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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Careem launches ride-hailing services in Baghdad

Company is well aware of challenges but says it is determined to help restore economy and provide local jobs

DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , DEC 19  – 2017 :- One of the employee showing the Careem taxi app at the Careem’s office at Dubai Media City in Dubai.  (Pawan Singh / The National) Story by Caline
DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , DEC 19 – 2017 :- One of the employee showing the Careem taxi app at the Careem’s office at Dubai Media City in Dubai. (Pawan Singh / The National) Story by Caline

Careem on Monday launched its services in Baghdad, even as questions remain over security conditions in the Iraqi capital.

The ride-sharing company, whose investors include Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and German car-maker Daimler, said it plans to expand into more cities across Iraq in the near future, without giving further details.

“Through our presence on the ground, we hope to contribute to the rebuilding of Iraq to its former status as one of the leading nations in the Middle East," said Mudassir Sheikha, the co-founder and chief executive of Careem. "Iraq is a country with rich heritage and strategic importance for the region."

But the launch coincided with a double suicide bombing in Tayaran Square in the city centre, a stark reminder of the threat from ISIL to businesses and civilians in the city, even though the pace of such attacks has slowed since the government declared last month it had retaken all territory from the group.

“Iraqi forces have done a good job in recent months of recapturing lands held by Islamic State throughout the country,” said Joel Gulhane, a Middle East analyst at The Risk Advisory Group in London.

“But Monday’s bombing shows the threat from [ISIL] is still present regardless of whether or not they hold territory in the country and that civilians are still targeted.”

“Despite government efforts, Baghdad does continue to be a highly insecure environment for businesses to operate in. The frequency of suicide and car bombings fell in 2017 to less than four a month on average, compared with more than five a month in 2016. Smaller bombings also continue to occur almost every other day, contributing to the uncertain security environment in the capital.”

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Mr Sheikha said the company was fully aware of the security and other challenges that faced it in the country.

"We are determined to overcome local challenges so that we can simplify mobility for Iraqis and create income-generating opportunities for them and their families," he said.

Careem now operates in over 90 cities across more than 13 countries in the wider Middle East region. The firm has more than 15 million users and 500,000 drivers or "captains."

The company, founded in 2012, is one of the most prominent start-ups in the Middle East, becoming the region's first tech unicorn in late-2016 after a US$350 million funding round led by Japan's Rakuten and Saudi Telecom valued the company at $1 billion.

Careem in August agreed a partnership deal with Didi Chuxing, China's largest ride-hailing firm, including an undisclosed investment component.

The company is looking to deepen its penetration in key markets including Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey in 2018, and is considering entering new markets including East African countries such as Kenya and Uganda.