Bolt, the leading mobility app in Africa, is committed to ensuring that people in cities can move around their communities at the touch of a button. But how exactly does the company meet the challenges of safety, reliability and cost effectiveness for passengers, while providing their drivers with a way of earning a good living and ensuring equal opportunities for women?

These were some of the questions answered at a recent Business Day Dialogues panel discussion in partnership with Bolt.

Markus Villig is the founder and CEO of Bolt. Frustrated by the outdated metered taxi industry, he built the first version of ride-hailing software himself and launched Bolt with 50 drivers he had personally recruited. Today he is the youngest founder of a billion-dollar company in Europe and has been featured as the youngest tech CEO in Forbes Europe 30 under 30 list. Bolt, which has already made one billion trips in Africa, specialises in e-mapping to find the most cost-effective routes and allows drivers to share their experiences on the road with other drivers.

Villig’s advice to young female coders and techies was to be more bold given that this is a good time to start a tech company as funding is available once a start has been made, and these opportunities are endless. “There is massive potential in Africa as many people need affordable transport every day,” he said.

The purpose of Bolt’s super-app is to reduce private car ownership, congestion and pollution in cities, explained Paddy Partridge, Bolt’s vice-president for ride-hailing. Passengers can choose to use electric scooters or bikes for short trips, ride-hailing for longer ones and hire a car if the trip is even longer. Bolt also offers a food delivery service while Bolt Market is available for grocery shopping. All of these options will eventually be available in Africa.

The strength of Bolt is its big local presence, revealed Partridge. In Kenya, boda-bodas and tuk-tuks form part of Bolt’s offering. Two- and three- wheeled transport is often ideal for smaller towns in Africa. Nairobi has a green option, using hybrids. Apart from women-only rides, Bolt is also considering offering rides which include pets and children.

Takura Malaba, Bolt’s regional manager for ride-hailing in East and SouthernAfrica, said that every Bolt driver undergoes a criminal background check. He stressed the importance of Bolt’s BQS (Business Quality Supervision) system, which obtains real-time feedback on drivers from passengers, who are blocked and re-trained if necessary. An SOS/emergency button is available to activate a security team for emergencies and which is available for both drivers and passengers, he said.

With unemployment in SA exceeding 30%, Bolt’s partnership with driver-partners to provide            more than 40 000  drivers with economic earning opportunities – – makes a “massive impact”, added Malaba. 

Asked whether technology companies like Bolt was in effect a “boys’ club”, Tinyiko Simbine, co-founder and CFO of GirlCode said that education and awareness would close the gender gap, helped by the private sector. Coding and technology should be introduced at schools by grade four and should not exclude girls. As they gain experience, they will be offered more opportunities and make a more meaningful contribution.

Nchimunya Chipo Hamukoma, Head of Funder Relationships and Strategic Projects at Harambee, explained that Harambee’s free employment app, with 4.5 million users, partners employers with employees and provides programmes combining real-world work with technical skills and personal training. He said that young people need to have a “let-me-start-somewhere” attitude.

“Partnering with amazing companies such as Bolt will get the youth employed,” said Hamukoma.

If you have missed the webinar, please click here to watch the recording: