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Ride-hailing business and the offline trip menace

There have been several public complaints by ride-hailing drivers on matters concerning discounts.

Some drivers have claimed that the discounts do not get to them, while others claim it significantly lowers their earnings, pushing them to negotiate offline trip arrangements with clients.

Kenneth Micah, Bolt Regional Manager - East Africa. [Standard]

Kenneth Micah, the East Africa Regional Manager at Bolt who oversees the Taxi’s operations across East Africa, offered us some insights into these issues.

  1. What is your position on offline trips and how are you addressing it?

This conduct is unacceptable, and we strongly disapprove the use of the platform by drivers and/or riders to negotiate offline trips. This is because taking trips offline turns off the app’s GPS tracking and first response SOS coverage, increasing the risk to both the driver and the rider in the event of an accident or an emergency.

If a driver offers an offline trip, it is prudent for the rider to reject the driver's offer and cancel the ride; and report the experience via the app for speedy action to be taken.

Drivers who are engaged in touting (providing an offline trip at a higher price) should be blocked and disqualified from using the ride-hailing apps.

Earnings on the platform are also quite competitive and this, combined with the safety features, makes an online trip the best option for both drivers and riders.

  1. How can you tell when a driver is making an offline trip?

Offline trips are identified through the driver’s account from the internal system that tracks driver behaviour and trips taken over time. The data is then triangulated with rider and driver feedback to validate and map the number of offline trips taken by a driver.

  1. Some drivers are complaining that discounts lower their earnings, is this true?

This is false. Rider discounts do not lower driver earnings. In fact, Drivers always get the full value of the ride because the app covers the cost of the discounts.

Drivers who get riders with discounts, still receive the full ride’s fare.

Discounts actually bring in more riders onto the platform, which translates to higher earnings for the drivers.

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  1. There are concerns that Bolt operates under Estonian laws, and therefore cannot be sued locally in case of a dispute.

Bolt is a global business with operations in over 45 countries and over 400 cities across Europe, Latin America and Africa. The global nature of our business dictates that we work in collaboration with all the relevant government institutions in ensuring adherence to local and international standards, and regulations. We have continuously worked in partnership with local authorities and other stakeholders in every country we operate in to ensure that the ride-hailing, and food delivery industry grows to its full potential, sustainably.

We have local offices and representatives in countries where we operate, to respond to and address any local issues specific to different markets. We also have provided 24/7 official communications channels through which our customers, drivers, law enforcement officers and local governments can reach us should they need any issue attended to. 

  1. There have been cases of violence and attacks on both drivers and passengers while on a trip. What safety measures have been taken to curb this?

Any form of aggression to drivers or riders is very unfortunate and highly discouraged. There are safety features, for drivers and riders, in the event of any emergency during a trip.

The driver and rider apps both have an SOS emergency button that can be used to alert, and seek security and/or first response medical assistance at any time during a trip.

The SOS button is reserved for medical and security emergencies when a driver, a rider or another road user is in immediate danger, during a ride.

  1. The cost of fuel has been on the rise in Kenya. How does that influence fare prices?

Fare tariffs are constantly reviewed, and the price per kilometre is adjusted accordingly, depending on the fuel cost per kilometre.

It is, however, important to maintain a healthy marketplace where increases in fare tariffs do not lower the demand and earnings per hour for drivers.

Monitoring trends in the operating costs and continuously reviewing pricing to reflect the existing market realities is essential to ensure that driver margins are not impacted.