By Shola Olushola
BOLT, the leading ride-hailing company, successfully concluded its groundbreaking Bolt Den initiative of the Bolt Accelerator Programme. The event marked the culmination of an inspiring journey, with innovative ideas, and the promise of a brighter future for urban mobility.
Bolt’s Accelerator Programme, the first in Nigeria, initiated to empower its driver community beyond conventional ride-hailing services, aims to redefine their roles as entrepreneurs and amplify economic growth prospects across Nigeria.
The Bolt Den initiative, featuring a €25,000 ($26,712) seed fund, attracted an overwhelming response with 1,600 applications. The programme was strategically aligned with Bolt’s Africa City Vision, emphasising sustainable transport solutions. From the pool of applicants, 100 drivers progressed to the ideation phase, with the top 20 drivers showcasing the most promising and innovative business solutions advancing to the intensive business development boot camp phase in preparation for pitch day.
The pinnacle of the programme was the Bolt Den pitch session, where the top 20 drivers pitched their innovative ideas to a distinguished panel of judges who selected the best 10 ideas. Among the innovative ideas presented by the top 20 participants, ideas ranged from converting petrol vehicles to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for cars, developing a mobile application connecting users with on-the-go mechanics and towing rescue vans, converting petrol-operated vulcanizing machines to solar energy, and designing and assembling electric bicycles, and other noteworthy concepts which is a testament to the creativity and determination of the drivers to excel, win seed funds, and make their dreams a reality.
The grand awards ceremony took place on November 21st at the Oriental Hotel, Lagos, Nigeria. The top 10 drivers were unveiled each receiving a €2,000 seed fund and access to a six-week business mentorship programme. The excitement in the room was palpable as drivers, friends and families, the panel of judges, facilitators, and guests shared the joy of a transformative experience. Additionally, the top 20 drivers were awarded certificates of participation, and three drivers received laptops for these categories; best pitch, most scalable idea, most innovative idea, and one access to business mentorship with Oliver Wyman.
The awards ceremony was graced by esteemed personalities, including Engr. SA Agbomeji representing the Honourable Commissioner of Lagos State Ministry of Transport, Mr. Durojaye Olalekan, Directorate of Road Traffic Services FCT, Dr. Andreas Nienhaus, Partner at Oliver Wyman, Mrs. Omolara Adewumi, Director of Programs and Coordination/Acting Executive Secretary (CEO) of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), Professor Olayinka David-West of the Lagos Business School, Mrs. Adaorie Uchechukwu of the IFC, Mr. Peter Ogedengbe, Co-founder of The Nest and Caroline Wanjihia, Regional Director, Africa and International Markets at Bolt.
Thompson Ekawu Ogar, a driver on Bolt in Kaduna, the overall best of the top 10 ideas said “My idea and vision has been to elevate ‘many’ from poverty and to convert the use of ‘fossil fuel’ to solar energy. I think my idea will not only change the use of ‘fossil fuel’, but also create jobs for people across Africa.” The Bolt Accelerator Program has impacted me and I am thrilled to have come top of this program, thank you for showing me what it means to be part of a great, impactful, and success-driven team. I look forward to future collaborations with Bolt and the top 10.”
Latifu Modinatu, the only female driver among the top 10, driving on Bolt in Benin City said, “Words alone cannot express how grateful I am, thank you for the knowledge, the experience, the push, the encouragement, and financial empowerment as a driver-partner. I hope that one day I get to become a fleet partner with Bolt.”
Caroline Wanjihia, the Regional Director, Africa, and International Markets at Bolt, provided insight into Bolt’s footprint across Africa, saying “In Africa, we’re in several markets, Nigeria, Ghana, Tunisia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa,” but we’ve chosen Nigeria as the first market to launch the Bolt Accelerator programme. The programme is an economic empowerment initiative run with the Nigerian driver community.”
The Co-founder of The Nest, Peter Ogedengbe, took the stage to commend the entrepreneurial spirit of Bolt drivers who participated in the accelerator programme and stated The Nest is committed to supporting startups and entrepreneurs not only in Africa but beyond.
“Engr. SA Agbomeji, commended Bolt for spearheading this initiative designed to empower and support dedicated drivers, stating the Bolt Accelerator Programme is in alignment with Lagos State’s commitment to fostering an innovative environment and creating opportunities for stakeholders in the transportation sector.”
The Bolt Accelerator Programme’s Award Day was more than a ceremony, it was a celebration of resilience, innovation, and the collective commitment to transforming urban mobility. Bolt continues to lead the charge, driving economic growth, innovation, and empowerment, shaping the future of shared mobility in Africa.