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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Weblinks February 2012





















Youth initiative drives Ghana on Bamboo Bikes

The Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative in the West African country’s second largest city, Kumasi, is finalizing arrangements for the scaling up of production to serve the transportation needs of healthcare workers, teachers, students and farmers in rural Ghana.
The local bamboo bike industry is emerging to deliver a sustainable and affordable form of transportation that satisfies local needs and suitable for the European and US export markets.

The production of high-quality multi-purpose bicycles has so far attracted the support and partnership of the Green Microfinance in the United States and the World Bamboo Organisation and other research and development institutions such as the Kolding School of Design in Dennmark and other Ivy League Universities in the US.

“With our commitment to build a bicycle industry in Ghana, we will customize and develop bicycles for the local market especially for farmers in the rural areas. The bicycles will be distributed through the Independent Bicycle Dealers whom we are currently building relationship with throughout the country so that on scaling up we will be able to get our bicycles to the farthest regions of the country providing equal benefits to all Ghanaians from the North to the South”, said Kwame Kyei, Social Entrepreneur and Co-Founder of the Initiative.

The bamboo bike market is still growing and it is growing at a faster rate in its own niche market. With the wind of global warming and climate change issues blowing all over the world, coupled with increasing cost of steel and aluminium, concern for higher fuel prices, the environment and increasing efforts in bicycle advocacy, bicycle ridership has grown over the last few years globally and bicycle enthusiasts all over the world are gradually eyeing bamboo bikes.

Compared to the production of traditional metal bicycles, bamboo bikes require less electricity and no hazardous chemicals. The Ghana Bamboo Bikes contribute to a carbon-free and greener planet by reducing carbon emission by about 70 percent.

Ghana Bamboo Bikes design, develop and market multi-purpose bikes and related products and services using native bamboo. The light and stable frames are suitable for rough terrain and for carrying large farm loads and passengers.

The Bikes initiative aims at taking advantage of the abundant raw bamboo materials in Ghana to manufacture high quality bamboo bikes affordable to the poor and appropriate for the road conditions.

Bernice Dapaah is Executive Director of Bright Generation Community Foundation, which is responsible for the overall management of the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative.

She says the project is helping to improve the environment and creating employment opportunities for the youth and people with disability. 

“Our vision is to help create employment for street children and also the physically challenged – we’ve employed ten street children and physically challenged and we are anticipating that by the end of the year, we can employ about 100 of the youth and also export thousands of bicycles to international platforms,” Dapaah noted.

The Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative achieved about 70 percent of its production target for 2011, exporting 50 bicycles to Austria, 10 to China and five to the US.

As part of its scale up strategies, the Initiative plans to establish a bamboo plantation to support climate mitigation strategies.

Bamboo is the fastest growing canopy for re-greening of degraded lands. It also provides nutrition for humans and animals as well as helps improve air and water quality.

The Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative seeks to break the status quo in the development of a bicycle industry in Ghana and train people with little or no education in the manufacturing and assembling of bamboo bikes and spearheading the production of stable, cheaper and reliable bikes in Ghana thus reducing Ghana’s dependence on fossil fuels whiles increasing economic activities of rural Ghanaians.

The project won the 2010 SEED Awards by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). It also received a $10,000 prize to invest and grow the enterprise in the maiden edition of the ImagineNations Global Business Plan competition 2011 and was recently selected as a winner of the German Government’s 2011 Impact Business Award in recognition of the innovativeness of its business model and achievements in combating Climate Change.

The awards, according Kwame Kyei, “have made a lot of difference for us especially with respect to urgently needed funds for some research and development and acquisition of some tools. If you are targeting the international market there is the need for you to get some level of ISO certification and in the bike industry, additional safety assurance certification which we are still working on. Of course the funds assisted us to start this process which we are almost through”.

He is excited at the number of offers and business opportunities coming from private investors interested in investing in the project and others seeking technology transfer to start bamboo bike production in their countries.

He however says “as a small social enterprise we do not want to be distracted by all the offers on board so we are in the process of working through which most closely match our strategy to pursue at the right time.

“We would like to take advantage of these unique opportunities coming on our way to develop other products and diversify our production and will hold brief onto that until those products are ready for the market”.

The Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative is based on the revolutionary idea that to truly enjoy lasting development, Africa producers must create, grow and control successful global brands and the equity developed in them, the very same formula that global brands in developed nations have so successfully deployed to build themselves and their countries.

A country like Ghana is rich in physical, cultural and intellectual resources and the country’s unique products is living proof that Africa can control its own destiny by rising up the value chain and exporting higher value branded finished goods, instead of low value commodity exports as creating innovative world class products and trading them with the world.\
Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh


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