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Agony for digital taxi drivers in Kenya as bolt taxi merges categories to a more cheaper option for riders as price wars persists

Bolt is offering drivers a chance to own their cars. Image/courtesy

On Sunday 14th February, bolt through a communication to its drivers and partners announced that it was merging the driver categories for cars and introducing a new category for eco friendly cars. This was to be effective immediately at midnight.

Come Monday morning and the reality hit the drivers when they realized that all small engine cars of 1300 cc and below had been merged under the bolt lite option, the cheaper version of bolt.

This, some drivers argue was after the company realized that most drivers preferred the bolt option as opposed to bolt lite which was cheaper and much preferred by customers.

But now, bolt drivers are crying foul, accusing the digital taxi companies led by bolt and Uber of being insensitive to the drivers and partners especially as fuel prices keep rising.


Pain at the pump: Kenyans to pay more for fuel beginning midnight today

Fuel prices will sharply increase from today based on the prices released by ERC. Image/courtesy

The memo that was sent to bolt drivers reads

Courtesy of bolt

Unfortunately, as much as the memo was meant to increase the prices of the rides substantially, the truth of the matter is that drivers with cars with a higher engine of 1300 cc will now earn less for the same trips

What this means for drivers is that a ride from the CBD to Mutjaiga on bolt will cost approximately 200 shillings for Mazda demio, Toyota March and the likes, and from this amount, bolt will still demand a commission of 50 shillings.

Worse still, the drivers accuse bolt of not taking into consideration time taken and traffic jam. So that, if the same ride from CBD to Muthaiga lasts for 50 minutes because of traffic, the price doesn’t change.

In effect, as much as it is a boom for riders, the company keeps hurting its drivers and partners as it uses pricing to compete with Uber and other digital apps. Uber and the other apps are no different.

Most of the digital taxi drivers use cars that they are supposed to remit a daily commission to their owner, to fuel and service the cars as well. it means if a 4km ride is 200, bolt takes ksh.50, the owner of the car takes ksh.70, fuel for the ride 50and the remaining amount is less than 30 shillings for the driver who is supposed to service the car, and save.

worse still is that during low season, the driver is not guaranteed of a ride back, which means they either have to wait at the destination for a whole day till another rider calls or drive empty back to the CBD where there is a higher chance of getting another ride. This is modern day slavery and nothing could be more exploitative.

What is frustrates the drivers more is that you are not allowed to cancel the ride if you realize that it does not make financial sense or your account will be blocked; even in the case where your rider cancels the ride, the driver is penalized through low activity rating and the driver account is subsequently blocked by the company (Bolt and Uber).

And as all this happens, the cries of the Kenyan drivers have gone unheard, with the government’s promise to intervene in the issue remaining just that years on.

The frequent strikes always end with the taxi companies adopting a few changes on pricing, unfortunately, these companies later withdraw their new pricing once the drivers have calmed down and revert back to their exploitative ways.

About the author

Njeru Kevin

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