Recently Bolt surpassed 1 billion rides in Africa, about seven years after the ride-hailing company launched its first African operations in South Africa in 2016—a year later it expanded into Nigeria.
The company which has over 47 million customers and 900,000 drivers on the platform across seven African countries and a team of 500 people has laid off 17 of its Nigerian workforce made up of 70 employees. Unlike other layoffs in the country that have been allotted to the economic downturn, Bolt says it is due to a restructuring at the company.
"Bolt had to terminate work contracts with 17 of its employees in Nigeria due to an initiated strategy to improve our operational processes in the country. This was certainly not an easy decision to make, and we completely understand the frustration of the affected employees," Ireoluwa Obatoki, Bolt's Regional Manager for West and North Africa, said.
This is happening at a time when Markus Villig, Bolt's Founder and CEO is in Africa with global his leadership team on a visit to the company's team in South Africa and Kenya and also meeting with senior government stakeholders.
A few days ago in South Africa, Markus said "at a time when many countries are facing economic challenges, we will continue to grow our presence in Africa through this new investment which offers massive potential to create new jobs and income opportunities for drivers and couriers".
Amidst this layoff that reportedly affected junior and mid-senior members of the operations team, including city managers, the company is hiring for top management roles in Nigeria; a country manager, sales manager for Bolt Business and operations manager.
The last publicly announced Bolt Nigeria country manager, Femi Akin-Laguda left the company in 2022, according to his LinkedIn page, and the search for a replacement has been on since last month.
A drive into Bolt Nigeria
In January 2022, the Estonia-headquartered company secured a $711 million funding round led by Sequoia Capital and Fidelity at an $8.4 billion valuation. The company said that part of the funds will be used to expand into new cities across Africa, as well as the deepening of its electronic vehicles on the continent, which commenced in Kenya in 2021.
It also said it will focus on driver education and verification as well as the safety of passengers. A few days ago, Bolt's co-founder and CEO, while in South Africa, said that the company is investing $500 million into its African operations in the next two years, this includes creating opportunities for over 300,000 new drivers and couriers to join its platform in 2023.
"We operate in markets where there are unique challenges and by continuing to expand our services, we will offer people new opportunities to earn a good living by being a driver, as well as providing millions of customers with a safe, reliable, and affordable way of moving around their city," Ms Obatoki added.
Just yesterday, an employee benefits company serving Africa’s gig economy, Flance announced a collaboration with Bolt. Through the collaboration, Bolt driver-partners can take advantage of Flance's innovative technology to access high-quality, affordable healthcare services.
"By collaborating with Bolt, we are able to bring this security to even more drivers in need and help ensure that they can access the healthcare they need to stay healthy and on the job," Victor Ekwealor, CEO of Flance, said in a statement shared with Benjamindada.com.
For Bolt drivers, the perks of the collaboration include physical and virtual doctor consultations, preventive care services, and discounted rates on lab tests and prescriptions.
On the side of customers, Bolt in partnership with a Nigerian fintech, Credpal recently launched a ride now, pay later offering for its users. Amidst questions about the sustainability of the partnership, Fehintolu Olaogun, Credpal's CEO and co-founder clarified that "this integration is one of the most scalable and sustainable ways of driving credit inclusion, with low risk as initial limits are very low and customers can build their way to higher limits with good repayments".
In the end, Bolt will be looking for a country manager who will be able to drive these existing collaborations and also initiate other sustainable ones. The new Nigeria lead of the company will also work to ensure the growth of Bolt Business—its corporate travel arm and Bolt Foods which were launched in 2019 and 2021.