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Dubai: Uber, the app-based ride-booking service, is investing $250 million (Dh918.05 million) over several years in the Middle East and North Africa to beef up its business, a top official told Gulf News.

The San Francisco-based company operates in the UAE as a platform that connects customs with (RTA) Roads and Transport Authority-licensed limousine drivers from companies in the UAE. Internationally, it also works with taxis and private individuals using their own vehicles.

“The purpose of the investment will primarily be in three areas — to increase the number of drivers who use the Uber platform, expand access to the Uber platform to new cities and launch innovative new products that can shift the transportation landscape across the cities in which we operate,” said Jambu Palaniappan, regional general manager for Uber.

Uber operates in 13 cities across nine countries. Cairo is the fastest-growing city for the company in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa).

The tech start-up is planning to launch its new service — uberPOOL — which enables riders going in the same direction to share the trip and help cut the cost of a ride and reduce congestion overtime.

“But it’s also about investing in cities: in local teams to run our service and in drivers to get them going on the platform,” Palaniappan said.

Uber is also planning to offer its service in Sharjah, Pakistan and Oman, and still sees plenty of opportunities in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

He said that almost 40 per cent of the drivers using Uber in Egypt were unemployed beforehand and the app has really helped entrepreneurs build a business.

“We’re currently investing in training to help more people enjoy entrepreneurial success. It’s still very early days for our business in the Middle East and North Africa. But we are excited by the long-term positive impact our technology and continued investment can have in the region — for riders, drivers and cities,” he said.

Almost 40 per cent of the riders in the UAE are tourists from abroad, he said, and added that the region is clearly turning into a tourist and business hub.