Japan-based internet services company Rakuten Inc is co-leading a US$500 million investment in Middle East- and North Africa (MENA)-based ride-sharing startup Careem. Saudi Telecom Company (STC) also co-led the round.

Participating investors include Abraaj Group, Al Tayyar Group, Beco Capital, El Sewedy Investments, Endure Capital, Lumia Capital, SQM Frontier, and Wamda Capital.

Rakuten Executive Officer and head of ride-sharing startup and fintech investments, Oskar Mielczarek de la Miel, and an STC Group executive will join Careem’s board of directors.

The newly-raised capital will enable Careem to scale its services in existing and new markets, as well as ramp up tech advancements.

“The MENA region has a growing, connected, urban population with great potential for ride hailing and other e-commerce services,” said de la Miel, in an official press statement.

“This investment directly aligns with Rakuten’s vision for global innovation as Careem has demonstrated its ability to scale to one of the largest shared economy platforms in the region, and to accelerate the adoption of new transit solutions,” he added.

While Rakuten has made investments globally in regions such as the US, Europe and Asia, its funding of Careem marks the first time the internet giant is dipping its toe in the MENA market.

Founded in 2012, Careem operates in 47 cities across 11 countries in the MENA and South Asia region. It currently logs over six million users as well as 150,000 drivers.


Image Credit: Rakuten