A view of the Iranian capital, Tehran, where young people are embracing technology in a market that is off-limits for western investors. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ AFP/ ATTA KENARE
A view of the Iranian capital, Tehran, where young people are embracing technology in a market that is off-limits for western investors. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ AFP/ ATTA KENARE

MTN-backed Snapp, also known as the Uber of Iran, said its ride-hailing app is generating 2-million fares a day as young people in Tehran embrace technology in a market that is off-limits for western investors.

“Snapp Tehran is now larger than any Uber city globally,” co-founder Eyad Alkassar said.

“Reaching this milestone in only three years makes Snapp one of the fastest- growing internet companies in the world,” Alkassar said.

The Middle East has been grabbing the attention of international investors in the past two years, with the largest-yet tech deal in the region struck last week as ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies agreed to buy its regional competitor Careem for $3.1bn.

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The Middle East and North Africa has experienced up to a 50% increase in funding year-on-year in startups since 2015, according to Magnitt, a regional data platform for startups.

Iran, home to more than 80-million people, remains out of reach to US and European investors after President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions in November, forcing Western companies out and hitting Iran’s oil exports and economy.

That has opened up opportunities for global players from elsewhere.

Backed by South African telecommunication provider MTN Group, Snapp operates in 34 cities across Iran and partners with 1.5-million drivers.

In October 2016, MTN agreed to make a €20m investment in Snapp.

Snapp Group has grown its business into other services, including food and grocery delivery and a travel booking app. It is one of the two major ride-hailing apps currently operating in Iran, neither of which are foreign owned.

Bloomberg