Bolt gets R363m for Africa, Eastern Europe expansion

Gareth Taylor, regional manager for Bolt in Southern Africa.

E-hailing service Bolt has received a €20 million (R363 million) capital injection from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), to expand mobility solutions that create earning opportunities, improve access to transportation, and stimulate entrepreneurship in Eastern European and African markets.

The IFC investment will be directed towards Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, and African markets, such as Nigeria and South Africa, and support Bolt’s ongoing work to empower drivers while creating new economic opportunities.

The investment comes as Bolt is growing in SA and the rest of the Africa and piloting new solutions in response to market demands. The company has been eyeing expansion in Africa and Europe for some time.

Bolt has more than 30 million users in over 35 countries globally. Africa is its biggest market, with over half of its business worldwide coming from the seven African markets of South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Tunisia and Uganda.

The ride-hailing firm has since received over $56 million in debt financing from the European Investment Bank.

Bolt also secured €100 million (R1.9 billion) from UK-based investment firm Naya Capital Management.

Since its launch in South Africa in 2016, the company is providing earning opportunities for more than 400 000 drivers in over 70 cities across the continent.

It recently launched its Women Only service, which enables women passengers to request rides from female drivers only. This project is one of Bolt’s initiatives that will be supported by the IFC investment.

The Women Only ride service, available via the Bolt app, is available in eight cities around SA, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Emalahleni, Mbombela, Mthatha, East London and Rustenburg, and will continue to be rolled out to other cities.

“Half of Bolt’s business is in Africa, and this investment will make it possible for us to stimulate entrepreneurship and enable progress for drivers and passengers by transforming transportation on the continent,” says Gareth Taylor, regional manager for Bolt in Southern Africa.

Commenting on the investment, Stephanie von Friedeburg, IFC senior vice-president of operations, says: “Technology can and should unlock new pathways for sustainable development and women’s empowerment.

“Our investment in Bolt aims to help tap into technology to disrupt the transport sector in a way that is good for the environment, creates more flexible work opportunities for women, and provides safer and more affordable transportation access in emerging markets.”

The Estonia-headquartered company notes the investment will economically benefit women within its ecosystem and increase access to affordable mobility services.

IFC will support Bolt’s ongoing work to empower women riders and drivers by improving their access to safe and affordable transportation and creating new economic opportunities.

“We are looking forward to partnering with IFC to further support entrepreneurship, empower women and increase access to affordable mobility services in Africa and Eastern Europe,” says Markus Villig, Bolt CEO and founder.

“Together with the investment from the European Investment Bank last year, we are proud to have sizeable and strategically important institutions backing us and recognising the strategic value Bolt is providing to emerging economies.”

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