Qhubeka: mobilising a population
With its catch phrase “mobilising people with bicycles” the Qhubeka charity has had an enormous impact on the lives of tens of thousands of people living in rural Africa.
Qhubeka is an Nguni word meaning “to carry on”, “to progress”, “to move forward”. Since 2005 the African charity has lived up to its name, distributing more than 45,000 bikes to children and adults who have suddenly seen their commuting times reduced by up to 75%. The result? More time to study, greater productivity, better results, less fatigue. With a bicycle, these people can travel further, carry more, discover new places and get there quicker.
Food for thought: Of South Africa’s 16 million schoolchildren, 12 million walk to school. Of these, 500,000 walk more than two hours each way, spending four hours getting to and from school each day. The positive impact of a bicycle cannot be denied.
With a bicycle…
- A child’s commute time to school is reduced by up to 75%
- A person’s carrying capacity is increased five-fold
- Healthcare workers can visit more than double the amount of patients per day
- Children’s school marks improve by an average of 25%
- School attendance rates rise by 18% on average
Empowering adults and children
Each time Qhubeka distributes a bike, it expects something in return. This work-to-earn concept is part of the charity’s desire to empower people and give them dignity. Qhubeka’s five different programmes result in improved access to education, healthcare and economic opportunity.
The Qhubeka programmes
- Qhubeka ECO provides bicycles to people across Africa in return for work to improve their communities and the environment, including planting trees, recycling waste and farming food.
- Qhubeka Education supplies bicycles to school children. With less time spent getting to and from school, the students spend more time in class and on homework. They are less tired and have improved concentration.
- Qhubeka Enterprise helps individuals and communities set up and develop micro-businesses that use bicycles as a central work tool – for example delivery services.
- By providing bicycles to healthcare workers, Qhubeka Health facilitates focused healthcare work with Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC), as well as home-based patient care.
- Qhubeka Sport is dedicated to sports development in Africa. By providing bicycles, organising sports events and partnering with sports organisations, Qhubeka Sport encourages children to experience and enjoy sport, and learn vital life skills through their participation.
World Bicycle Relief
Since 2013, Qhubeka has been part of a wider international programme World Bicycle Relief. As its South African arm, Qhubeka benefits from World Bicycle Relief’s expertise in product development, supply chain logistics, operations and programme design.
World Bicycle Relief is a US-based non-profit organisation dedicated to transforming individuals and communities through The Power of Bicycles. Since 2005, World Bicycle Relief has trained more than 800 field mechanics and provided more than 125,000 specially designed, locally assembled quality bicycles to disaster survivors, healthcare workers, students and entrepreneurs in the developing world.
The Qhubeka Bike
Branded the Buffalo Bicycle, the distinctive yellow Qhubeka Bike was developed by World Bicycle Relief. It is a robust, purpose-built machine that was designed, tested and assembled in Africa. Close attention has been paid to user feedback and the bike undergoes rigorous quality control.
Bicycle maintenance is also an important part of the Qhubeka programme, which promotes long-term sustainability and ensures that owners can keep their bicycles in working order. A network of local distributors guarantees that replacements are easily accessible.
A partnership with Africa’s first ever UCI Professional Continental Team
The name Qhubeka has become well known in cycling circles since the establishment of Team MTN-Qhubeka, Africa’s first ever UCI Professional Continental Team. Team MTN_Qhubeka rides to build exposure for Qhubeka’s initivatives and also aims to inspire potential new athletes among those who have received Qhubeka bikes.
“The team and Qhubeka formed a partnership because we have the same dream of developing African cycling talent and taking that talent to the highest levels in world cycling to see what is possible,” explains Team Principal Douglas Ryder. “This is a very difficult task when the base you want to draw talent from in Africa and South Africa does not have access to bicycles. Hence the relationship with Qhubeka. The more successful Qhubeka is, the more successful our team, and the future of African cycling, will be.
“Qhubeka is incredibly important to the team riders and staff, and it is one of the major reasons why we have attracted such fantastic talent to our team. Our partners also contribute to Qhubeka in various ways: kit sales, bike sales, product sales & mobile contracts. We want to help as many people as possible by providing them with bicycles.”
Team MTN-Qhubeka received wild cards to participate in several UCI WorldTour races in 2014 and will start the Vuelta a España, its first ever Grand Tour, on August 23. For 23 days, the team will promote Qhubeka’s message on worldwide media.
In association with the UCI, Team MTN-Qhubeka is also supporting a feeder team, the MTN-Qhubeka World Cycling Centre Africa Team. Headed by Jean-Pierre van Zyl, the director of the World Cycling Centre in Africa, the feeder team is based in South Africa. It acts as a bridge between Africa and Europe for aspiring professional cyclists. Riders train and race like professionals, and learn about equipment, nutrition and race preparation. They learn how to become a professional rider and to be competitive at a professional level.
“Africa is the last continent that reflects in the European and professional peloton,” van Zyl said. “From what I’ve seen in Africa, I think the next ten years will be dominated by Africans. These are exciting times, there is a lot of hard work and a lot of trust that needs to be put into Africa, but we will be successful. African riders are proud and hard working and they will blossom within this structure.”
In more ways than one, Qhubeka is shaping Africa’s future on two wheels.