Understanding Uber Driver-partners in Egypt

Getting around Egyptian cities can be challenging at the best of times. So it’s no surprise that by providing transportation at the touch of a button, Uber quickly became popular in Egypt since launching in 2014. Today, more than a million Egyptians and visitors use the app for safe, affordable and reliable rides across town.

In addition to expanding access to urban transportation, Uber creates economic opportunities for thousands of drivers. More than 50,000 driver-partners use Uber in Egypt to earn an income. A new study reveals that Uber has been providing independent and flexible work to some of the groups most vulnerable to unemployment — in particular young people with higher education — in a country dealing with turbulent economic times.

The research by Professor Nagla Rizk at the American University in Cairo looks at the impact of Uber on the Egyptian economy for the first time. In particular, the focus is on understanding the profile of a driver-partner, their motivations for taking up this new form of work and the value proposition of Uber. The research is based on a survey of 810 Uber driver-partners conducted in October 2016.

While the flexibility of the app means that there is no such thing as a typical driver-partner, a majority of those surveyed were between the ages of 18 and 35, and almost all of them were educated with a high school diploma or higher degree, with just over half holding a college degree. This is particularly interesting when considering that unemployment in Egypt is skewed towards the young and those with a degree — 26.1% of people aged 15–29 are out of work and 25.7% for those with at least a university degree. This strongly suggests that Uber is helping the young and educated mitigate the high risk of unemployment.

Driving on Uber’s platform can cushion unemployment or provide an additional income to those who need it. 43% of driver-partners say they started using Uber because they left a previous role, and two of the biggest sources of new drivers have been people who previously worked in the tourism and transportation industries. Since 2010, the tourism industry in Egypt has been struggling — with revenues falling by more than half. This makes sense, as the high proportion of drivers coming from the tourism sector suggest that Uber’s platform is helping absorb some of the unfortunate trends observed in the tourism sector.

Abdallah, one of the driver partners in Cairo, first heard about Uber from a friend while he was working as a marketing manager for a hotel in Sharm El Sheikh. As the tourism industry was taking a hit, he decided to drive on the platform for some financial security. Now, a year later, he’s one of the highest rated drivers on the platform with more than 4,000 trips under his belt.

The Uber model allows driver-partners to choose if, when, where and for how long they want to work, while being part of the formal economy. Therefore, it isn’t surprising to see the flexibility offered and the ability to be one’s own boss are some of the key reasons why driver-partners are joining the platform. 89% saying that they valued being their own boss.

The ability to earn an extra income at the touch of a button is also a key part of the appeal, and was the top reason given for why people chose to start driving. More than two-thirds of those surveyed support families of 3 or more, and so extra income is about supporting entire families.

Ahmed, another driver-partner in Cairo, used to work as a sales representative prior to Uber. Not satisfied with the work schedule or the work environment he started driving on the platform in late 2015. There has been no looking back since for Ahmed, and of all the things, he appreciates the flexibility provided by the platform and loves the fact that he is in charge of his schedule.

The flexibility provided by Uber to work whenever and for however drivers choose, means that people use the platform in a wide range of ways. While for many, driving is similar to full-time work with nearly 60% of drivers say they spent more than 40 hours per week driving, for many people Uber is not their primary source of income. 44% of drivers-partners have other work alongside Uber, and 68% had other sources of income. The diversity of use patterns further underlines the flexibility offered on the platform and the ability of the model to accommodate different needs, choices and lifestyles.

In just a couple of years, Uber has woven itself into the fabric of Egypt and positively impacted the lives of thousands of riders and drivers. The need of the hour is to get rid of regulatory uncertainty that jeopardizes the livelihood of thousands of driver-partners. To that end, we will continue to work with policymakers to advocate for smart regulations in order to continue to serve the people of Egypt to the best of our ability.

The complete report can be found here.