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Interview: Careem continues to support female drivers in the Kingdom after 1-year anniversary

Careem, the ride-hailing firm that had a role in helping put women on the road, discusses the ban lift and its implications on women in Saudi Arabia, one year later.

Ride-hailing firms like Careem had helped women get around the Kingdom at ease and at competitive prices before they were able to drive Following the announcement that women will be permitted to drive, Careem set up a Women’s Female Captain Committee to tackle this issue and better understand what barriers might exist for a woman wanting to come and drive for them As per a deal with Alwaleed Philanthropies, Careem wants to increase female participation in the labour force from 22% to 30%

With the anniversary of the ban lift on women in Saudi driving having passed during this week, on June 24, AMEinfo spoke to Careem, one of the companies that helped ease women’s transition into the driver’s seat. Abdulla Elyas, Co-founder and MD of Careem KSA, had this to say:

1. How has Careem helped women in Saudi on their journey to become active drivers on the Kingdom’s roads? What sort of help did you provide? 

Elyas: Following the announcement in September 2017 that women would soon be allowed to drive, we opened our doors to women who wanted to drive for us and invited them to come and sign up to Careem and receive the initial training. 

We were overwhelmed by the response, with around 2,000 women taking part in sessions from our operational, safety and technology teams. We have people registering to drive for Careem on a daily basis. 

Careem recognised that up until last year, the industry had largely ignored women and the potential they might have to earn an income through our platform. It’s was a wake-up call and we began investing our time and focus into this issue. Careem set up a Women’s Female Captain Committee to tackle this issue and better understand what barriers might exist for a woman wanting to come and drive for us, and to understand what it takes for us to provide a conducive environment for them to flourish.

Careem has been particularly beneficial for females who did not have safe and reliable transport before the introduction of the service in Saudi Arabia. People in Saudi have referred to there being a time before, and a time after Careem, so significant has the impact been in enabling women to move around the country without the need for a male family member to drive them. The added ability to drive meant that they could earn their own income and take more control and have more independence in their lives. 

2. Can you share some data with us regarding Captainahs in your service in Saudi Arabia? 

Elyas: We do not release specific data on drivers or trips but we can say that we are committed to attracting 20,000 Captainahs region-wide by 2020 and we received 2,000 applications in the hours after the announcement. 

3. What has the feedback been to women driving in Saudi Arabia amongst your drivers and clients?

Elyas: Women driving for Careem have said that it gives them the chance to take control and be more independent. Driving for a ride-hailing company provides the chance to be your own boss, earn an additional income and work your own hours, so it was particularly in line with the needs of working mothers who started with Careem. 

4. Looking back to that day one year ago, what has the unbanning of women driving accomplished and contributed to your company? 

Elyas: We were delighted to welcome these pioneering women to Careem and it was wholly in line with Careem’s commitment to create job opportunities across the wider Middle East region. 

Saudi Arabia is currently transforming and embarking on their Vision 2030 plan and part of this is a drive to get more locals into non-government jobs. Previously in Saudi, many jobs were held by expats, including that of driving. In 2017, a regulation was passed allowing Saudi nationals to work as Careem Captains without restrictions, and from being a 94%-expat fleet we went in just six months to a 94%-Saudi-driven fleet.

In addition, the nationalities of passengers travelling with Careem has gone from 97% expat to 74% Saudi national.

5. Do you have any plans for women in Saudi Arabia moving forward?

Elyas: We have an active deal with Alwaleed Philanthropies to provide cars for captains in the country as part of its efforts to support and empower Saudi women to work. The project helps to develop and invest in women’s talents and to enable them to gain meaningful employment and contribute to the development of society and the economy. One of the targets is to increase female participation in the labour force from 22% to 30%.