Female entrepreneurship is on the rise worldwide. Women are a force to be reckoned with and are empowering other women to generate sustainable income while using their prowess in different fields to create platforms for social change and economic sustainability.
Ghana is rich in physical, cultural and intellectual resources yet it also plagued with traffic congestion, environmental degradation, low employment opportunities and poverty.
Winnifred Selby, a 19 year old entrepreneur from Ghana is determined to change this. Winnie is a born entrepreneur, driven by necessity. Her mother is a single parent who struggled to make ends meet. At the age of six she started selling toffee to my schoolmates, and later went street hawking in her free time to help pay the school fees. Today she dedicates herself to the economic empowerment of youth and women in Ghana. She is one of the founders of the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, a bamboo bike making company that manufactures long-lasting affordable bikes that can withstand the rough terrain of rural Ghana. Her company, Afrocentric Bamboo Limited, was announced as one of the finalists in the She Leads Africa Entrepreneurial Showcase. Winnfred and 9 other female entrepreneurs will pitch before a panel of business leaders, investors from leading venture capital firms and the media on September 20th in Lagos for a chance to win more than $30,000 in cash and prizes.
Custom built and manufactured bamboo bikes have become something of a trend, with producers not only in Ghana but in the United States, Latin America and Asia. Bamboo bikes have great riding characteristics due to bamboo’s natural vibration-damping qualities. The vibration damping is a performance advantage on longer rides, reducing the fatigue associated with carbon frames. A square inch of bamboo can carry a weight of 225 kilograms and the the tapered, hollow stalk is suitable for any body size. For heavy riders they would use the wider part of the bamboo; and lighter riders, the narrower part.
Bamboo bikes are organic, sustainable, non-polluting and recyclable. Steel, aluminum, titanium and carbon frames all require high levels of energy to produce before being suitable for bicycle manufacture. Bamboo bikes require less electricity and no hazardous chemicals.
Raw materials are unlikely to run out soon. There are six regions in Ghana where bamboo grows abundantly and yet only two sticks are required to make one bicycle. The increased cultivation and use of bamboo as an alternative to wood helps preserve and rehabilitate Ghana’s dwindling forests.
The company has trained 42 people to manufacture and assemble the bikes locally, primarily women with little or no education, who are paid double the minimum daily wage. These women in turn can now teach others and the cycle continues. The beneficiaries are also instructed on how to use bamboo waste to manufacture charcoal briquettes for their daily energy needs which reduces dependency on wood for fuel and slows deforestation. It also improves education opportunities for girls, who no longer have to go and gather wood for fuel.
The Initiative is improving the lives of many rural Ghanaians, women in particular, not only by delivering a sustainable and affordable form of transportation that satisfies local needs, but also by creating employment opportunities and stimulating economic growth. Apart from Ghana, the initiative focuses on markets in the EU and USA to generate foreign exchange.