While traveling through rural Mozambique, founders of Mozambikes Lauren Thomas and Rui Mesquita were disturbed by the region’s lack of transportation. Locals had to walk miles in harsh heat to reach basic necessities like water, food, healthcare, education and jobs.
50 percent of people in Mozambique live below the poverty line and mortality rates are highly exacerbated by lack of transportation.
Lauren Thomas and Rui Mesquita set out to solve this issue with Mozambikes, a for-profit social interest company that sells bicycles to locals at highly subsidized prices.
“It began as an idea, though we knew it had the potential to have a tremendous impact on the lives of rural Mozambicans. However, the first step was to import a container of bicycles and test the market. Given the risk implicit at such an early stage, Mozambikes started entirely with shareholder funding,” explains founder Lauren Thomas, a former New York City investment banker, to How We Made it In Africa.
It is a sustainable business model. Advertisers buy ad space on the bicycles, exposing a relatively secluded consumer base to brands or ideas that these rural Mozambicans would not otherwise see. The advertisements highly subsidize the price of the bicycles for the rural residents of Mozambique.
Companies can also purchase the bicycles directly, paint on their advertisements and logos, then sell them to local residents at lower prices as “promotional marketing” or “corporate social responsibility” explains How We Made it In Africa.
“Our most successful marketing has been our 7,000 bicycles on the roads in the country. When a company sees Mozambikes branded with another organisation, they want to know – who made those? Therefore, word of mouth has been very effective in getting sales over the last few years, now that we have a presence in the market. Mozambique is still a traditional market and we have also been successful with aggressive direct marketing – emails and phone calls to arrange meetings with target clients,” says Thomas.
Mozambikes has the potential to stimulate the local economy in a variety of ways. Bikes do not only open the door to health-related treatment options, education and more, but bicycles also enable Mozambicans to reach their jobs, and perhaps even obtain better jobs.
And the bikes are assembled by local Mozambiquians, generating jobs and income for residents. Locals also assemble bike accessories like accompanying trailers and bike ambulances.
“Our first donation event gave bicycles to 20 rural women in southern Mozambique. When we arrived, they began to clap and sing, and when they received the bicycles they were crying and singing. A bicycle may seem like such a small item to many, but it is quite literally life-changing in rural Africa. It means access to clean water. It means mothers can bring their babies to the clinic when they are sick. It means that they can return home from their farming plots in time to make their children dinner at night,” explains Thomas.
– Aaron Andree