In the wake of the planned boycott by Kenya’s e-hailing drivers, Bolt PR Manager for Africa, Nthabiseng Mokoena has told Technext that the e-hailing company is currently reviewing rates to arrive at a favourable outcome for driver-partners.
At Bolt, we value drivers on our platform and are committed to their overall social and economic welfare. We assure you that we are reviewing this matter, and all actions will follow a considerate process for an ideal outcome for drivers and riders alike.Nthabiseng Mokoena
Ride-hailing drivers in Kenya under the aegis of the Digital Taxi Forum had recently threatened to withdraw their services if Uber and Bolt do not increase base fares and/or cut down commissions following a sharp increase in fuel prices. The drivers gave e-hailing operators a 30-day ultimatum to meet their demands or face a massive boycott.
On behalf of the drivers, Secretary General of the Digital Taxi Forum, Wycliffe Alutalala said, “We hereby issue 30-day notice to all the defiant apps that we shall be switching off and deleting all those apps at the end of the 30 days.”
Bolt Responds as Drivers Decry Fuel Price Hike
While addressing drivers’ grievances, Mokoena disclosed that there is already a system in place for Bolt to regularly improve drivers’ earnings vis-à-vis operating costs.
E-hailing drivers have called for Uber and Bolt to downwardly review commission rates, stressing that the recent increase in fuel costs by Kenya’s energy regulator has significantly shot down their earnings.
We invest the effort to collect, track and analyse the net revenues and total expenses of drivers accessing our platform. This includes analysing net earnings per hour on the platform across all cities we operate in. We invest in marketing incentives to boost drivers’ revenues.Nthabiseng Mokoena, Bolt PR Manager, Africa
Mokoena went on to explain that Bolt collects and track all other expenses incidental to drivers’ ride-hailing services including vehicle leasing/instalment costs, fuel, car wash, airtime and internet bundles.
“Our marketplace analysis team is constantly seeking to grow the overall take-home earnings by negotiating bulk discounts on fuel, car wash, and insurance packages exclusive to drivers on our platform,” she said.
This is not the first time ride-hailing drivers are threatening a boycott in Kenya, having staged regular strikes and protests in recent years over low fares.
Drivers’ proposed boycott of e-hailing apps comes on the back of a 6.6% hike in petrol price from Ksh115.17 to Ksh122.8 per litre, the highest in nine (9) years.
In a Twitter comment on e-hailing drivers’ welfare in Kenya, Kolao, a Financial Analyst said, “With the fuel costs these guys generate zero. Just passing time. Who represents these companies in Kenya? They are heartless. Drivers must be suffering.”
Some drivers claim they have been forced to obtain car loans to meet up with daily expenses due to being paid static low fares despite incurring higher costs which mean they realise much lower income.
However, Mokoena has assured drivers that Bolt is continually revising operations to provide optimum earnings. Technext contacted Uber for comments but is yet to get a response as at the time of this writing.
Weighing Drivers’ Demands
E-hailing drivers are demanding that Uber/Bolt slash commissions to a maximum of 15% and increase trip base fares to boost their earnings.
With over 20,000 Bolt drivers and more than 12,000 Uber drivers in Kenya, several e-hailing riders could be left stranded if boycott plans are effected.
In fact, app-based drivers had submitted a proposal to the Senate via the National Transport and Safety Authority in 2019, requesting that operators do not charge above 5% commission. According to Alutalala, the draft bill by regulators is yet to be introduced at parliament.
Going by Uber and Bolt’s commission rates across Africa, it is highly unlikely that these companies would even accede to such demand if it were enforced by the government.
While Uber currently charges Kenyan drivers the same 25% commission as in Nigeria and Ghana, Bolt collects 20% on each trip just as in Ghana, but at 5% higher than the 15% in Nigeria.
In terms of base fares, the likes of Uber and Bolt have at times cut down trip fares so as to attract more riders. But apparently, it is the drivers who bear the brunt of such action.
Uber/Bolt drivers in Kenya are currently classified as independent contractors although there have been some calls to grant workers’ status. This would mean that drivers can then qualify for social security benefits including grants and health insurance.
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