Bolt Nigeria reportedly cut about half of its headcount

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May 6, 2024
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7 min read
Bolt

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Here's what I've got for you today:

  • Bolt Nigeria reportedly cut about half of its headcount
  • South Africa targets online retailers exploiting tariff loopholes
  • Airtel Africa to raise over $165 million
  • South Africa’s plan to regulate AI 

Bolt Nigeria reportedly cut about half of its headcount

Bolt

Bolt Nigeria has reportedly cut loose about half of its staff, letting go of 22 out of 45 employees. This is a big deal because it includes some senior management folks, which is a first for the company.

Word has it that they've axed everyone in their Warri and Port Harcourt offices, and nearly everyone in Edo State got the boot too.

The reason behind all these layoffs? Well, it's all about money. Bolt's feeling the pinch with high fuel prices and expensive spare parts eating into their profits. Plus, ride prices aren't high enough to keep drivers happy, so they're bailing out too. Fewer people can afford rides, which means fewer trips and less money coming in. Basically, the whole business is taking a hit in Nigeria.

Some insiders reckon Bolt might stick around for a bit longer, but unless things turn around fast, they might end up pulling out of Nigeria altogether or just sticking to the big cities like Lagos and Abuja, where they're still making money.

When asked about the layoffs, Bolt tried to spin it differently, saying they're just "discontinuing collaboration" with those 22 employees as part of a restructuring process. They're offering severance packages to soften the blow, but it's still a tough situation.

This isn't the first time Bolt's had to make cuts either. In 2023, they let go of about a third of their Nigerian workforce, mostly junior staff.


South Africa targets online retailers exploiting tariff loopholes

Online shopping
Image by Preis_King from Pixabay

Ebrahim Patel, South Africa's Trade, Industry, and Competition Minister, is taking on international online retailers accused of exploiting tariff loopholes to undercut local stores. 

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Patel aims to level the playing field in South Africa's online retail sector by ensuring everyone pays their fair share of customs duties and taxes.

Takealot Group CEO, Fred Zietsman, spilled the beans, saying that while sellers on platforms like Takealot are coughing up import duties and taxes for their goods, some new players aren't playing by the rules. This not only messes with pricing but also hurts the South African economy.

The National Clothing Retail Federation (NCRF) is also chiming in, pointing fingers at companies like Temu and Shein — online marketplaces — for slipping through these loopholes, which hurts local retailers and job opportunities. 

Michael Lawrence, from the NCFR, says this dodgy practice is not only hurting local businesses and jobs but also depriving the country of much-needed revenue.

But, hold up, it's not just the online giants at fault here. Lawrence reckons even their local partners are messing up, misreporting duties and taxes to the taxman.

The government slaps a hefty tax and VAT on imported clothes to protect our local manufacturers. But, according to the NCRF, the actual taxes being paid can be as low as 10% of the item's value.

But here's the twist: it's not just the retailers; their courier partners are also reportedly messing up tax reporting, making matters worse.

However, Temu is pushing back. They say they’re not responsible for duties and taxes; that’s on local authorities when the packages hit South Africa. They claim to work with a legit logistics company to handle all that tax stuff.

So, there’s a battle brewing between local retailers and these big online players, and the government is stuck in the middle trying to sort out this mess.


Airtel Africa to raise over $165 million

Airtel Africa

According to reports, Airtel Africa is in talks with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) about snagging a $200 million loan. Meanwhile, another publication reported that the telecom expects to score $165 million.

While the exact amount is unknown, the plan is to use this cash to cover expenses and pay off debts in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Kenya.

The IFC is about backing private sector projects in developing countries, and they're keen on this deal. It reckons the money will go towards beefing up Airtel Africa's telecom network. Think new 4G gear like antennas, software updates, and all that jazz, plus beefing up their fibre optic lines.

This isn't the first time Airtel Africa has gotten a cash injection from the IFC. In December 2022, it scored nearly $200 million to boost its operations in several African countries.

The goal is to stay competitive in the African telecom market, which is getting pretty crowded. Airtel Africa wants to keep chipping away at its debt while beefing up its networks.

The IFC reckons this move will help improve Internet access for folks and businesses in places like the DRC, Kenya, and Rwanda. Plus, it should nudge the telecom market in those countries to up its game and keep innovating.

Just to give you an idea of Airtel Africa's reach, it’s in 14 markets and claim to have over 151 million customers as of 2023. In Rwanda, it’s got about 5 million users, while in the DRC, it’s competing with big players like Vodacom and Orange. And in Kenya, it’s going head-to-head with Safaricom.


South Africa’s plan to regulate AI 

Artificial Intelligence

Communications Minister Mondli Gungubele thinks South Africa shouldn't miss out on the AI train. He believes AI has the potential to generate significant revenue for the country, so staying current on the technology is critical.

He expressed these views at a national AI summit hosted by his department. The summit was all about figuring out how to make AI work for South Africa's benefit while keeping things in check.

They discussed developing AI standards and guidelines so that everyone understands what is going on in the AI world. They also discussed how to better understand AI and mitigate any potential drawbacks.

Gungubele stressed the importance of AI in helping achieve the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. He thinks AI could be a game-changer for the continent and wants South Africa to be a part of it.

He cited a study that claimed South Africa and other African countries could earn $136 billion by jumping on the AI bandwagon. But he also warned that AI needs to be regulated properly to ensure it's used responsibly and benefits everyone.

To keep South Africa on track, Gungubele announced plans to establish an AI Expert Advisory Council. This group of smart folks will help guide the country on AI policies and regulations. Professor Vukosi Marivate will lead the charge, along with a task force to get things rolling.

Gungubele's hoping that after the summit, they'll have a solid plan to use AI to tackle South Africa's economic and social challenges.


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Victoria Fakiya for Techpoint Africa.

She's autistic and interested in mental health and how technology can help Africans with mental disorders. Find her on Twitter @latoria_ria.
She's autistic and interested in mental health and how technology can help Africans with mental disorders. Find her on Twitter @latoria_ria.
She's autistic and interested in mental health and how technology can help Africans with mental disorders. Find her on Twitter @latoria_ria.

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