Cycling on sunshine: These tricycles keep women in rural communities moving

Cycling on sunshine: These tricycles keep women in rural communities moving

Shantha Bloemen is the Founding Director of Mobility for Africa, a social enterprise that aims to bring the electric mobility revolution to rural Africa.

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Firing up spaceships to the moon is impressive. But in parts of Africa, a journey on a humble tricycle is proving to be far more important. In many rural communities, people travel for kilometres on foot to access basic medical services, reach the marketplace, or collect water. It’s backbreaking labour, especially for women, who make up the majority of the agricultural and domestic workforce. While working with UNICEF, Shantha Bloemen witnessed the struggles they faced every day. So, she set out to create an easier route with a cleverly-designed vehicle.

Bloemen founded Mobility for Africa, a Zimbabwe-based start-up that’s dedicated to creating solutions to the lack of transport. Her first initiative, the Hamba tricycle, has already taken off. The electric machine runs on solar-powered batteries. This is a significant aspect of the model, as the country’s fuel shortages reached a critical level in 2019. Using renewable energy frees people from depending on petrol and conserves the Earth’s resources. Bloemen launched the pilot programme in the district of Wedza, where her project trains women to drive and gives them the opportunity to lease the vehicle in groups of five. Now, she’s planning to perfect the machine for off-road conditions and replicate it to meet the high demand.

The results of her project are clear. “We’ve seen women in our community triple their income, save hours of time, get improved access to services,” Bloemen says. “It makes me hopeful and optimistic about the future.” In the era of COVID-19, they’ve also used these vehicles to help sick and elderly people reach medical care in time. With innovative thinking, Bloemen is revving up opportunities for those who need it the most.

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