The company behind the ride-sharing app Careem announced in a brief statement on Facebook on Nov. 5 that it had halted services in Ramallah. The company, which began operations in the West Bank on June 13, said that this is the first time that it appears it will have to permanently cease activities in the Arab world.
“We launched our services based on our belief in Palestine — a country that calls for investment and development — and we hope that the authorities will feel how the sudden halt in our services affects citizens, workers and the promotion of Palestine as a beacon for foreign investments,” the company said in its statement. “We want to work hand in hand with all the competent authorities in order to revive the two transport and IT sectors and create more job opportunities.”
Ibrahim Manna, director of emerging markets at Dubai-based Careem, told Al-Monitor that Palestinian Authority officials had deemed Careem's operation illegal. “When an investor or application is found illegal, this puts the freedom and safety of its employees or contractors at stake,” he said. The company is accused of contracting drivers whose vehicles are not licensed to transport people in exchange for a fee.
Manna added, “As an investment company, and before we started providing our services, we got a license from the Palestinian Ministry of Economy, and we got all the necessary approvals, but the problem was with the private [unlicensed] cars. We contracted private cars because taxi drivers, supported by their union, rejected the idea of taximeters, but refraining from using them is illegal. What made matters worse was that the taxi drivers who agreed to work with us were threatened with being stripped of their licenses by their union. In other words, we had no alternative but to work with private cars.”
Regular taxis on the West Bank are supposed to be metered, but drivers don't use the meters because they would lower the fares the drivers collect. Given their aversion to taximeters, the drivers also refused to use meters for the ride-sharing service.
Manna argued that the Ministry of Transport and Communications should be neutral and work toward helping the company and taxi drivers find common ground so residents can take advantage of cheaper fares.
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