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Uber Releases Updated App with Enhanced Home Screen

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Ride-hailing company Uber has launched an updated version of its app, featuring an expanded home screen that offers users an improved range of services.

The new design centers around a newly enhanced home screen, which brings together ridesharing and Uber Eats deliveries in one place. Users can now book trips or order food with just a few clicks, while easily accessing saved locations. iPhone users can also track their ride’s progress on their home screen.

According to the company, the redesigned app seeks to eliminate the hassle involved in booking rides or ordering food, offering users a more frictionless and effortless experience. The app is expected to increase awareness and consideration of a wider array of products, driving growth to several lines of business.

In a statement, Uber said, “This redesign leans into our platform strategy by expanding the breadth and relevance of products that Uber customers can engage with every time they open the app, especially Uber one members who use more of our products more often and will now have easier access to all the offerings in their city.”

The newly designed app was launched on Wednesday (22nd of February 2023) to tens of millions of customers in 1,200 cities around the world. Users are advised to update their Uber app to access the new features.

During the Covid pandemic, Uber relied heavily on growth in its Eats delivery business. However, its mobility segment surpassed Eats revenue in its first, second, and third quarters of 2022 as riders began to take more trips.

The company reported fourth-quarter earnings that surpassed analysts’ estimates, with revenue up 49% year over year and gross bookings for the quarter coming in at $30.7 billion, up 19% year over year, Investors King reports.

For the first quarter of 2023, Uber expects gross bookings to grow between 20% and 24% year over year on a constant currency basis. The company’s continued growth and expansion demonstrate the ongoing importance of ride-hailing and food delivery services in the global economy.

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Norwegian Watchdog Slams Meta for Cumbersome Opt-Out Process in AI Training Plans

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Meta Platforms Inc., the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is facing a new legal challenge in Norway over its plans to utilize user images and posts to train artificial intelligence (AI) models.

The Norwegian Consumer Council has lodged a complaint, criticizing Meta’s cumbersome and deceptive opt-out process, which it argues breaches stringent EU data protection regulations.

The Council’s statement on Thursday highlighted that Meta’s method for allowing users to opt out of data collection for AI training is overly complicated and intentionally confusing.

“The process to opt-out breaches strict EU data protection rules and has been made deliberately cumbersome by using deceptive design patterns and vague wording,” the Council said.

This isn’t Meta’s first run-in with European regulators regarding data privacy. The tech giant has previously faced multiple complaints for allegedly failing to obtain proper consent from users before collecting their data to target advertisements.

Also, the European Union’s top court has warned Meta about safeguarding public information on users’ sexual orientation from being used for personalized advertising.

“We are urging the Data Protection Authority to assess the legality of Meta’s practices and to ensure that the company is operating in compliance with the law,” stated Inger Lise Blyverket, head of the Norwegian Consumer Council.

The complaint was prepared by the European Center for Digital Rights and will be submitted to the Norwegian Data Protection Authority, as well as other European data protection authorities.

Due to Meta’s EU base in Dublin, the Irish Data Protection Commission will serve as the lead authority in this matter.

The outcome of this complaint could have significant implications for how Meta, and other tech companies, handle user data within the EU.

Meta’s use of user data for training AI has raised significant privacy concerns. Critics argue that without clear and straightforward consent mechanisms, users are often unaware of how their data is being used.

This latest complaint underscores the ongoing tension between big tech companies and European regulators striving to enforce robust privacy standards.

The Norwegian Consumer Council’s action reflects a growing impatience with tech giants’ data practices, emphasizing the need for transparency and user control.

As AI technologies continue to advance, ensuring ethical and lawful data usage remains a critical challenge for both companies and regulators.

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Telecommunications

Ethio Telecom Sale to Foreign Bidders Halted; Local Investors to Get Priority

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Ethiopia has decided to halt the sale of its state-owned telecommunications operator, Ethio Telecom, to foreign investors.

Instead, the government will prioritize domestic retail investors before listing the company on the nation’s upcoming securities exchange.

Originally, the Ethiopian government planned to sell 45% of Ethio Telecom to foreign investors. This approach was abandoned in November after Orange SA, a major contender, withdrew from the bidding process.

Emirates Telecommunications Group Co. was also rumored to have considered a bid but did not proceed.

“There were bidders, but each one of them has left the process at one point,” said Abdurehman Eid, CEO of Ethiopian Investment Holdings, which is overseeing the sale along with the finance ministry. “At the end, we felt it’s probably better to halt the process.”

Eid explained that foreign interest did not meet Ethiopia’s expectations. “The priority now is to expedite the sale of 10% to retail investors, who are showing a huge appetite,” he noted during an interview at a sovereign wealth fund conference in Mauritius.

The focus on foreign investors will resume after Ethio Telecom is listed on the Ethiopian Securities Exchange (ESX), set to commence operations in October.

Ethio Telecom, the largest telecommunications operator in Africa’s second most-populous country, had a monopoly for decades. By January, the company boasted 74.6 million subscribers and recorded a profit of 11 billion birr ($191.6 million) for the first half of the fiscal year.

The shift in strategy underscores Ethiopia’s intention to leverage domestic investment capacity. The decision to prioritize local investors aligns with broader economic goals, aiming to stimulate local participation in major economic sectors.

This move is part of a larger plan to list five other state-owned companies on the ESX. According to Eid, proceeds from these divestitures will be utilized to reduce public debt.

Over the years, enterprises controlled by the government have accumulated substantial debt, leading to financial struggles.

The Liability Asset Management Corp., established three years ago, currently manages close to 780 billion birr in debt.

By redirecting the sale of Ethio Telecom shares to local investors, Ethiopia is fostering a more inclusive investment environment and setting a precedent for future listings.

The new strategy is expected to enhance domestic capital markets and provide more opportunities for Ethiopian citizens to invest in the country’s economic future.

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E-commerce

Jumia Shares Triple in 2024 Amid Strong Q1 Performance

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Shares of African e-commerce giant Jumia (JMIA) surged to $8.67 on Monday, a significant milestone in the company’s remarkable recovery this year.

This price represents the highest the stock traded in 2024, starting at a modest $3.36. The gain highlights investor confidence following the company’s strong Q1 2024 results.

Despite not yet achieving a unicorn valuation, Jumia’s market capitalization has climbed to an impressive $872 million.

This turnaround is primarily attributed to the company’s strategic shift under the leadership of CEO Francis Dufay, who took over in 2023.

Dufay has focused on cost-cutting measures and driving revenue growth, a departure from Jumia’s previous struggles with profitability.

In Q1 2024, Jumia reported a 70% reduction in losses, thanks to significant cuts in advertising and sales expenses. Meanwhile, the company saw an 18.5% increase in revenue.

These results are particularly noteworthy given the economic challenges in some of Jumia’s major markets, including high inflation and currency devaluation.

“The impressive Q1 results have renewed investor confidence,” said an industry analyst. “Jumia’s ability to cut costs while growing revenue in such a challenging environment is a testament to their strategic realignment.”

Dufay’s leadership has been pivotal in this transformation. He has made bold moves, including shutting down the loss-making Jumia Food vertical and relocating UAE-based executives to Jumia’s key markets.

Also, the launch of a new 30,000 square meter integrated warehouse in Lagos has enhanced Jumia’s logistics capabilities, reducing delivery times and improving customer satisfaction.

“The shift in business model and operational focus is showing positive results,” commented Dufay. “We are committed to sustaining this growth trajectory and building a robust, profitable business.”

Jumia’s stock performance has drawn positive reactions from investors, particularly given the broader economic challenges in Africa.

The company’s turnaround is seen as a promising sign, especially as competitors like Amazon begin to make inroads into the African market with their launch in South Africa.

Jumia’s initial public offering in 2019, listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) at $14.50 per share, generated significant excitement.

However, the subsequent years were marked by fluctuating share prices and ongoing struggles with profitability. The recent surge in share price reflects a renewed optimism about Jumia’s future under Dufay’s leadership.

As Jumia continues to navigate the complexities of the African e-commerce landscape, it remains focused on achieving sustainable growth and profitability. The recent stock surge is a clear indication that investors believe in the company’s potential to thrive in a competitive market.

“Jumia’s journey has been challenging, but our commitment to innovation and operational excellence is unwavering,” Dufay stated. “We are excited about the opportunities ahead and remain focused on delivering value to our shareholders and customers.”

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