continents, officially launched its Cape Town operations today after six weeks of its “testing phase”.
Cape Town is Uber’s second live city in Africa, following Johannesburg, which went live last month, and speaking to HumanIPO today Jambu Palaniappan, the company’s head of Europe, Middle East and Africa, confirmed it was looking at alternative payment solutions.
“We recognise that we need to expand what we do to become relevant when the time is right,” Palaniappan said. “Imagine a world where you can use M-Pesa to pay for your Uber.”
Palaniappan said he did not expect integrating mobile money into their current payment setup to be easy or quick to achieve.
Currently, when users sign up to use Uber they must enter their credit card details and each journey is billed straight to that card. There is no cash function and to date the payment system has remained the same across its global markets.
Regarding when Uber can be expected to expand outside of South Africa to the rest of the continent, Palaniappan said they had not put a time scale on it, but agreed Nairobi and Lagos were the obvious next steps.
“I think you will see us in those major cities soon,” said Palaniappan. “I don’t have a great sense of timing on these things though.”
In Cape Town, Uber is currently charging customers ZAR9 (US$0.90) per kilometre, ZAR1 below the average cab price in the city.
Patrick Studener, one of Uber’s international launchers currently overseeing the operation in Cape Town, told HumanIPO however that price should be expected to go up once they have evaluated their trip data from their first six weeks of testing.
Studener said: “We come into every city with very aggressive pricing and want it to work well for both the drivers and the customers. We have already had some users telling us the service is too cheap.”