European multinational e-hailing firm Bolt is on a hiring spree, with plans to increase its team of employees across Africa, as part of its global expansion.
Despite the current wave of retrenchments in the global tech sector, the e-hailing firm says it is investing €500 million (almost R1 billion) in Africa over the next two years.
This will be channeled towards establishing new offices and increasing its team of over 500 employees on the continent.
Paddy Partridge, VP for Bolt, is on a quarterly management off-site visit in SA, along with the company’s leadership team.
During an interview with ITWeb, Partridge provided an overview of Bolt’s impact on the African continent since inception in 2016, noting the company has witnessed over 200% growth from the period prior to the pandemic.
Without disclosing the number of employees Bolt is looking to hire, he outlined plans to add more employees to its team of 200 South African-based staff, while establishing additional offices across the continent within the next 12 to 18 months.
The company has more than 100 million customers globally, with more than half of them based in Africa, he adds.
“Africa is a continent that we are very much committed to and see a future growth in. We are definitely planning to continue expanding the team; thankfully we are not in the same position as a lot of companies that have to do a lot of layoffs.
“A big part of Bolt’s DNA has been around frugality, where we have grown with quite a lean team structure and we keep a close eye on cost. As the economic context worsens, we don’t now find ourselves in a situation where we actually have to be paying off people. Rather, we are actually looking to hire continuously as we grow consistently.”
Since the onset of COVID-19, Bolt says it has doubled the size of its workforce to over 3 000 employees globally.
In August, ITWeb reported on Bolt’s plans to hire 700 more employees by the end of 2022, as it continued with its global expansion plans amid an ongoing hiring slowdown in the tech industry.
The last quarter of 2022 saw the likes of multinationals Amazon, Google, Meta, Google parent company Alphabet, Salesforce, Twitter and Spotify announce large-scale job cuts.
Bolt’s expansion strategy came after it secured its largest funding to date, of €628 million (R11 billion), in January 2022, led by Sequoia and Fidelity Management.
The funding would be used to fuel its three business verticals – the e-hailing arm, the food delivery business Bolt Food, and Bolt for Business, which services business clients, said the company at the time.
More than three million partner drivers use Bolt’s platforms to offer rides and deliveries to customers globally. The digital economy firm says it is now available in 45 countries and over 500 cities across Europe and Africa.
In Africa, the company has 900 000 partner drivers who work across seven markets, with 40 000 based across SA.
“We recently passed one billion rides in Africa. One of the reasons we managed to get to where we are today is because our key focus areas are availability, affordability and safety.
“From the outset, we made sure we have a lot of cars available on the app to ensure anybody who needs a car is able to get it immediately. The price point is affordable for as large a number of the population as possible, while also ensuring the economics stack up for the driver by making sure it’s still a serious earning opportunity for them.”
Bolt continues to prioritise safety to ensure riders and partner drivers are protected from harm, he notes.
For a number of years, South African women have been sharing their experiences of alleged sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of e-hailing drivers. As a result, an online campaign, set up by customers of Bolt, has been calling on the e-hailing cab service to make women’s safety its first priority by adequately verifying and vetting drivers.
Since Bolt’s arrival in SA, the company has introduced many safety interventions, says Partridge. One of these is an unequivocal rule that all drivers require a Professional Driving Permit (PDP), issued by local authorities, to be accepted onto the Bolt platform, he notes.
In addition to the police clearance obtained via the PDP, Bolt conducts criminal background checks.
“Safety is our priority; we only on-board drivers who have the correct driving permit. We have also taken several in-app safety measures, including an emergency response button for drivers and passengers consisting of private armed response teams and private emergency medical services.
“Bolt recently introduced the Bolt Driver Selfie Verification feature, which will be rolled out to all drivers within the next month,” concludes Partridge.