Despite West Africa’s mobility sector being in its development stage, it has recorded impressive growth. Socioeconomic indicators signify that growth opportunities still exist despite certain factors limiting its growth. Among them include limited infrastructure and policy regulations.
In this chat with Weyinmi Aghadiuno, Bolt’s Senior Public Policy Manager for West and Central Africa, she discusses navigating the mobility sector to promote sustainability in West Africa.
What does your role as Public Policy Manager at Bolt entail?
I am responsible for developing and executing strategic government relations plans for all Bolt verticals; Ride Hailing, Bolt Food, and Bolt Business, at the Federal, State, and Local levels. As Bolt’s Public Policy Manager for West and Central Africa, my job is to ensure that laws, policies, legislations, and regulations are favorable and foster a positive and sustainable business environment.
Bolt is a global technology company that positively disrupts the traditional transport sector with innovative multimodal mobility systems. As the Public Policy Manager one of my core responsibilities is to ensure our stakeholders fully understand the technology being deployed, the benefits, the sustainable impact it has on the environment, and most importantly the economic and commercial growth it fosters in the region, simultaneously collaborating with regulatory stakeholders to bridge and reform the gap in the existing laws, policies, whilst lobbying for new regulations to shape and govern new technology.
It is a fast-paced business environment, so sometimes it means putting out regulatory fires, and building and solidifying relationships in the twenty-six states Bolt is operational in Nigeria, each state having its own regulatory body, unique policy, and requirements in which Platform companies should operate and be regulated. Other times it means traveling across the regions to participate in safety and security summits, public hearings for policy reforms or Bills we are actively involved in the development, engaging driver unions, introducing new products that ensure safe and affordable services, tightening our data protection policies, tackling arbitrary tax impositions, developing research papers, articles, drafting regulations for states or countries our services are not regulated, negotiating operational levies & fiscal policies and above all engaging with the drivers, riders and passengers who are the reason we are Bolt.
Ultimately my fundamental duty is to ensure there is seamless harmony between internal processes and external regulatory factors which daily impact our business goals and strategy.
It is important we take steps internally as a team to ensure every relevant regulation, policy, guideline & feedback is taken into consideration and implemented in all aspects of the business.
How can mobility providers and public policy help Africa meet its environmental goals?
Bolt is passionate about sustainability and has a global agenda to reduce its carbon footprint by encouraging more sustainable modes of transportation. We’re on a mission to build cities for people, not cars. Bolt’s key focus for Africa is to collaborate with the government to develop regulations and infrastructure that enable and encourage multimodal mobility. Bolt can share its technical expertise with the government towards infrastructural development such as; dedicated lanes for bicycles & scooters, use data to improve traffic management and encourage shared rides / carpooling, and support R&D in institutions for conversion of motorbikes and tricycles to electric. Actualization of these plans will be a positive step toward Africa achieving its environmental goals.
The mobility sector in West Africa is coming off age, but the regulatory environment is also just emerging. How do we shape regulation to keep up with the pace of change in mobility?
It is impressive to see that regulatory stakeholders are aware of the pace at which the mobility sector is changing and how technology is vastly influencing and being adopted by the industry. For example, Lagos, Rivers, and Edo states, alongside the Federal Capital Territory, are taking steps to adapt to new technology and have implemented regulations to drive revenue generation and aid the development of the sector.
Bolt is a global organization that has the technical expertise to monitor the shifts, changes, and utilization of tech to influence mobility and it will lend its technical expertise to and collaborate with the government. For instance, in Lagos, the Ministry of Transport has started issuing state cards for easy identification, which will eventually be used to pay for the Lagos Bus Services; the plan is to ultimately phase out cash payments. This shows that they understand the existence of backend technology that can help revolutionize the payment process in transportation. Bolt is also in preliminary conversations with regulators exploring the possibility of API integration, in compliance with GDPR & NDPR, to improve safety and security on the platform.
How does Bolt operate within the boundaries of regulatory policies to sustain innovation in the mobility sector?
The current regulatory landscape does not limit Bolt’s business or innovative capabilities. Bolt has an array of verticals; including Bolt Market, Rentals & Bolt Drive, it wishes to launch in Africa and also optimize its existing services. However, the lack of regulatory structure, government bureaucracy, and delays in enacting laws stifles the growth of Bolt’s innovative/ expansion plans for Africa.
The existing regulations are focused on revenue generation and not key indices that will attract investments and develop a sustainable mobility sector. Nevertheless, Bolt will stay compliant with existing regulations and continue to lobby for favorable laws. It would be exciting to see policies that encourage and support the deployment of electronic vehicles (EVs), an EV policy that grants waiver on import duties, and tax reliefs making the vehicles cheaper, more accessible, and attractive.
What are Bolt’s ambitions for ecologically sustainable transportation in Africa? Do you think the region is ready?
Africa is in its developmental stages, however, it is noteworthy to mention that ecological sustainability is a priority for leaders in Africa. Africa has untapped talents and resources that can be deployed toward achieving a sustainable ecosystem. Bolt will continue to search out areas for collaboration and lobby for favorable policies for sustainability projects with a win-win approach.
What are Bolt’s ambitions for safer and more efficient transportation and what safety measures has Bolt implemented in the region to ensure riders and drivers are safe?
Bolt is making significant progress in ensuring safer and more effective transportation for riders and drivers by leveraging emerging technologies and local partnerships to enhance its service capabilities. Bolt has implemented numerous safety measures on its app, once a ride is initiated, utilisers are prompted to view the in-app safety tool kits which have the following features; face-plate-share, SOS button, and end trip. Additionally, Bolt has a constant safety campaign on safety precautions to take before, during, and after a ride.
Bolt is currently in the test phase of the drive selfie check feature, wherein drivers will be required to do impromptu selfie checks to verify their identity before rides are initiated. This feature will help reduce safety issues around driver impersonation. Also, towards improving drivers’ safety, Bolt is testing out the passenger identification feature.
We would also use this opportunity to remind our passengers that safety is our number priority and it starts with you! Please remember to face (check the face of the driver vis-a-vis picture on the app)-plate (ensure the vehicle plate number corresponds with what is on the app)-share (share your ongoing trips with loved ones for monitoring). Please don’t indulge in offline trips, drivers can see the payment method as soon as they get a trip notification, so the issue of cash or card has been eliminated.