Popular ride-hailing company, Bolt Nigeria, is quietly moving drivers from its regular platform to its economy class with a promise of paying only a 10-percent commission. This was revealed in a message sent to the drivers and the company’s spokesperson confirmed this to the media. In the message, the ride-hailing company said that the move was necessary in the face of harsh economic realities that have caused the number of orders received by the platform to decline. They attributed this to the fuel subsidy removal, the hike in fuel price that followed, and the attendant increase in fares in the wake of that.
The company’s message to the drivers read: “To keep your earnings high while attracting more riders back to the platform, we’ll be opening up the Economy category to more top-performing drivers like yourself. This means you’ll now be able to receive ride requests from both the Economy and Bolt category riders.” While confirming the development, it said that the initiative was targeted only at select drivers which it describes as “top performing drivers.” The initiative was undertaken to achieve three objectives: enhancing rider options, boosting drivers’ order volume; and fostering increased earnings for drivers.
Different options are available for drivers on its platform.
Describing it as a unique earning opportunity, the app company said that drivers will have the opportunity to drive across both the Bolt category, which is its base ride type, and the Economy category, which is the more affordable option). Bolt confirmed that drivers on its platform have always had the option to switch between categories such as the Corporate and Bolt in Lagos. However, the company is now allowing drivers to accept trips in the Economy category.
This latest move in the firm’s quest to keep drivers happy on the platform will be effective from September 15, 2023. Furthermore, the drivers will see the commissions paid to the platform slashed by half, as the app will be accepting just 10 percent of the fares. While the company says this opportunity is only for top-performing drivers, it appears many drivers have received the invitation. In the face of trying times that drivers are currently experiencing, this appears as a good move.
Initiative raises a number of questions for the firm.
First of such is how the company intends to deal with drivers already operating in its economy class, seeing as they would now have to share their rides with the regular drivers. As the firm itself noted earlier, another problem is that the economy class charges way lower fares than the regular class. While charging 10 percent as commission is good, would the difference be enough to guarantee drivers, who now have to share the number of rides, are indeed earning enough?
E-hailing drivers have remained one of the worst-hit sections of the fuel subsidy removal by Tinubu’s administration. In the wake of the accompanying 280 percent hike in fuel prices, drivers have seen their earnings drastically reduced across various ride-hailing platforms. The companies themselves tried to salvage the situation by increasing the fares on trips. Bolt instituted a 15-percent increase in fares while UberX increased by at least 21 percent. However, this was not enough to guarantee meaningful earnings for the drivers who were demanding a 200-percent increase in fares.
All Bolt drivers went on a one-week strike for increased fees.
On June 6, 2023, under the aegis of the Amalgamated Union of App-based Transporters of Nigeria (AUATON), the e-hailing drivers embarked on a one-week-long warning strike, boycotting ride-hailing apps in a bid to force them to increase the fares. The drivers also made an important demand from the tech firm to slash their commissions by 50 percent or accept a flat 10-percent rate in commission. None of these happened as of the time the strike was called off, with both app companies refusing to back down. But with this initiative, many drivers are entertaining the faint hope that this may be the first step towards achieving a 10-percent blanket rate across the board.