Bolt, the Estonia-based ride-hailing platform, is laying off 17 out of its 70 employees in Nigeria. According to sources close to the business who spoke to TechCabal, the layoffs affected mostly junior and mid-senior members of the operations team, including city managers. In an email to TechCabal, Bolt’s Regional Manager for West and North Africa, Ireoluwa Obatoki, confirmed the layoffs. Part of the email said, “Bolt had to terminate work contracts with 17 of its employees in Nigeria due to an initiated strategy to improve our operational processes in the country. This was certainly not an easy decision to make, and we completely understand the frustration of the affected employees.”
Several sources who spoke to TechCabal say that the layoffs happened despite a recent promise of job security from the company’s CEO Markus Villig. One employee who spoke to TechCabal on the condition of anonymity stated that there were some restructuring talks making rounds internally since last year. The employees said the management later confirmed when it told them of a possible restructuring that would most likely lead to internal team reshuffling and the creation of new roles and departments but “would not lead to loss of job for any employee. They lied.”
On February 16, employees said they got an email inviting them to a February 20 company-wide meeting from their regional manager Obatoki. “What most of us expected was an update on whether we will be joining a new team or going to a new city,” said one of the affected employees. “We are instead informed of the decision to cut headcounts… she [Obatoki] then told us that ‘affected team member will be contacted to discuss exits and severance’.”
According to several sources, severance includes one month’s pay, three months health insurance, and in some few cases, leave allowance. Bolt confirmed the terms of the severance via email. Employees who spoke to TechCabal said that these layoffs weren’t done on the basis of performance as some affected employees were some of their best hands, rather the company cited redundancy. Bolt currently operates in more than 20 cities in Nigeria, “where could the redundancy be with just 70 people?” asked one of the affected employees.
Just a few days ago, during a visit to South Africa, the first African country the company expanded to in 2016, Villig pledged that Bolt will invest about $500 million into its African operations. The funds are said to be used to expand its operations on the continent and create opportunities for over 300,000 new drivers and couriers to join the platform in 2023.
With the platform reaching a billion rides on the continent and expecting the number of drivers on the platform to hit over 1 million in the next six months, Villig said the company remains committed to investing into local communities for the long-term.
“At a time when many countries are facing economic challenges, we will continue to grow our presence in Africa through this new investment which offers massive potential to create new jobs and income opportunities for drivers and couriers,” Villig said in a statement announcing the new investment. Affected employees said this new funding update gave them hope that their jobs were safe but will instead leave feeling let down.