Several studies on the relation between transport and development have shown that bicycles are often the most appropriate technology for short distances, with the lowest operating costs in sub-Saharan Africa. They can be used on both paved roads and low-quality paths by broad segments of the population. A bicycle carries up to four times the weight, goes three times as far and travels three times as fast as a person walking.
As part of an organised system that provides access to ongoing spare parts and maintenance, the bicycle can be an important development tool. In a poor community, access to a bicycle means greater independence and increased social, economic and educational opportunities.
BEN Namibia aims to empower disadvantaged Namibians through provision of sustainable transport and bicycle-related income generation opportunities.
To be a recognised leader on bicycles for development in Namibia.
- Provision of affordable and sustainable transport to disadvantaged people.
- Provision of bicycle-related sustainable income generation opportunities.
- Promotion of cycling as a healthy, affordable, sustainable and dignified means of transport.
- Advocacy for improved sustainable transport infrastructure in Windhoek.
- Promotion of knowledge sharing and networking amongst the global ‘bicycles for development’ movement, with an emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa.
PROGRAMMES AND PROJECTS
To find out how our mission and objectives translate into work on the ground, please see our projects page.
BEN Namibia receives grants and donations from a wide range of sources, from individuals to large international donor agencies. We welcome donations and opportunities to work with donors on new projects.
BEN Namibia’s history is connected to the history of its Managing Director, Michael Linke.
While living in the UK in the early 2000’s, he volunteered with a charity called Re~Cycle that collects unwanted bikes in the UK and ships them to various African partner organisations. Michael had plans to start a similar organisation to collect and ship bikes, but first undertook a trip to Southern Africa in 2004 to visit the organisations that use the bikes to better understand their needs.
That was when he visited BEN in Cape Town. BEN has done a great deal of advocacy work in improving conditions for cyclists in Cape Town and teaching school children to cycle. They also import second hand bikes from overseas donors, train and support people to become community based bike-shop entrepreneurs and in that way distribute bikes at affordable prices.
Prior to his visit to Southern Africa, Re~Cycle received an email from VSO, the UK volunteer service. They wanted bikes for a project they supported: TKMOAMS in Northern Namibia. TKMOAMS had around 700 volunteers visiting people living with HIV/AIDS in their homes, delivering counseling and medical and sanitary supplies. Most of these volunteers walk long distances, so Michael’s idea was for a one-off project to help get them bikes. But soon he realised that it would be a waste of time to give people bikes without ongoing mechanical support.
He saw a need to form an organisation that could combine donations of bikes to healthcare volunteers with the establishment of community-based bicycle workshops. He contacted BEN in Cape Town about the idea and was offered a partnership, and the organisation became BEN Namibia. Michael then went back to the UK and through donations from charitable trusts and friends raised enough money to get started. It took nine months and he almost gave up several times, but by May 2005 BEN Namibia was a registered section 21 company and had received its first load of 100 second hand bikes via BEN Cape Town.