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market-shifts-focus-as-saudi-women-begin-driving

Market shifts focus as Saudi women begin driving

Sheetal Sukhija - Tuesday 10th October, 2017

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - The market in Saudi Arabia has shifted its focus in days after the Kingdom lifted its ban on women drivers.

From new apps to driving schools, the avenues for women to really get behind the wheel and hit the roads has expanded dramatically since the announcement was made last month. 

From ride-sharing apps to carmakers, and driving schools - every institution related to automobiles has come out in all support for the decision, without wasting any time.

Uber said on Monday that it was aiming at recruiting female training drivers for Saudi women who want to work for Uber by the end of the year.

The company further said that it will open its first ever “female partner support centre” to be on hand to support women drivers.

Shaden Abdellatif, Uber spokeswoman for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement, “We want to do a dedicated centre for females who want to be on the platform as drivers in Saudi Arabia.”

Uber added that it wanted to be a part of the “progressive changes.”

Abdellatif added, “Your car can essentially be your small business (which) will be quite appealing for women there - it’s that idea of part-time work opportunity.”

After being the world’s only country that forbids women from driving, Saudi Arabia decided to change things last month.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman issued a decree allowing women to drive for the first time and Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said in a statement, "The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licences for men and women alike.”

The decree further added that the move should "apply and adhere to the necessary Sharia standards.”

A majority of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars had backed the idea.

The decision is expected to push women into the workforce and boost car sales. 

Meanwhile, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, an all-female school in the Saudi capital Riyadh announced on Twitter that it will set up a driving school for women, which would be a first in the country.

Further, carmakers too are getting in on the whole new market segment that has opened up in the country.

Nissan said in a Twitter post depicting a license plate bearing the registration ‘2018 GRL’, “Congratulations to all Saudi women who will now be able to drive.” 

BMW, whose X5 SUV is the group’s Middle East top-seller, also welcomed the move.

According to forecaster LMC Automotive’s predictions, the arrival of women drivers could lift Saudi car sales by 15-20 percent annually.

It also said that as the kingdom’s “car density” of 220 vehicles per 1,000 adults rises to about 300 in 2025, it will close the gap with the United Arab Emirates.

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