Uber Eats pauses delivery services in some parts of SA’s largest township Soweto over safety concerns

SOUTH AFRICA – Food delivery service provider, Uber Eats has halted deliveries in some locations in South Africa’s largest township, Soweto, following increasing safety concerns and threats to its business and courier partners.

In an interview with News24, Uber Eats South Africa’s head of operations, Charles Mhango, stated that after engagement with affected courier partners, the company came to a decision to halt deliveries in 11 “pockets” of Soweto.

The affected areas are Emdeni south, Mzimhlope, Zola, Peenyvile, Diepkloof hostel, Dobsonville, Davelin, Pimville, Noordgesig, Dube hostel and Meadowlands Hostel.

“As a company that prioritises the safety of users on the platform, we have engaged rigorously with delivery people through roundtables and surveys to better understand the realities they face on the ground when it comes to safety.

“Based on these insights, we therefore had to make the tough decision to put a pause on these areas for delivery services by way of the Uber Eats App,” Mhango said.

Uber Eats began its expansion into the township market about three years ago, launching in Soweto to serve locations such as Meadowlands and Orland; at the same time, it was adding more local foods on its platform.

Food couriers in the country have been skeptical about penetrating the township market, not only because of safety concerns but also because of muted demand.

While Uber Eats is exiting some areas in Soweto, it said merchants in the affected areas would continue to be fully operational on its app and that users may still order from them for pick up.

The company plans to revisit this decision in the future following consultations with relevant parties including merchants, partners, local government officials as well as law enforcement officials.

“Our commitment to delivery people is to continuously find ways of maximising their earning potential by helping them get the most of their time on the road, without compromising on their safety.

“We also understand that delivery people face unique challenges on the road, especially those on two wheels who are more vulnerable, so we have various safety features tailored to them available at the touch of a button,” Mhango said.

Its safety features include a helmet detection and safety checklist, emergency contacts and an emergency button, which dispatches private security to the delivery person in the event of an incident upon instruction.

It also has Partner Injury Protection provided by AIG Insurance to help support its delivery people with the costs associated with injury while on trip.

“We hope that as safety interventions get introduced in the market, the environment may improve so that deliveries could be reinstated in these areas,” said Mhango.

Uber Eats, a unit of U.S. ride-hailing service Uber Technologies launched in South Africa in 2016 and already has a lion’s share of the country’s US$600 million food dispatching market.

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