How Donated Bicycles Are Helping Save Lives in Africa

Think supporting development means giving hand outs? Think again. Done right, development means giving a hand up. Take for example Aid for Africa member World Bicycle Relief and its recently established Buffalo Bikes Ltd.

This social enterprise business grew out of the rising demand within development organizations like Care and UNICEF for transportation in their own development work. They need World Bicycle Relief’s Buffalo bicycles to help healthcare providers reach out-of-the-way villages, children get safely to school, and farmers take their crops to markets.

In rural Africa, it is not uncommon for students to walk two to three hours each way to get to school, often at the risk of harassment, sexual abuse and poor nutrition. This can be especially difficult for girls, who are responsible for a majority of household chores. They often arrive late to school and, as a result, end up dropping out of school altogether.

Similarly, HIV and AIDS has led to the increased use of home-based volunteer healthcare workers in rural areas. To reach patients in need, these volunteers often walk long distances and find it difficult to follow-up to ensure that medications are being taken. Farmers and small business owners have limited capacity to get their products to market without reliable transportation. For students, healthcare workers and farmers, among others, a reliable bike makes all the difference.

And Buffalo bikes are just that: reliable. Named after the 1500-pound (700 kilo) African buffalo, these vehicles have been designed and built for Africa’s tough terrain.

These bicycles also mean jobs. Until recently the bicycle components were manufactured in Asia and assembled in Africa by more than 60 trained local staff. Now, a growing number of bicycle components are made in Africa, which has let to 100 manufacturing jobs.

A recent article in The Economist suggests that this is likely to grow. Add in the 850+ field mechanics trained in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and it is clear that World Bicycle Relief’s Buffalo bike is a hand up, not a hand out, providing a made-in-Africa solution to a number of development needs.

Aid for Africa is an alliance of 85 U.S.-based nonprofits and their African partners who help children, families, and communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Aid for Africas grassroots programs focus on health, education, economic development, arts & culture, conservation, and wildlife protection in Africa.

Photo credit: Aid for Africa

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Terri Harris-Downing


gail mulloy
gail mulloy1 years ago

Great idea! Bicycles are energy efficient & dependable! Such a nice program!

Robert O.
Robert O.1 years ago

That's terrific. Every little bit makes a difference.

Angela J.
Angela J.1 years ago


R Wheeler
R Wheeler1 years ago

I agree with Karen R. Yes, let's see if we can add Buffalo Bikes to our butterfly rewards.

Alexandra G.
Alexandra G.1 years ago

thanks for the great article

John S.
Past Member 1 years ago


Rhonda B.
Rhonda B.1 years ago

Wonderful program.

Nils Anders Lunde


Donna F.
Donna F.1 years ago

great!! ty for this article. also, wonderful comments.