Mad drivers. Dilapidated cars. Frustrated clients. This is the current situation in which Kenyans have found themselves as Bolt, a taxi-hailing company, continues its cat-and-mouse games with the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) and Kenyan drivers.
On the one hand, the Bolt shareholders are losing, and on the other, frustrated Kenyans are looking to move from one point to the next hassle-free.
The ride-hailing giant Bolt is currently at the epicentre of a growing controversy in Kenya, with local drivers expressing their discontent over shrinking earnings due to what they perceive as low customer fees and excessive discounts. This situation has prompted concerns about the quality of service offered to riders as drivers grapple with declining income.
A spot check on the fares charged by Bolt vs Competitor revealed the glaring discrepancy, pointing out drivers’ most significant pain points amidst high fuel and skyrocketing maintenance costs.
As at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Bolt quoted Ksh 680 and Sh 780 for Economy and Bolt categories, respectively, from Delta Corner Westlands to JKIA Terminal A1 after a 20% promo discount was applied. Little Cab quoted Sh890 – 935 and Sh1040 -1095 for Basic and Economy categories for the same destination. Uber ChapChap (Similar to Bolt’s Economy) quoted Sh1090 and Uber X (SImilar to Bolt Category) Sh1420.
Bolt drivers have also lamented that the App does not charge clients for time spent on Nairobi’s notorious traffic congestion like the other App. On the other hand, the Bolt clients we spoke to preferred the App because it was the cheapest, and the price did not change despite them sitting in traffic for hours.
NTSA has already rejected Bolt’s license renewal application, citing alleged infractions of transportation regulations, including unauthorized commission charges and the imposition of controversial booking fees.
In response to these mounting concerns, Bolt issued a statement reaffirming its commitment to the Kenyan market. The company has emphasised its dedication to adhering to Kenyan regulations, which it views as fundamental to building a sustainable business model that benefits all stakeholders in the ecosystem.
“We remain open to collaborative dialogue with our regulator, driver-partners and the wider public to continually ensure full compliance with regulation and expand income generation within our platform,” said Marion Wambua, Bolt Regional Press Officer for Africa, in a statement to newsrooms.
The company maintains that it currently holds a valid license and is fully operational. Bolt further indicated that, as part of the ongoing annual license renewal process, it will continue to work closely with regulators for a mutually beneficial outcome.
“Bolt was issued with a Transport Network Company licence, effective 28th October 2022. It has been fully compliant with the stipulated regulation to cap its commission rate at 18% for drivers using our application”
Bolt also revealed significant upcoming milestones for its business in Kenya, including a planned investment of 100 million euros in the market in 2024 to expand its services into more cities and town centres across the country. Bolt recently launched its Driver Engagement Center. Situated on the 6th floor of Delta Chambers in the Westlands area, the centre is accessible by appointment, ensuring efficient management of driver issues and concerns.