Back in September of last year (2017) the King of Saudi Arabia decreed that women could finally have the right to drive. This was a major change for what many people consider as an ultra-conservative country and it was a big win for the activists who ignored the ban (at their peril).
Even though the change was announced in September, the lifting of the ban was due to happen mid 2018 and this was because a committee was needed to discuss how to implement the King’s order. I would have thought it would take 9 seconds to figure out what to do rather than 9 months!
This decree was very welcome by many women because they have had to rely on male relatives or guardians to travel around the cities or across the country and this freedom means that this is not necessary. There was another positive outcome of this: more women can now gain some employment in the ride-sharing industry. There has been a big contradiction for several years within this market: women need to travel and men have the ride-share cars, however, women should not be in a car with a male not from their family.
The State was actively encouraging women to use these services against the wishes of the strict clerics. Money was the reason for that. Two main ride-sharing companies have been receiving preferential treatment by the Government: Careem based in Dubai and Uber. Saudi Telecom bought 10% of Careem and the Government dumped $3.5B into Uber. In addition the Government is actively encouraging more women to take employment.
So they now have a win-win situation, women who want to work and have access to a car can now offer women-only ride-share services which should see more usage of these systems. Careem realised this very quickly and ran a campaign to attract female drivers and by February had signed over 1,000 registrants so that when the ban is lifted mid-year, they can immediately get their licences and start working.
Recent statistics from the country show that 70% of Careem users are already female, so having the new drivers may well increase the revenue by increasing usage.