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Digital Inclusion

Bolt raises $24M for emerging markets expansion

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Ride-hailing platform Bolt has received a €20 million ($23.9 million) investment from the IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, to expand its services in emerging economies in Africa and Eastern Europe.

Bolt said the money and advisory services from the IFC will help the company "expand mobility solutions that create earning opportunities, stimulate small-scale entrepreneurship, and improve access to transportation in Eastern European and African markets."

The IFC funding will be targeted towards growth in countries such as Nigeria and South Africa as well as Eastern European economies such as Ukraine, it said.

"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," said Gareth Taylor, regional manager for Bolt in Southern Africa.

South Africa was Bolt's first African market; the company launched services there in 2016 and it now has around 25,000 drivers in 34 towns and cities across all nine provinces.

Since the SA launch it has opened up shop in six other African countries, with over 400,000 drivers in more than 70 cities across the continent.

"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," said Bolt CEO and founder Markus Villig.

Last year the company also raised $110 million from UK-based Naya Capital Management to fund its growth and development strategy, with Africa as a big focus area.

Women in the driver's seat

Bolt said the investment will also help its ongoing work to empower women riders and drivers by improving their access to safe and affordable transportation and creating new economic opportunities.

The mobility platform is busy piloting a "Women Only" ride-hailing category in South Africa – a new service aiming to address safety concerns and improve women's mobility by connecting female drivers with female passengers.

"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," said Stephanie von Friedeburg, IFC senior VP of operations.

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*Top image source: Bolt.

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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