Wheels of Change

Philly-based coalition distributes free bikes to needy recipients in Africa

(Photo Left) African Bicycle Contribution Foundation donates EcoRide Bamboo bikes in Ghana. Photo courtesy of African Bicycle Contribution Foundation.

During a visit to Africa a few years ago, veteran public relations expert and owner of Millennium 3 Management, A. Bruce Crawley, asked a student there how long it takes her to get to school in the morning.

“She said, ‘It takes me two hours, if I run.’”

It’s a response that Crawley never forgot. The self-described bicycle enthusiast became determined to help students and others in Africa obtain bicycles for necessary transportation. 

Last month, the Philadelphia-based African Bicycle Coalition, which Crawley chairs, distributed its 140th free bamboo bicycle to students, teachers, small farmers and healthcare workers in the West African country of Ghana.

Last year, the former president of Ghana, John Kufuor, in his capacity as United Nations Special Envoy on Climate Change, was on hand to give away the first bike.

A bicycle is something many Americans may take for granted. But it’s a big deal in struggling African countries. Youngsters travel long distances on densely trafficked rural roads to get to school. Some residents have to make 40-minute round-trip journeys on foot, just to collect clean water, four or five times a day.

A bicycle would seem like a cost-effective mode of transportation for such travel. But Crawley says they are economically out-of-reach not only for their cost, but also for shipping from Taiwan from where they are usually imported.  Buyers often must obtain micro-financing loans to purchase their vehicles.

With some research, Crawley discovered the existence of the Africa-based Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, which makes bicycles out of bamboo. Crawley’s bicycle coalition formed an affiliation with GBBI to custom-make bikes that would be awarded to deserved and needy recipients.

“We said if there’s a great demand for these bikes then African people should make the money,” recalls Crawley.

The impact of securing such transportation should not be underestimated. Crawley points to empirical data from West Africa that says if a young girl gets access to a bicycle, her attendance to school increases 600 percent.

Such transportation also makes a big difference in the lives of farmers and healthcare workers. The initiative has been so well received in Ghana that, at the most recent distribution ceremony on July 26 in that country’s Brong Ahafo region, more than 400 people showed up.

Bernice Dapaah, CEO and founder of GBBI, is scheduled to visit the U.S. next month, making stops in Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C., for a three-city awareness, economic development and fundraising tour that will include presentations to university business school students and faculty, entrepreneurial audiences, and business organizations.

The African Bicycle Coalition plans to distribute a total of 2,500 free bamboo bikes over a five-year period. These are rides that will change lives for many years to come.


Wheels of Change
Sheila Simmons - Contributor

Sheila Simmons brings many years of writing and communications experience to her work for Liberty City Press. She began her professional writing career at the Philadelphia Daily News, where she covered Business, City Hall and Education.


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