|Village Bicycle Project - Frequent Questions
Please feel free to send more questions by pressing the 'Feedback'
|FAQ- Why did you choose Ghana for the project?
In the mid-nineties Ghana removed import duties on bicycles, in
recognition of the benefits that bikes can bring to their country.
Since then, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda have all lowered
tariffs on importing bikes. Some African countries consider bikes a
recreation toy and charge 100% duties, doubling the price. We
didn’t think it would be easy to start a successful project, so at least
we wanted a little help from government policies. Another factor for
Ghana was that we also had early contacts with Ghanaian NGOs who were
interested in promoting bike transport, though none had the ability to
FAQ- What is the average income in Ghana?
Even at half-price, you’re not reaching the people most in need. How do
people afford your bikes?
According to the United Nations' irinnews.org, reporting in Dec. 2004,
45% of Ghana’s 19 million people live on less than $1 a day. Per
capita income is $304.
It is true that we don’t reach the poorest of the poor. If we could
possibly positively identify them and give them bikes, they would most
likely be sold. Then we’d have this disconnect from the end user, who
we want to have some skills to be able to take care of their bikes.
Identifying true need is not simple and straightforward. When word
gets out that things are going to be given away, mob response is often
the result. And the people at the front of the mob are the leaders, who
have plenty of money and power. No wealthy person anywhere wants to
spend a day at a workshop getting their hands dirty for a half-price
bicycle. But for those low on the economic ladder, this is a good deal.
The people we try to reach are what we call the productive poor, smart,
hard working people who are stuck in poverty in part because of lack of
access to transport. When they have reliable bikes they are more
productive, and the bikes help lift them economically. And if we can
help people be more productive in their villages (that’s rural
development), then we are helping the society as a whole.
Also, for every two bikes we sell at half-price, we could only give one
away, so in that way we are helping twice as many people.
Charity perpetuates a culture of dependence. The western development
worker is often looked at as a source of gift, and that’s unhealthy. We
want to help people help themselves, not play Santa Claus.
FAQ--Do my donated bikes need to be in rideable condition?
No, making repairs creates jobs and adds value in Africa. We want to
always send enough spare parts so that the broken bikes we send can be
repaired, and we certainly don’t want to send junk they’ll only have to
throw away. (guidelines for donated
Then again, even stripping for parts and then throwing away frames is a
job for someone.
FAQ--Why don’t you work with government to improve policies related
We wanted to make sure that there would be tangible benefits from the
government’s support of bikes. Others, notably ITDP* work more with government. We want
ITDP to be able to say to other African governments, “look at how much
pro-bike policies have helped Ghana.” Besides, someone has to work at
the grassroots, building capacity from the bottom up. VBP wants to do
direct action, we don’t want to do a bunch of studies, we don’t want to
meet the president, we want to help people get bikes, and we want them
to be able to keep the bikes running.
* Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.