Here are the noteworthy developments of tech around Africa for the week:
- Kenya blocks Bolt’s license renewal
- Treepz and Octamile collaborate to introduce Treepz Care
- Microsoft to empower 10 million SMEs in Africa
Kenya blocks Bolt’s license renewal
The Kenyan transport regulator, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), has refused to renew Bolt's license, dealing a significant setback to the Estonian ride-hailing company. The decision stems from allegations of various breaches, including illegal commission charges and the imposition of a booking fee by Bolt. This development is a blow to Bolt as it was planning fresh investments to expand its operations in the Kenyan market.
The NTSA declined Bolt's license renewal request, citing mounting complaints from drivers and their representatives regarding non-compliance and violation of regulations. In a letter from NTSA, the regulator made it clear that Bolt's license would not be renewed until it satisfactorily addressed and rectified these breaches.
Bolt's current license, issued on October 28 the previous year, is set to expire in less than 17 days. The NTSA has ordered Bolt to provide a breakdown of its commission rates, specifically instances where rates exceeded the maximum allowable limit of 18 percent. Additionally, Bolt must explain the rationale behind its commission structure and cease imposing what NTSA describes as an illegal booking fee. Failing to obtain a license renewal could pose a significant challenge to Bolt's operations in Kenya.
Bolt argues that it is fully compliant with the regulations and continues to work on the renewal process ahead of the license's expiry. However, the NTSA maintains that Bolt has been accused of breaching the provisions of the Transportation Network Companies (TNC) Regulations, particularly in the areas of commission charges and booking fees.
The consequences of Bolt losing its license could affect various stakeholders, including service users, drivers, competition in the ride-hailing industry, and government revenue. Users might face a reduction in affordable and convenient transportation options, while drivers could lose their source of income. The absence of Bolt may also impact competition in the ride-hailing sector, potentially leading to reduced incentives for innovation and competitive pricing.
Despite the challenges, Bolt remains committed to operating in the Kenyan market and is working to address the issues raised by the NTSA to secure the renewal of its license before the deadline.
Treepz and Octamile collaborate to introduce Treepz Care
African mobility startup Treepz has formed a partnership with Octamile, an insurtech startup, to introduce an insurance program known as Treepz Care. This program is designed to provide comprehensive coverage for both guests and hosts within Treepz's car-sharing marketplace.
- Guest Protection Plan: This part of Treepz Care covers accidents that result in injury, disability, or death, offering benefits like medical expenses, permanent disability coverage, and death benefits. Treepz has seamlessly integrated this plan into the booking process for guests' convenience.
- Host Protection Plan: This aspect of the program covers accidents involving death, physical harm, and disability, including driver accident insurance. It provides benefits such as healthcare costs, permanent disability coverage, and death benefits. Hosts can opt-in for various policy covers during their onboarding process.
Both of these insurance plans are available to users in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, and Kenya. The partnership between Treepz and Octamile aims to enhance safety and assurance for guests and hosts, particularly in the car rental industry.
This partnership is significant in regions such as Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, and Nigeria, where the travel and tourism industries play a pivotal role in the local economy. Car rental services are crucial for empowering tourists and travelers to explore these diverse regions with confidence.
Octamile's ambition goes beyond redefining insured travel in Africa, as it aims to bridge the insurance gap across the continent, making top-tier solutions accessible to even the underinsured population. This partnership reflects a commitment to ensuring safety and peace of mind for users and supports the growth of car rental services in Africa.
The goal is to provide comprehensive protection for Treepz Hosts and Guests, fostering safety in their travels and commutes.
Microsoft to empower 10 million SMEs in Africa
Microsoft is committed to empowering 10 million small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa by 2025, providing them with the necessary tools and support to foster growth and establish strategic partnerships. This initiative is vital as SMEs constitute 90% of businesses globally. To achieve this ambitious goal, Microsoft has announced a five-year partnership with Flutterwave.
Under this collaboration, Flutterwave will introduce transactable solutions on Azure Marketplace, including its SMB finance-as-a-service, which will enhance accessibility for a broader audience. Microsoft's focus on SMEs is driven by the belief that technology and innovation are key to building thriving local businesses, creating stronger economies, and ensuring a brighter future for all.
One of the significant challenges facing SMEs and startups in Africa is the limited access to financial services and difficulties in conducting seamless transactions using local payment methods. Cash-based transactions are prevalent, with as much as 90% of transactions still conducted in cash. Additionally, around half of small businesses lack access to credit. Innovative solutions are needed to uplift and empower SMEs on the continent.
The strategic partnership between Microsoft and Flutterwave aspires to accelerate payment innovation in Africa and bolster the growth of small businesses. SMEs play a crucial role in Africa's development, employing around 90% of the population and driving innovation to address societal challenges. Microsoft aims to provide digital financial tools and services to enable these businesses not only to survive but to thrive, contributing to a more resilient and prosperous continent.
The importance of this initiative lies in its potential to create a positive economic impact by equipping SMEs with essential resources and opportunities for growth. Fintech companies, like Flutterwave, play a pivotal role in supporting SMEs and the informal sector, which generates a significant portion of employment and contributes substantially to the GDP of African economies.