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Bamboo bikes and other stories...
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." Albert Einstein
It’s impossible to know how many bikes there are in Africa but estimates put the figure at around 10 million - in 2011, Kenya alone, imported over 500,000 bicycles. Many of the bicycles on the market are unreliable, poor quality, foreign imports; but with so many people reliant on the bike things are starting to change. Small enterprises are popping-up across the continent aiming to build better quality, more reliable bicycles, whilst providing training for local people and generating income for their communities.
In Lusaka, Zambia, Zambikes produce bicycles, bicycle ambulances and cargo bike trailers. They also produce customised Bamboo bicycles for export across the world.
See Africa Differently spoke with Zambike's General Manager Viera Funjika about how bicycles have changed her community and the benefits of building in bamboo.
When did Zambikes start?
It was registered in October 2007 as a social enterprise. Two of the directors partnered with two Zambians when they identified the need for more efficient transportation. Zambikes mission is “To change lives by developing and providing efficient transport solutions throughout Zambia”
How many people work at Zambike?
We currently employ 30 individuals in production and administration and have about 12 trainees.
Can you tell us about the different bikes you produce?
Sure, we make Zambikes, Zambulances (bicycle ambulances), Zamcarts and bamboo bike frames.
The Zambikes are distributed to medical workers, teachers and developing entrepreneurs allowing each recipient to travel three times as fast than by foot.
The Zambulances allow patients to be ferried to health facilities in a faster and more comfortable way.
The Zamcart (cargo bicycle trailer) allows the individual using it to carry up to three times more load; not only increases efficiency but also earning power.
The Zambikes bamboo bicycle frames are designed for the global market. Bamboo is super strong and very lightweight, each Bamboo bike is custom handcrafted by skilled Zambians, using locally grown and sustainably sourced materials. Each bamboo frame undergoes cutting, curing, drying, gluing, wrapping, sanding, and painting. The process to build a frame takes over 2 months and no two bamboo bikes are the sam
How many bikes have been produced?
In total about 8,000 bikes as well as over 900 Zambulances and Zamcarts and 300 custom Bamboo frames.
What role has Zambikes played in the local community?
I actually live in the community where we have employed most of the guys who work for Zambikes. We offer training and mentoring and to date, most have been assisted to send their children to school, build houses and go back to school themselves. The Bikes have helped local trade- enabling people to transport goods more easily. The sale of spares and repairs has earned our workers extra money.
We also sell bikes more widely and have distributed them to pastors, teachers and health workers in their various projects.
What ambitions do you have for Zambikes?
As a pilot project, Zambikes has been considered a success. It has been a lot of hard work, with many lessons along the way. Thanks to all this hard work we believe that pretty soon you will hear about Zambikes International all over Africa.
Locally, we want to continue empowering the young people and promote the social businesses model that not only benefits the company, but also the community.
Are the bikes affordable for the community?
I believe so. They are more expensive than many of the cheap bikes that flood the market. But our bikes are far better quality and come with 6 gears. We do offer responsible credit facilities and we have donated to individuals whose life might be greatly improved by having a bike.
To find out more about Zambikes take a look at their website here
Creativity and innovation- are happening everyday across Africa, I'll be writing about the most exciting developments in our favourite contintent
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