Pretoria – More support and funding is needed for companies that are innovating and reviving township economies.
That is the view of Nicho Ntema of Made in Sharpeville who got the opportunity to produce e-cargo bikes in collaboration with the German government and Anywhere.Berlin a year ago.
Speaking to Pretoria News at the Smarter Mobility Africa summit at the Sun Arena in Pretoria he said the bikes were launched last year in October.
“We had an idea to produce these bikes within townships and that is our motto that none of the bikes will be produced anywhere else except the townships.”
“So, we are doing part assembly and they are designed in Germany and shipped in kit form and we do the welding and put all the components together.”
He said modest job creation had been the result.
“We have a team of 15 people we took from the streets who are building the bikes ranging from welders, cabin makers and technicians.”
“The intention and vision is that every township can have a micro-factory that produces the bikes.”
Ntema said the idea is to have a social enterprise model where anyone who is interested in building these bikes can be assisted to start building them and provide the market in his/her reach.
He said despite challenges he had more highlights of the past year since their inception.
“This has changed many lives, in the sense that they got skills and funding from the German government, this brought in rays of hope.
There is no funding from South Africa yet but Ntema remains hopeful that they will get the capital to roll-out more of these bikes.
‘Getting funding from Germany has its limitations in the sense that at the end of October they will stop the funding so we need funding to keep the production going.
“We have met with the provincial government and we will be doing further presentations.
“It impacts positively on the township economy and we have various business models, you don’t need a licence, and it takes roughly two hours to learn how it operates, anyone can ride it and it loads up to 200 kg depending on the loading zone.
He said various businesses could be run using the bike.
“You can have a mobile car-wash, you can have a clean-up business, a braai, trailer to ferry goods, recycling and waste management.
“Our long term vision is to have multiple impacts and revive township economies so that we pull manufacturing into townships and they can sell it anywhere.”
He said it would also be nice to see a South African township producing and selling to an African country because the benefit value chain would be left in the township.
“It’s a new way of mobility in relation to what is happening with regards to climate change and we as township people should be part of it. This will be a game changer.”
Oliver Higson, Ntema’s partner said: “We wanted to build bikes that could be used in Africa but also be built in Africa.”
“So we explored a micro-factory concept where everything is local. Locally built, operated and locally owned so it gives real possession and sort of pride.”
He said Sharpeville was the first and the other is in Kenya but they were still in pilot phase but would like to expand it into a much larger scheme.
“There are many people in townships and this is a great opportunity to empower them through cheap moving of cargo.