“This exciting change will open up the platform to thousands of new riders who have previously been unable to use the platform due to our limited payment options,” the company wrote in an e-mail to drivers.
According to drivers who attended the sessions, Uber representatives presented data from other cities where cash payments have been introduced, including Nairobi, Manchester and Singapore.
After introducing cash payments in Nairobi last year – the second city in the world after Hyderabad in India – Uber reportedly experienced rapid growth.
An online guide to using the system in Nairobi explains that users still need to hail rides using the Uber app, and outlines procedures for dealing with nonpayment and cancellations.
Locally, the move is reportedly linked to controversial recent fare decreases, which caused drivers to embark on a brief unprotected strike.Uber cut its per kilometer fare from R7 to R6 without reducing its 20% cut, assuring drivers that increased demand would compensate for any loss of earnings from the lower rate.
“As part of the fare reduction experiment we have seen a huge number of people signing up but unable to take a ride because their cards do not work,” the email to drivers states.
Drivers present at the meeting said Uber was targeting “bankless” customers to expand its market share.
Uber South Africa refuses to recognise any driver formation and only deals with drivers on a one-to-one basis. At present drivers in South Africa are not represented by any form of union. Drivers dismissed from the app have little recourse.
A major selling point for Uber in South Africa thus far for both drivers and passengers has been the safety and convenience of avoiding cash altogether.
Uber’s spokesperson said that the company would release a statement on the matter next week.