It’s no secret that the ride-hailing industry has become a vital part of our daily lives for many people with different needs for getting around. The fourth industrial revolution is rapidly shaping the transportation sector in Uganda as cities become overly crowded with traffic, small businesses, street vendors and mushrooming commercial centres.
Companies like Bolt are now household names, especially to those familiar with door-to-door pickup rides. This kind of commuting has modified the transport sector within the country, notably in the central region, unlike before when a few individuals could access these services. As the industry grows t, the players are developing innovative ways of making these services available to the people upcountry and also help to impact their drivers positively.
Being a sector that is geared to customer convenience and demand, it is rapidly expanding globally. This has helped create more employment opportunities for thousands of people, especially the youth. According to Population Action International, youth account for 77% of Uganda’s population. Empowering these young people is crucial as part of other factors contributing to sustaining Uganda’s economic growth.
Bolt has expanded its services and can be accessed in over 40 countries across Europe and Africa. The company provides mobility services, including ride-hailing with vehicles and motorbikes, popularly known as boda–boda in Uganda. As it expands, the company focuses on empowering its drivers by actively encouraging their sense of self-employment and advancement. With this, the company is focused on proper training for its drivers in good service delivery and also individual growth initiatives.
Moses Mugerwa, the Operations Manager for Bolt in Uganda, said, “It is critical to assist people in getting started in the evolving gig economy. As a company, we aim to ensure that the livelihoods of our drivers are impacted positively. That is why we educate our drivers to be self-empowered; that way, one can earn an income from various sources while maintaining the necessary flexibility.”
The gig economy is a free market system in which multiple jobs are common, and organizations can hire independent workers through short term contracts.
Patrick Zziwa, a 25-year-old driver, has been driving for another firm before joining Bolt Uganda. Having been in the business for five years now, operating as a special hire vehicle operator, he had no idea that he could run a small business at the same time.
“I usually work six days a week, from Monday to Saturday. On weekdays, I begin driving in the morning and conclude my day early enough to monitor my other business, a small duuka. Saturday is my busiest day of the week, so I start the day earlier than usual.”
According to Zziwa, being a Bolt driver offers him the flexibility of being his own boss, enabling him to decide how long he can operate on the Bolt platform. However, he stressed the importance of planning as a significant key to anyone having more than one business. He said the more rides he completes, the more money he makes. “You want to be busy all the time. For us, time is money. Thanks to Bolt, I am now earning more than I used to. I can construct my house in Sentema in Wakiso district.” he said.
On the other hand, given the current Covid-19 pandemic, Zziwa said there had been a drop in customer ride requests because most people prefer staying indoors in compliance with the Covid- 19 standard operating procedures. As a result, his other business has helped to sustain him during this period. It is essential to have additional income sources for sustainability during such difficult times.
According to John Bosco Lukwago, a boda–boda rider, “I have been with Bolt for four years, and I have seen a big difference in my life; all my five children now go to school, and I have managed to build myself a house in Bweyogerere,” he said.
Lukwago adds that Bolt introduced him to the digital world; his customers don’t have to wait at a physical stage as he can easily reach them at their doorstep.
As challenging as the economic climate may be, Bolt has helped to empower the youth through creating employment opportunities and training their drivers in entrepreneurship skills to become self-starters in their communities.