GHANAVISION: The Bamboo Bicycle Project is featured in the May 2012 issue of ORIGIN MAGAZINE
Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle. – HELEN KELLER
The Bicycle gave Einstein ideas, and according to Susan B. Anthony the bicycle emancipated the woman. The bicycle is the world’s primary transportation after walking and is affordable by almost 90 percent of the world’s population. It is transportation, recreation, freedom, mobility. It is versatile and gets you where you need to go, it’s a lesson on practicality. It solves problems, uses local supplies, with cost benefits at factory-scale, it’s a tool in the workplace.
In Africa the bicycle is an ambulance, a van, a water truck, and a school bus.
In October 2010, I filmed a packed shipping container full of bicycle jigs and custom tools leaving Red Hook Brooklyn for Ghana. The Bamboo Bike Studio in Brooklyn, New York had partnered with Columbia Earth Institute’s MCI to establish a bamboo bicycle factory. I followed the shipping container and this story across the Atlantic to Ghana, where a local entrepreneur based in Kumasi, would invest in factory-scale bamboo bicycle production for the first time in Africa. In January 2011, I met up with the shipping container in Kumasi, and started filming the training and factory scale set up. Kwame and William provide two excerpts from the documentation and research that embody the principle goal of self-propelled, local development. This factory will provide real and long-term economic inputs while delivering an affordable, socially beneficial product back to their own communities. Most importantly, the bikes are very affordable.
Nicole: Kwame, why did you commit to an MCI bamboo bike factory?
The Investor – Kwame: “The one that attracted me the most was the bamboo bike. They were looking for an investor who would take it up, if one could do something in Kumasi. Because part of the attraction of this business should be the science basis of it. Why bamboo bike and not a traditional bike? And through this project, very early in it, I got to know that the tensile strength of bamboo is higher than the tensile strength of steel in most cases so I said, hey, this is interesting and we have bamboo in Ghana.”
Nicole: William, how do you feel about the discovery of major offshore oil reserves in Ghana?
The Engineer – William: “The oil, it’s like having the same thing as gold. Because, I don’t see the importance in gold for me in Ghana. Because we have been exporting gold and other things, but we do import toothpick! So I don’t see the importance of the natural resources here in Ghana. We don’t make good use of it. So I don’t go talking about natural resources in Ghana. Now that I found out we can use the natural resource bamboo to make a bicycle, that’s what interests me and that’s what I want to work with. Because we have the gold, we have the diamonds, we have the nuggets, we have all the resource, but no impact. Still we are poor, we are still living in all this kind of mess.”
“Because we have been exporting gold and other things, but we do import toothpick!”