|Managing Director||Michael Linke|
|One line description||Bicycle Empowerment Centres-bicycle shops by and for the urban poor|
The BEC is a bicycle shop in a poor community, run by local people with profits benefiting local development initiatives. For each BEC a shipping container with 350 second hand bicycles is delivered as the starting capital, thereafter the BEC meets its own financial needs. It was inspired by a need for healthcare volunteers to improve their outreach capacity, and was a response to their ongoing need for maintenance services and resources to do repairs on their bicycles, as well as a means of addressing broader demand for affordable, sustainable and dignified transport. Our goal is to make bicycles accessible to the majority of Namibians. Our success has been in developing a sustainable distribution system, and in building a network of outlets in order to increase the robustness of the system. We hope to help local implementers establish similar networks of BECs in new countries.
Does your venture meet the goals of the Prize? max. 250 words (40 points)*
Bicycle Empowerment Centres (BECs) improve communities in multiple ways. They act a sales and service point for affordable bicycles. Each project is implemented in partnership with a local community based organisation, which selects participants from among its members/volunteers. BECs improve transport for the urban poor by providing a cheaper alternative to the dominant public transport mode, which are in fact private taxis. They also provide a faster and more convenient alternative to walking–the main transport mode of the urban poor. BECs help to make bicycles a more viable transport option, as they keep more bicycles functioning for a longer time, resulting in more bicycle trips. Prior to the implementation of BEC projects in Namibia, there were no suppliers of quality low cost bicycles or repair services in poor areas of Namibian cities. While not all of the BEC projects implemented are located in cities (some are in rural villages), the majority of shops are in an urban setting.
How is your venture unique and innovative? max. 200 words (20 points)*
The Bicycle Empowerment Centre provides a sustainable foundation for bicycle distribution and ongoing maintenance services. As a model, it overcomes the lack of access to capital that limits many businesses in poor communities, and in exchange leverages further social benefits through profits supporting local development initiatives. It doesn’t require a hugely-resourced implementing organisation, as it accesses support through existing local organisations, which provide guidance and monitoring to the project participants. While there is little to say about integration with other modes–Namibian public transport comprises mainly private taxis–BECs introduce high concentrations of cyclists into the local road network, which in turn makes cycling a more appealing option for the urban poor.
Is your enterprise scalable or replicable? max. 150 words (20 points)*
The Namibian experience has already shown that the project is scalable, with 28 shops throughout the country. It is also scalable to other countries, though to date only a few ad hoc projects have been implemented. Part of the success in Namibia is due to networking of the projects for mutual learning, trade and support. There is a need to develop capacity of implementing partners in new countries in order to create integrated projects in new countries.
How would you demonstrate the success of your enterprise? max. 150 words (20 points)*
The first BEC project was implemented in 2006, and that project has created its own franchise outlet in a nearby city. There have been 23,000 bicycles distributed through the programme, and there are currently 94 people employed in the Namibian shops, of whom 48 are women. Only one BEC implemented by BEN Namibia is no longer operating, and many are now adding other components to their businesses, such as computer training and solar lighting sales.
BEN Namibia won an Ashoka Changemaker prize for its work in engaging women in technical employment.
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