Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hailing firm is set to take on Uber and Bolt in Africa as it has launched in South Africa.

The firm announced recently that it had started recruiting drivers in Cape Town and would start offering services to the public between September and December.

The move follows a pilot scheme in the city of Gqeberha, formerly known as Port Elizabeth, that started running on March 1.

Didi said it registered more than 2,000 drivers in the city in less than a month, “helping more than 20,000 residents who have already signed up with Didi to get where they are going safely and affordably”.

“South Africa has been hit particularly hard by this pandemic that has upended all of our lives – so as this beautiful country looks to recover and rebuild, we would like to do our part, to be a partner in building back better by providing better earning opportunities for drivers as well as safer and more affordable mobility options for everyone,” said Stephen Zhu, the head of Didi’s international business.

South Africa becomes the 14th international destination for Didi since it started expanding outside China. It has around 550 million users and already operates services in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, Russia, the Dominican Republic and Argentina, with plans to launch in Ecuador next month.

The company said in a statement that despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, it had provided resources and opportunities for its drivers.

It said it had introduced health guard technologies to ensure that masks were worn during trips and that all vehicles were disinfected. It is also providing financial assistance to drivers in overseas markets through a US$10 million relief fund.

A spokesman said the company believed it was the right time to launch in South Africa because there was a need for affordable and safe transport alternatives and opportunities for drivers.

“We are confident that all the experience we have acquired particularly in Latin America, supporting local communities since the beginning of the pandemic, allows us to reach the regular users of this type of service and to open the market,” said Felipe Contreras, a Didi spokesman based in Latin America.

In Africa, its biggest competitors will be Uber and the Estonian firm Bolt, formerly known as Taxify, in which Didi has also invested.

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