The Uber Files
I spent an interesting 45 minutes recently in an Uber. The driver told me in some detail of the deals with the local municipalities that has kept Uber afloat and its immediate rivals, like Bolt, still struggling. It reminded me that when I asked Uber to join the EFSA a few years ago they said NO. Uber has now been around for 10 years – they entered Johannesburg in August 2013 – one of its earliest forays outside the US. At the time it encountered a Wild West scene with taxi-cab drivers pursuing Uber drivers, even killing some – but now Uber operates in dozens of cities across 8 African countries. If Uber plans to celebrate its 10 years, it will do so under a cloud of controversy. Many of the ruthless practices highlighted in last year’s explosive leak, the “Uber files”, occurred in its African markets. The documents revealed how Uber forced its way into economies, sometimes allegedly ignoring local laws. Uber spokespeople have since claimed that the company culture has changed under new leadership. But the Uber Files highlighted how successful Uber has been at interweaving itself into vital public services and infrastructure in the global south, just as my Uber driver told me.
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