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Bolt Trims Down its Nigerian Workforce Amid Reports of Global Recruitment

As the tsunami of layoffs continues to spread across the global tech space, Bolt has reportedly laid off 20 staff of its Nigerian operations, Bolt Nigeria. This is according to sources within the company who spoke to this reporter on the condition of anonymity.

According to the sources, the layoff was announced to the staff by Bolt’s Regional Manager for West and North Africa and ROW, Ire Obatoki, during the All Hands Meeting of the Nigeria Operations teams which were held on Monday.

“A lot of junior staff are being let go. There’s no letter or circular yet, just an announcement at an All Hands Meeting where the Nigerian ops team were present. This is after they promised they won’t lay off staff, they would just slash spending instead,”

The announcement was followed by one-on-one exit chats with the 20 members of staff affected. This interview was conducted by Bolt People Manager for West and North Africa, Afolake Ismaila who basically explained to them why they were let go.

Restructuring its Nigerian operations

This development comes barely a day after several news platforms reported that the ride-hailing company was set to defy the current wave of layoffs by recruiting 326 new workers globally, including 3 managerial positions in Nigeria.

While this came across as a form of relief, the company seems to have lowkey concluded plans to lay off 20 team members.

Bolt has about 70 workers in its Nigerian subsidiary. With 20 of them gone, the subsidiary is shedding off nearly a third of its workforce. According to the sources, most of those affected are the junior and mid-level staff.

According to the company’s People Manager, Afolake Ismaila in her chat with the affected, the reason for the layoffs was because the company was “restructuring” its Nigerian operations.

In their place, the company is currently looking to hire three senior staff into managerial positions. They include a Country Manager, a Country Sales Manager, and an Operations Manager. The sources, however, claim that these roles would likely be filled with managers already in the team so there would be no new additional employment.

Bolt's West African Team. Source: Uche Okafor on LinkedIn; 2021
Bolt’s West African Team. Image source: Uche Okafor on LinkedIn; 2021

Failed promises, short notice period, unfair severance payments

According to my sources, this latest round of layoffs comes after only a week’s notice.

The sources also indicated that the layoffs are coming after several promises by management that there won’t be any layoffs. The assurances were given after staff members expressed fears in the wake of the pandemic layoffs plaguing the global tech space.

Yet, the dreaded event happened.

“No one was prepared for being laid off. They told us they would restructure and create new teams and move people around. And they knew well ahead that they were going to do it, and timed it at the end of this month so those laid off would have just one week to clear out their table,”

The affected members of staff are also unhappy with the severance package made available to them. These packages were based on how long each person has worked for the company. Anyone who has been with them for 1 year got an extra month’s salary. 2 years got 2 months. And, staff members that have worked for a period that is less than a year got half a month’s pay.

Yesterday, Bolt announced its intentions to invest €500 million ($530 million) in Africa over the next two years.
Yesterday, Bolt announced its intentions to invest €500 million ($530 million) in Africa over the next two years.

The least severance payment allowed by Estonian laws is a month’s salary.

Bolt’s response

This reporter reached out to the spokesperson at Bolt for a comment. In response, the company’s Bolt’s Regional Manager for West and North Africa and ROW, Ire Obatoki confirmed the layoff of 20 Nigerian employees.

According to her, the decision was not an easy one:

Bolt had to terminate work contracts with 20 of its employees in Nigeria due to an initiated strategy to improve our operational processes in the country. This was certainly not an easy decision to make, and we completely understand the frustration of the affected employees.

– Ire Obatoki

In response to allegations that the required notice days were not adhered to, Nthabiseng explained that the carefully observed the tenets of the Nigerian Labour Laws:

“We have carefully observed the labour law in Nigeria during the process of terminating the contracts. In addition to the severance packages foreseen by the legislation, Bolt has offered the affected employees an additional 3 months of health insurance and 3 months of access to psychological support and a career coach to help them navigate the transition to new employment opportunities”, she explains.

Also, contrary to the claim by the source that 20 staff members were affected by the process, Ife claimed that only 17 staff members were affected and not 20. She also explained that the people affected have different contracts and will be paid according to what is due to them according to their contracts.

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