Public TransportationLast month, leaders of Mali and Senegal signed a $2.75 billion deal with the China Railway Construction Corp to provide a 745-mile public transportation railway that will link the nations’ capital cities after its construction over the next four years.

Over 20 railway stations in Mali will be renovated, with upgrades made to over 400 miles of rail lines. This railway project will potentially bring economic development and poverty reduction to areas of West Africa, according to Reuters.

This is not the first time the Chinese have invested in railways in Africa — in 2014, Chinese Prime Minister Li Legian and the Kenyan government agreed to the construction of a new railway line from Mombasa to Nairobi for $3.8 billion, according to BBC.

That same year, the Chinese signed a $12 billion with Nigeria to construct a railway along the West African coast, Reuters reported. When completed, this project will have brought in about 200,000 local jobs while connecting otherwise untapped markets. The World Bank reports that transport infrastructure allows people to access jobs, health services and education and assists companies in maintaining market supply and demand with presumably lower costs.

In 2013, the Dakar Diamniadio Toll Highway was inaugurated in Senegal, becoming the first toll road of its kind in Africa, according to the World Bank. This highway would­­ cut travel times from downtown Dakar and Diamniadio from 90 to 30 minutes, greatly reducing congestion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGMCVHudC6U

Despite the economic growth and increased employment that public transportation can bring to those living in poverty, some challenges still result from their creation.

For instance, public transportation adds another expense to a family budget, cutting the poor’s disposable income as a result, according to the World Bank.

Urban air pollution and safety are other challenges that public transport can bring — for example, how more cars leads to more gas emissions, or how 90 percent of deaths on the road are accounted for by lower to middle-class countries, despite owning just half of the world’s total motor vehicles, reported the World Bank.

These challenges can be met through critical planning as urbanization increases in the developing world, creating more mid-sized cities.

The World Bank wrote, “City planners have an opportunity to design sustainable and inclusive transport systems from the start, leapfrogging more polluting and costly modes.”

The Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP), a group hosted by the World Bank, have worked to create a framework for improving railway performance, developing guidelines for mainstream road safety and transport governance within sub-Saharan Africa.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: BBC, Reuters 1, Reuters 2, World Bank 1, World Bank 2
Photo: Pexels

mozambikes
Mozambique entrepreneurs have created the award-winning social enterprise Mozambikes builds low-cost bicycles to improve the livelihoods of thousands of people in Mozambique. Affordable and efficient bicycle transportation can greatly impact the pace of development in a country with 54 percent of citizens living below the poverty line, especially in rural areas.

In addition to bringing economic opportunities, Mozambikes is committed to improving the lives of 50,000 Mozambicans by 2018. The company and affiliated non-profit Mozambikes Social Development intends to reach this goal through the sale and donation of affordable branded bicycles.

Mozambikes’ unique branding strategy has created three avenues of distribution. The first allows customers to brand and purchase bicycles for their own business needs, such as employee incentive programs. Other customers choose to brand bicycles sold to low-income markets.

Branding customers allow Mozambikes to sell the bicycles at a subsidized rate. For advertisers, it is an opportunity to tap into remote rural markets. Bicycles can also be donated through Mozambikes Social Development for about $100.

These bicycles are purchased at cost from Mozambikes and donated to those who still cannot afford a bicycle. Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Lauren Thomas said in an article published on The Guardian, “A bicycle may seem like such a small item to many, but it is quite literally life-changing in rural Africa.” Mozambique_entrepreneurs

The bicycles are specifically designed for use on the bumpy roads in Mozambique with large luggage racks for transporting goods. The design also accommodates traditional skirts with a diagonal crossbar. Local technicians assemble the bicycles and after-market maintenance has created a demand for more bicycle technicians.

In comparison with regional competitors, Mozambikes’ product is better quality and more affordable. The company hopes to improve the bicycle industry of Mozambique through these innovations.

Bicycles can have a significant impact in low-income communities and aid development. In Mozambique, two-thirds of people walk more than an hour to the closest health center. Bicycles provide increased access to education, health care and are a clean energy solution.

In five years, Mozambikes has sold or donated over 7,000 bicycles and plans to increase that number to 125,000 by 2020. In rural Africa, a bicycle is generally considered a household items aiding not only individuals but also entire families.

It is estimated that 70 percent of Mozambicans rely on income from what they can produce, largely through subsistence farming. Transportation is essential in this informal economy. Fetching water, maintaining crops and getting products to market are all made easier with access to bicycles.

As a Mozambique business, Mozambikes employs about 12 workers and pay salaries above minimum wage. The company also strives to empower women, provide training for bike technicians, and educate cyclists about safety.

Mozambikes hopes to benefit a million Mozambicans through low-cost, efficient transportation. Each bicycle improves another Mozambican’s livelihood.

Thomas affirms the company’s long-term vision: “Some people come and go, but we are really committed to making this an ongoing, sustainable business, and there is still so much more we can do.”

Cara Kuhlman

Sources: The Guardian, How We Made It In Africa, Mail & Guardian, Mozambikes, Mozambikes YouTube Channel
Photo: Wikimedia, Flickr