Last week, Uber and Bolt drivers in Lagos suspended ride-hailing services in protest against static trip fares amid higher operating costs.
The strike action which took place from Monday till Saturday, saw nearly 10,000 drivers boycott Uber and Bolt apps as part of efforts to press home their welfare demands. This is according to Comrade Ayoade Ibrahim, President of the National Union of Professional App-based Workers (NUPA-BW).
Ayoade told Technext that about 45% of 22,000 e-hailing drivers in Lagos joined the week-long boycott.
“We had up to 55% of drivers join the strike on Monday but on Tuesday it dropped to 45%,” he said.
Uber, Bolt May Have Suffered ₦100m Revenue Loss
Nigeria’s two biggest ride-hailing operators, Uber and Bolt could each have lost at least ₦50 million revenue to last week’s drivers’ boycott.
Ayoade says Bolt and Uber have about 13,000 and 9,000 driver-partners respectively in Lagos. He explains that each driver earns an average of ₦1,200 per ride, taking about 7 rides lasting 10 hours per day.
Based on these figures, it means Uber/Bolt drivers usually make ₦8,400 daily and would have earned ₦50,400 in the six days of the strike action.
With about 4,050 drivers (45% of 9,000) boycotting Uber in that period, the company has perhaps lost about ₦51 million (25%) commission on drivers’ ₦204 million earnings.
For Bolt, 45% of its 13,000 drivers would rake in ₦294.8 million (5850 x ₦50,400). Factor in Bolt’s 20% commission, and the operator might have incurred as much as ₦59 million revenue loss.
Technext reached out to Bolt PR Manager for Africa, Nthabiseng Mokoena to validate these figures but has yet to receive a response. An Uber spokesperson has also declined to comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, operators may have offset some of the estimated losses by onboarding new drivers in the past week. This is something that happens quite often, according to Ayoade.
Uber and Bolt take new driver-partners on the platform every minute, every second. Some drivers come from other places such as Ibadan and Ogun to work in Lagos.Ayoade Ibrahim, NUPA-BW President
Drivers Lost Money too
Apart from Uber and Bolt, e-hailing drivers who withdrew their services during the week lost sizable earnings.
Taking out Uber/Bolt commissions, each driver forfeited at least ₦39,000 in gross weekly income. Hence, these drivers could not meet up with their weekly targets, and this particularly affected those working with cars acquired through hire-purchase.
However, this is not a risk many other drivers were willing to take on account of the strike. While taking this reporter on a trip, Okoroafor, a Bolt driver who did not join the boycott, said:
“Who strike epp? You no see my white bia bia (referring to his beards). I have kids to feed and a wife to take care of. I don’t give a damn about the strike. Dude, I gotta pay bills mehn.“
Okoraofor says he is not a member of any of the e-hailing drivers’ unions or associations and just wants to do his job as an independent partner. According to him, these groups come with a lot of politicking and this would constitute a typical Nigerian problem in the long run.
Besides, he thinks the drivers’ call for an increase in trip fares is unrealistic.
The economy is already tough on most Nigerians. Asking Uber or Bolt to increase prices is not feasible. They probably won’t anyway, because if they do many customers will find cheaper alternatives.Okoroafor, a Bolt driver
Technext spoke to some riders during the strike and all of them shared Okoraofor’s sentiment.
One rider, Daniel said: “Before the strike, there had usually been occasional price surges on the Bolt and Uber apps. But on Monday, trip fares were like 2x higher. By Friday, fares were still on the high side but by about 20%. Now imagine them increasing prices, I’ll just go back to taking okada.”
Another rider, Tope agrees with Daniel, stating that “both drivers and riders are suffering from the present inflation in the country.”
For aggrieved e-hailing drivers, Uber seems to have heeded their call for negotiations and dialogue over welfare demands. Below is a screenshot of an invite sent to NUPA-BW President, Ayoade Ibrahim to attend a virtual round table on April 29.
“That’s the email Uber sent to some of us. That was one of our major issues with them before, they didn’t recognize our drivers’ union,” Ayoade said.
However, he says Bolt has not contacted drivers but he expects the operator to do so after seeing the outcome of Uber’s round table.
It remains to be seen whether drivers and operators will be able to resolve long-standing differences and reach an agreement that works for both parties.
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