Uber’s biggest rival from Middle East, Careem made an announcement that it has started a service in Sudan, one of few international companies to enter the country since U.S. economic sanctions were lifted last year. Careem will compete against several local ride-hailing apps, such as Tirhal, but not Uber Technologies itself, which does not operate in the country.
In January 2017, the United States lifted economic and trade sanctions on Sudan due to cooperation with the Sudanese government in fighting terrorism, reducing conflict, and denying safe haven to South Sudanese rebels and improving humanitarian access to people in need. Sudan had been struggling with economic crisis as a foreign currency shortage and an increasingly expensive black market for dollars weakened its ability to import and made commodity prices soar. International banks remain cautious about doing business with Sudan which remains on the United States list of state sponsors of terrorism – alongside Iran, Syria, and North Korea – despite the U.S. lifting economic sanctions.
According to Mudassir Sheikha, co-founder of Careem: “There are countries we’re not present in such as Algeria, Oman, but there are even more cities in existing countries that we need to expand to and make our service available”. Indicating the aggressive strategy to grow Careem’s market share in new markets, Mudassir added “We continue to see opportunity in new markets and in new businesses that require investment, which is what pushes the profitability level out of it”.
Careem, which said its services were now available in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, has hired 10 Sudanese employees and signed up hundreds of drivers to its app to launch operations. The company expects to have as many as 30 employees in Sudan and be present in at least one other city in Sudan by the end of the year.