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Egypt's president approves law for ride-hailing apps

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi approved a law governing popular ride-hailing apps Uber and Careem after the companies appealed a court ruling that revoked their licenses, the country's official gazette reported Sunday.

The law establishes the basis for operating licenses and fees, and requires licensed companies to store user data for 180 days and make it available to Egyptian security authorities upon request. There was no immediate comment from Uber and Careem. Both companies, however, had welcomed the draft law when parliament approved it in May.

Both companies provide smartphone apps that connect passengers with drivers who work as independent contractors. In March, an Egyptian court deemed it illegal to use private vehicles for taxi services and ordered Uber and Careem's apps to be blocked. But another court overruled that ruling in April, and both companies have since continued operating. The Supreme Administrative Court on Saturday adjourned the appeal to August 25.

Data privacy is a major concern for Uber in its dealings with the Egyptian government. The strict new European General Data Protection Regulation law comes into effect on May 25 and is expected to impact its operations worldwide.

Uber was founded in 2010 in San Francisco, and operates in more than 600 cities across the world. Careem was founded in 2012 in Dubai, and operates in 90 cities in the Middle East and North Africa, Turkey, and Pakistan.

The applications took off in Cairo, a city of 20 million people with near-constant traffic and shrinking parking space. The services have recently started offering rides on scooters and tuk-tuks, three-wheeled motorized vehicles that can sometimes squeeze through the gridlock.

The apps are especially popular among women, who face rampant sexual harassment in Egypt, including from some taxi drivers. Cairo's taxi drivers are also notorious for tampering with their meters or pretending they're broken to charge higher rates.

In 2016, taxi drivers protested the ride-hailing apps, complaining that their drivers have an unfair advantage because they don'tt have to pay the same taxes or fees, or follow the same licensing procedures.

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