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

Kuwait Times - - NEWS -

Ca­reem, a Mid­dle East­ern ri­val to Uber, has become the first ride-hail­ing firm to op­er­ate in the Is­raeli-oc­cu­pied West Bank. Dubaibased Ca­reem, whose name is a play on the Ara­bic word for gen­er­ous or no­ble, launched in Ra­mal­lah in June, aim­ing to bring dig­i­tal sim­plic­ity to the Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory. There is cer­tainly a mar­ket for eas­ier ride-hail­ing among the nearly 3 mil­lion Pales­tini­ans liv­ing in the West Bank, but the fact the mo­bile net­work is still 2G, that elec­tronic pay­ments are not the norm and that Is­raeli check­points are com­mon, make us­ing the ser­vice some­what cum­ber­some.

Yet Ca­reem is op­ti­mistic about the po­ten­tial. “We are plan­ning to in­vest hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars within the com­ing year in the (Pales­tinian) sec­tor,” Ka­reem Zi­naty, op­er­a­tions man­ager for the Le­vant re­gion said. “Af­ter the in­vest­ment, it is also an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate jobs.” Ca­reem, which launched in 2012 and now op­er­ates in 12 coun­tries and more than 80 cities across the Mid­dle East, Africa, and South Asia, has said it aims to pro­vide work for one mil­lion peo­ple across the re­gion by 2018.

Ca­reem’s Cap­tains

While a ver­sion of Uber and Is­raeli app Gett al­ready op­er­ate in Is­rael, they do not ven­ture into Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory. Driv­ers are ex­cited to work with Ca­reem, which they hope will help boost their in­comes, es­pe­cially with un­em­ploy­ment in the West Bank run­ning at nearly 20 per­cent. “It’s a very won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity,” said one of the more than 100 new driv­ers, known as “cap­tains” by Ca­reem. “Most of the peo­ple who use it are young and happy with the price.”

Pales­tini­ans have limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank, which they want for a fu­ture state along­side East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Is­rael cap­tured those ar­eas in the 1967 Mid­dle East war. It with­drew from Gaza in 2005, but still oc­cu­pies the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Un­der in­terim peace ac­cords, Is­rael still con­trols 60 per­cent of the West Bank, where most of its set­tle­ments are lo­cated. Ca­reem’s driv­ers have Pales­tinian li­cense plates, mean­ing they usu­ally can­not en­ter Is­raeli-con­trolled ar­eas.

In 2015, Is­rael and the Pales­tinian Author­ity agreed to ex­pand 3G mo­bile ac­cess to the West Bank by 2016, but have yet to im­ple­ment the agree­ment. In the mean­time, the Ra­mal­lah mu­nic­i­pal­ity has set up pub­lic Wi-Fi in parts of the city cen­ter, al­low­ing Apps like Ca­reem to be used more eas­ily. De­spite 2G’s slower ser­vice, Zi­naty said their model was an op­por­tu­nity for telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion com­pa­nies to look into ex­pand­ing ser­vices and tech­nolo­gies to bet­ter serve Pales­tinian star­tups and busi­nesses. — Reuters

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