Uber-style app ‘Careem’ goes off beaten track in Palestinian West Bank

RAMALA, West Bank (Reuters) – Careem, a Middle East rival to Uber, became the first company to operate early in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Careem, based in Dubai, whose name is a game of the Arabic word for generous or noble, was launched in Ramallah in June to bring digital simplicity in Palestinian territory.

There is certainly a market that facilitates greetings among the nearly 3 million Palestinians living in the West Bank, but the fact that the 2G mobile phone network is, electronic payments are not the norm and that Israeli checkpoints are common, Make use of a service that saves space. But careem is optimistic about the potential.

“We intend to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in the next year in the (Palestinian) sector,” said Kareem Zinaty, chief operating officer of the Levant. “After the investment, it is also an opportunity to create jobs.”

Careem, which launched in 2012 and operates in 12 countries and more than 80 cities across the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, said it aims to employ one million people in the region by 2018.

Although a version of Uber [UBER.UL] and an Israeli implementation Gett that already operate in Israel, they do not penetrate into Palestinian territory. Drivers are happy to work with careem, which they believe will help increase incomes, especially with unemployment in the West Bank at almost 20 percent.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said one of the more than 100 new drivers, known as the “captains” of careem. “Most people who use it are young and happy with the price.”

Palestinians have limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank they want for a future state, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Israel captured the areas in the 1967 war in the Middle East. He retired from Gaza in 2005, but still occupies the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Under interim peace accords, Israel still controls 60% of the West Bank, where most of its settlements are located. Drivers have Palestinian plaques, which means that they can not usually enter Israeli-controlled areas.

In 2015, Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed to extend 3G mobile access to the West Bank in 2016, but the agreement has not yet been implemented. Meanwhile, the Ramallah Municipality has established a public Wi-Fi connection in parts of the city center, allowing applications such as careem to be used more easily.

Despite the slower 2G service, Zinaty said its model was an opportunity for telecom companies seeking broader services and technologies to better serve new Palestinian businesses and businesses.

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