By Paul Ndiho
Bicycles are an easy and fairly affordable means of transport for many Africans all over the continent. In Uganda, a 25 year-old motorcycle mechanic is using his passion for motorcycles to design a motorized bike.
In the Seta, Mukono district of central Uganda, Ronald Kayondo thrives on repairing motorcycles or “Bodabodas”. He discovered his love for motorcycles when he was just a young boy. By his own admission, he says that he is not a mechanic by training, nor does he claim to know much about mechanical engineering. But his love and passion for motorcycles has inspired him to build from scratch a motorized bike.
“It was an idea that my friend and I thought about. We looked for some scrap metal, an old motorcycle engine and an old bicycle that we used for this experiment. Our goal was to see if we could turn this bicycle into a motorized bicycle. And one evening, we decided to take all the parts to a welder that welded everything together. After he was done, we took our motorized bike for a test drive and that’s how people got to know about us.”
Kayondo hopes to use this low cost motorized bike as an alternative to walking long distances for work and elsewhere. Since his innovation hit the streets, he has become somewhat of a celebrity — and he’s always surrounded by group of young people. Martin Muganzi, founder of the Youth Artwork Initiative, a local NGO that scouts for talent and innovations all around the district, says that Kayonda and his friends are doing incredible things.
“These young people are amazing. They’ve made a motorized bicycle. And this motorized bicycle is for all the people, the farmers, and the villagers, and people in the rural areas that cannot afford the big motorcycles. Whereby they can get onto this bicycle and moved their produce, move their product from the farms and take it to the markets.”
Parked outside a small compound in Seta, Mukono is another motorized bike. This bike was designed by Kayondo and two of his friends who are all high school dropouts. This is his second prototype. He built the motorized bike using local materials such as scrap metal and discarded parts from motorcycles.
Kayondo uses his motorcycle repair skills to be creative and builds his prototypes using information he finds on the internet.
Given a chance Kayondo wants to study mechanical engineering, but his dreams have been cut short because he dropped out of school. But despite the challenges, he remains optimistic.
“What I need more than anything else is to get help in terms of professional training and funding so that I can do a lot of other things.”
Finding funding for his projects is difficult but hopes to take his innovation to the local innovation competitions. Kato Joseph, a Bodaboda taxi operator in Seta, has known Kayondo since he was a young boy. He says that his ability to create stuff and inspire other young people is a undeniable.
“Kayondo is an interesting young man and he is an inspiration to many of these young people. He is a gifted person, and reaches out to many young people who are also doing extraordinary things.”
Although, Kayondo’s motorized bike isn’t quite ready to hit the streets yet, he believes with the right support and training he can become one of Uganda’s best self-taught innovators. Tech analysts in Uganda say his achievement, is great, but it will take him years to perfect this prototype and have it on the market.
Paul Ndiho is a Ugandan – American video journalist/ executive producer, Africa Innovations & Technology based in Washington D.C with interests in innovation, technology and entrepreneurship in Africa. He is passionate about mentorship and developing the next generation of Africa’s young leaders. Email:email@example.com, Facebook: Paul Ndiho and Twitter: @pndiho