Afribike is a unique South African organization that is helping the rest of the world by helping Africa. It says that its mission is "to promote the use of non-motorized transport (bicycles, workcycles) as a means of poverty alleviation, job creation, education, sustainable development, and environmental protection."
Its Vision is to be an organization that will enable communities to leverage the potential of the bicycle through sustainable and replicable models.
Strategically, Afribike wants to act as an incubator to establish a franchise organization that will build up a small to medium franchising enterprise (SME) in Southern Africa and replicate its efforts throughout Africa.
The vast majority of South Africans; like the vast majority of most Africans; lack adequate transportation. The unavailability of affordable transportation many are forced to walk to their destinations, consuming time that could be spent generating income, gaining skills, or meeting household needs.
Afribike's integrated community bicycle infrastructure plan seeks to mobilize the working poor with bicycles and skills and make communities more 'bicycle friendly' through the provision of bicycle paths, signage, and service facilities.
Increasing the security of bicycles by providing low-cost chains and locks is another objective of Afribike along with advocating for the provisions for secure bicycle parking.
Afribike is getting some help in these areas from the University of Witswaterstrand and Dutch bicycle planning professionals who are in partnership with the South African organization.
In the rural areas, Afribike faces different challenges. Cost and access to cycling products and resources, are the major obstacles. By incubating local bicycle dealerships and setting up supply lines of low-cost and appropriate used and new bicycles, Afribike is solving the mobility problems of rural South Africans and creating local small enterprises and jobs in the process.
Before apartheid, bicycles were common in black areas, used by commuters, traders and health care workers, but today South Africa does not currently have a strong bicycle culture. Now, most cycling there is of a recreational nature and rates of cycling are very low with bicycle shops in low-income areas being almost nonexistent.
Many organizations and individuals have contributed to the development of Afribike. The name of the organization was first coined by the ITDP (Institute for Transport and Development Policy) based in New York. And was promoting bicycle transport in Africa.
The initial Afribike activities focused on the recycling of used bicycles from the USA and were largely driven by staff and volunteers working with the ITDP. In 1998 ITDP partnered with UK-based Re-cycle and elected to focus its activities on South Africa. Re-cycle had good access to used bicycles and the shipping costs from the UK were significantly lower than from the USA. Several containers were shipped to South Africa and the project established itself on a semi-permanent basis in downtown Johannesburg.
In 1999 the All Africa Games were held in Johannesburg and Afribike procured a
contract to provide the cleaning staff of the athlete's village with bicycles and did so successfully. Built on this success, additional projects were procured and the idea took root to set up micro bicycle retail enterprises housed in old shipping containers. Contracts to set up such enterprises in Ivory Park, a township near Midrand and in two areas in rural KwaZulu Natal were signed. By 2000 Afribike was registered in South Africa as an
Association Not for Gain and has since established itself as an independent
(South) African organization.
Each Afribike micro enterprise is managed by local operators who are trained by Afribike as bicycle mechanics. They also receive training in small business practice and operational procedures.
Apart from its retail function, the shop also functions as a mini resource center which can promote cycling locally through the establishment of local cycle clubs and organizing local cycle races. These clubs and races can then form a network which feeds into national and international cycling clubs and events.
Afribike says that bicycle transport "is the most successful form of sustainable transport in the world. Bicycle transport is non polluting, requires relatively little land space and uses renewable energy sources. Furthermore bicycles have proven a low cost efficient and effective mode of transport, especially in Asia and many parts of Europe. Bicycles also have significant health benefits by providing an easy way to exercise. Finally, bicycle transport is one of the safest modes of transport as very few people are killed by cyclists."
The organization also says that it focuses on Africa because the "transport system in Africa is generally very underdeveloped and this forms a major constraint on the development of the continent. More significant however, is the fact that most transport investments in Africa focus on promoting motorized transport. This is despite the fact that fewer than 1% of households in Africa have access to private motorized transport and that experiences in the developed world have shown that the almost universal use of motorized transport has enormous costs. The majority of Africans have to walk, which wastes a lot of time and severely limits their opportunities to participate in the economy. Bicycles are a low cost mode of transport which can drastically improve these people's mobility and can realistically be made accessible to most Africans."
To date "Afribike has recycled approximately 10,000 used bicycles which were imported from its partners in the UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, The Netherlands and Germany. The recycling of used bicycles which would otherwise end up on landfills in the developed world has two advantages: it reduces waste in the developed world and makes bicycle more affordable for low income users in Africa."
There is a lot more to be said about Afribike, and Afribike has a lot more to say, but since I am running out of space before this is no longer a "Short Article" I am going to direct you to their very well designed web site at: