Makveto bike workshop.

18 Jul

When we pulled into the town of Divundo (by a town I mean a cross roads with a couple of shops and petrol station) we knew we were in the vicinity of a BEN, Nambia bike work shop. Why? Because bikes were everywhere. So many people were carrying there maize and bread on bikes, doing their shopping, going to visit families or whatever else you do on a bike in sub Saharan Africa.

It’s pretty cool knowing that every bike you see is here because of BEN, Nambia. Plus all the bikes I saw around seemed to be in pretty good condition. I was looking forward to going and visiting the Makveto bike work shop that was the birth place of all their reincarnated bikes.

Mandy and I hitched a ride out to the bike work shop that was 5km out of town. The scene that presented itself was what I would have expected from a well run African bike work shop. There were people sitting around, there were guys tinkering on bikes up on bike stands, guys tinkering on bikes upside down in the sand, friends hanging out under the shade smiling and laughing, a big tree casting shade, music playing and even a mud hut office.

After talking about it for so long it was pretty cool to see the great impact the bike work shop has on a community. I will touch on a few of the positive impacts the Makveto bike work shop has had on the Divundo area. They are giving locals access to bikes, offering employment, access to new business opportunities and of course providing a sustainable transport solution.

Giving locals access to bikes: Before the Makveto bike work shop locals could buy new bikes for $2000 ND (Namibian Dollars, AUD300) from a shopping centre (this is what they call it, I would call it a supermarket, an African supermarket) about 10km away. But from what I saw these bikes were heavy, poor quality buckets of shit from China or India that came in one size. Even if they bought the brand new bike the closest bike work shop to get it fixed was 200km away (This was another BEN, Namibia bike work shop). The bike work shop offers bikes between $300-$800 ND, and even though they are second hand, they are of better quality.

Providing Employment: At Makeveto 3 guys and 1 lady are employed. I asked them all what they did before working at the bike work shop to which they all answered “nothing”. Which as I touched on in a previous post is pretty common as Namibia has 50% unemployment which I would say is even higher in rural Namibia. None of the workers had never even changed a tyre before working at the bike work shop. It was really cool to see their confidence and hearing Ludwig, the manager’s pride when he talks about the work shop and all the bikes they are providing. He told me the story of how he had been taught to ride a bike by BEN, Namibia and now he has taught his wife how to ride a bike.

Providing other business opportunities: With some of the profits from the bike work shop Ludwig was able to start a little side business. He bought a solar panel that he uses to provide electricity to the workshop. Therefore he can offer to charge people’s cell phones for a small fee. He has also bought a small printer/photocopier and offers copy service. This is pretty smart as everyone here has cell phones, you will see a lady walking along the side of the road with a bundle of wood stacked on her head, text messaging, but most of the villages don’t have power.

Offering a sustainable transport solution: Whilst we were there filming a guy pulled in to get a punctured repaired on his bike that he had purchased from the bike shop. I got one of the guys to ask him what he uses his bike for. The mechanic translated back to me that he uses it to visit his family each week. Before his bike he use to have to get a taxi (a minivan that gets crammed with as many people as possible) that would cost him 50 Namibian dollars return trip. Now he cycles the 35km out to visit them, and his bike only cost $400, so after 8 visits he has paid it off.

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