BAMBOO BICYCLES SALES ON THE RISE IN AFRICA
By Paul Ndiho
Bamboo Bicycle start-ups in Africa are offering cycling enthusiasts a cheaper alternative to ordinary bikes, with a brand made from bamboo. The new bicycles are generating a lot of interest on the international market.
At a workshop in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, Noordin Kasoma inspects handmade bicycles produced by his company. The entrepreneur has developed a process to recycle damaged steel bikes, replacing the metal frames with bamboo — before putting them on the market.
Noordin learned to make bikes after training with an American bike frame designer and manufacturer and watching tutorials on the internet. His goal is to build bicycles that are cheaper and tougher than conventional than the brands available locally.
“When it comes to the Bamboo bicycle in riding mainly on the off-road, it’s comfortable. One, bamboo is flexible; due to that flexibility it gives that kind of shock absorbing property when you’re riding especially off-road. The bamboo itself tries to absorb the shocks that you are passing through other than steel or aluminum.
It takes Noordin about seven days to assemble a bicycle. The bamboo must be dried for several months first, and the bikes cost between 350 to 450 dollars each, depending on the size and design.
Noordin says his business employs about 20 workers. He’s teaching several young apprentices the unique production specifications of his bicycles. Noordin is planning to expand his business locally as well as internationally.
“We get geometrical diagrams of different types of bikes and different sizes. We normally make mountain bikes, city bikes, travel bikes and then we have road bikes, the racing bikes. So every type of bicycle has different geometry and different sizes.”
In Ghana, another entrepreneur peddling bamboo bikes is making his mark on the international market. Boomers International, a grassroots community development organization, is specializing in producing bamboo-framed bicycles for export around the world. Kwabena Danso, is the CEO of Boomers International.
“We currently sell a lot on the international markets, we are marketed in Germany, through a company called my Boo, we also market in Holland through a company called forester Bikes, and Forester Bikes started because of us. They set up the company to distribute our product…and we also have another company in Australia called Ethical Wheels.”
Located in the Ashanti region of Kumasi, Ghana, the Yonso Project, dares to be bold, their Bamboo bikes have a striking design that commands attention.
As Boomers International seizes the opportunity to make use of bamboo, an abundant, natural resource. The company is also investing in the sustainability and the development of the local communities.
“We are trying to promote education, support rural community development through education, empower these children in the rural communities by the sales of our bikes.”
Bicycle analysts say Africa’s fast-growing population and rapid urban development has meant more cars on the roads — but having locally manufactured and affordable bikes could ease the crush of people using public transportation.