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Exclusive: How Uber is empowering women in Africa

By , Head of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, Uber
Africa , Ghana , Ivory Coast , 29 Mar 2023
Marjorie Saint-Lot, Head of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, Uber.
Marjorie Saint-Lot, Head of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, Uber.

For the past 10 years, Uber has been a leading force in transforming the way people move in many of the cities across Africa. 

While the platform's key purpose remains to provide reliable, convenient and affordable mobility for all, in Sub-Saharan Africa it also has a strong focus on positively impacting the lives of women, both in terms of providing them with access to safe transport and empowering them economically.

In many parts of Africa, women have traditionally been excluded from the formal workforce and still have limited opportunities to earn an income. Uber is changing this paradigm by providing a platform for women to become flexible entrepreneurs and earn money on their terms. 

This is enabling many women in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and across the continent, to gain financial independence and support themselves and their families.

The shift is a direct result of Uber’s ongoing commitment to women on the continent, demonstrated through an array of initiatives aimed specifically at empowering women in Africa. 

GigSister, an initiative of Women@Uber, is designed to connect, grow and empower a community of women drivers on the platform through an array of initiatives. We believe our work is never done and we are in the process of developing other tailor-made solutions for women drivers in other markets.

I’m very privileged to have the opportunity to spearhead many of these women empowerment programmes. In addition to my role as Head of Uber’s operations in Ghana and Ivory Coast, I am also the sponsor of the Women Driver Programme in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and I co-chair Women@Uber in SSA.

My involvement with organisations and initiatives like these has taught me many valuable lessons over the years, but arguably the most significant of these has been the importance and power of partnerships in enabling effective women empowerment across the continent.

Uber is applying this insight to expand its female empowerment reach and impact in Africa, and we proactively seek out like-minded partners to help transform our passion for building a better, opportunity-rich world for women into a reality. 

In the case of the #GigSister movement, for example, strong partnerships with the likes of Google and L’Oreal, have allowed us to develop three impactful women empowerment pathways and we offer women drivers and many community members mental health support, motivation and self-promotion advice, and self-defence training. 

The initiative started in Europe and has proven hugely successful in many countries as well as in the United Kingdom; and on the back of this success, we’re now scaling #GigSister across our operating regions in Africa.

Uber recognises that we need to bring in these types of specialist partners with the expertise to meet the unique needs and challenges of women in African communities, and women drivers within Uber. 

Through this type of collaboration, we are creating a strong women empowerment culture and a compelling proposition for women to become drivers so that they get to enjoy the same financial opportunities as their male counterparts.

Research shows that safety fears, access to vehicles, and financial restrictions are the main barriers. 

However, we have seen, first-hand, how a committed approach to addressing all these issues, coupled with appropriate partners with the same heart for women in Africa can, and will, change the reality experienced by many women, and build an environment in which they have the confidence, capabilities and opportunities to change their futures for the better.

To this end, some of the other valuable partners that we have been privileged to team up with include Zoie Health, which is offering medical support and emergency response services to women drivers in South Africa for free for the first year. 

Then there’s Moove Africa, which partners with Uber to make vehicle ownership accessible to drivers. Moove recently committed to joining us in our commitment to women empowerment by helping to address the significant barrier to vehicle access for prospective women drivers in Ghana and Ivory Coast.

From a women-driver safety perspective, the launch of our ‘Women Preferred’ featured in South Africa has proven immensely successful. The service allows women and non-binary drivers to choose to only pick up women riders.

We are confident that, in the coming months and years, these ongoing concerted efforts will ensure that Uber continues to play an increasingly important role in challenging traditional gender norms and empowering women in Africa to earn incomes, gain independence and create the lives and futures they deserve. 

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