Social Bicycle Hub in Burkina Faso - Combining bicycle business and vocational training for youth to improve rural livelihoods.

A social bicycle hub that distributes and maintains quality bicycles, offers employment, trains youth and supports disadvantaged groups.

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name


Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Scaling (the solution has passed the previous stages and is growing its impact on a regional or global scale)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $1mil - $5mil

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • More than 100,000

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • Switzerland

Headquarters location: City

Liebefeld, Berne

Location(s) of impact

Burkina Faso: Sales and training hub based in Ouagadougou. Collaboration with local partners to guarantee access to bikes throughout the country.


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Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Mobility is considered an important prerequisite for any economic, social and cultural development. Burkina Faso and its sparsely populated rural areas pose a striking example of the far- reaching consequences that a lack of mobility produces. Also, there is a high share of young talent between 15 and 24 looking for a decent and productive job, however are faced with severe economic, social or governmental barriers to unfold their potential.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

Velafrica's approach creates shared value at every single step of the value chain, in Switzerland and Africa. For the African part by investing in social bicycle and training hubs, we impact livelihoods on different levels: people find productive and paid employment, youth benefit from the opportunity to take part in a Swiss developed vocational training that offers tangible perspectives to secure employment, and marginalized groups receive financial support to buy a bicycle. Ultimately, rural livelihoods gain access to good quality bicycles, spares and maintenance services. Particularly in the rural context, bicycles are a powerful, cost- effective, efficient and sustainable tool to improve inclusion in the market system and impact economic, reproductive and social activities positively. Bicycles work as a key catalyst for people to engage and seize socio-economic opportunities.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

Socio-economic and environmental impact is created along our value chain. a) Over 170'000 exported bicycles as of today = mobility created for 170'000 people to become independent, safe money or start new business. Particularily women, who spend fewer hours per day commuting unproductively to make a living. b) The number of beneficiairies is over 680'000, since a bicycle is shared by 3 to 5 people. c) 13 social enterprises as partners in 7 SSA countries, which provide over 60 fulltime jobs. d) Currently over 50 trainees enrolled. e) Since 2016, 2000 kids benefitted from subsidized bicyles as part of the Bike2School initiative. f) 30 partner institutions in Switzerland, which offer 360 people every year to refurbish the bikes. g) Hundreds of volunteering hours invested per year to collect, prepare bikes & build friendships. h) Improved carbon footprint (resources, energy, emissions) of recycled bicycles versus new bicycles when exported (quality is however key).

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

The initiative is financed by earned income (approx. 55%, including contributions from African bicycle hubs, sale of services in Switzerland), individual donations (approx. 15%) and investment (approx. 30%). Investment as seed money in three main areas. a) Set up hub infrastructure & storage. b) Conduct capacity building for future teachers. c) Kick-off bike2school program. From year 1 operational costs (salaries, marketing, op. expenses) can be covered locally through sales and services of bicylces. Break-even expected after year 2. Invested money has a multiplier impact as it will be reimbursed over 7-10 years and can serve as seed funding for other hubs. Potential risk: losses due to devaluation of African currencies; to tackle by increasing our other revenue streams.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

We combine integration work, vocational training and bicycle mobility in a social impact business! The bicycle as powerful tool along the value chain. Potential competitors: cheap bicycles from China; do normally not provide the quality needed in Africa. Whereas the recycled Swiss bicycles from Velafrica are of good quality and yet affordable for people with low income.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

When I first worked as a volunteer in Ghana 20 years ago, I realized how many hours people walked day by day just to meet their basic needs. They had no access to affordable means of transportation. Since my passion was the refurbishment of old bicycles, I knew that there were hundreds of thousands disused bikes back home in Switzerland. When reflecting this with my Ghanaian friend Mozato, the idea of making these bikes available to Africa was conceived. Anyone who has a bicycle will be able to transport much more and travel much greater distances. It leaves more time in which to learn and cultivate the fields. Back home I developed a recycling workshop with jobs for unemployed people. Soon the first 300 recycled bicycles left the workshop for Ghana. The foundation for the success story of Velafrica had been laid. To date, over 170'000 more bicycles have followed.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Ashoka page or contact

Program Design Clarity: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details

Together with the local team, Velafrica establishes the infrastructure to run an independent social bicycle hub in the center of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Infrastructure includes among others a fully equipped and modern workshop, storage area, training room, sales area and offices. The installation is a collaborative process, with the local team having the lead responsibility. Velafrica is present for 6 weeks during the installation for guidance and monitoring. In the first two years, in batches of 2x6weeks per year, Velafrica is mainly involved in training potential future teachers to understand and apply our Swiss developed curriculum, syllabus and teaching material. Teachers will take over teaching responsibilities and lead the two year vocational program. Velafrica is also supporting the local management in the application and usage of business, management and financial related tool kits that have been developed by Velafrica. In that sense, Velafrica contributes to the capacity building of the local organisation and staff in a holistic way. We support the strengthening of individual technical skills and know-how but also support the development of sound organisational processes and structures. This approach empowers the local team to run this project independently.

Focus area

  • Rural Development

We are interested in learning more about your initiative's broad impact on sustainable development. Please reply ONLY to the question(s) related to your above focus area.

Education and income opportunities to improve rural livelihoods: Job creation in the organisation contributes sustainably to economic development. Particularily youth, who we equip with both a set of job specific (mechanical inputs) and soft skills (e.g. accounting, sales, and language) that allow them to become employable and improve their chances in the labor market. Empowerment of young women: Velafrica particularly encourages young girls to become bicycle mechanics. Breaking with a taboo in many regions in SSA, they serve as role models for other women. Female graduates of our programs have the chance to start their own bicycle business as young entrepreneurs. Access to bicycle mobility for all: Bicycle hubs provide access to affordable mobility for large segments of the rural population. Beneficiaries who gain access to bicycles will be able to engage in new business opportunities or increase business productivity, increase opportunities for trade and increase the delivery of extension services. Similarly, access to bicycles helps particularly rural households to overcome distance and facilitate access to basic everyday services, such as water, healthcare, agricultural fields, schools, religious institutions and social activities. Women and girls with a bicycle, who generally suffer disproportionally higher from poor transport and mobility opportunities, get more integrated into society.

Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?

The bicycle as a low tech and thus simple yet powerful tool offers the possibility to create sustainable impact in the local but also in the global context. Velafrica’s integrated supply chain is the best example: our bicycles unfold their potential as a means to a greater end at every step of the value chain. In Switzerland, a bicycle serves as a tool to provide meaningful integration work. Or it figures as the linking element between corporate volunteers and refugees, which enables the better understanding of each others social realities. In Africa, a bicycle is a tangible and demanded product that enables carrying out small scale business opportunities. In an African, the bicycle is a prerequisite for rural socio-economic development and creates income opportunities and supports the sustaining of families. Beyond that, riding a bicycle promotes a sustainable form of transportation, contribution to liveable cities and healthy environment.

How is your initiative funded, now and over the next 5 years?

The bicycle hub is financed through a hybrid financial model. Basic infrastructure and material, working capital and training is covered by external investment. With 35% of total set up costs being financed, Nestlé’s contribution would add substantially to this part of the budget. As a second stream, income from bicycle sales and services cover operational costs (salaries, marketing). Funding of the bike2school initiative for 2018 is provided by two Swiss foundations, and supports discounted bikes for about 1000 children. Based on our pilot hubs in Tanzania, break-even is expected after two years. In the future grants will only be provided by Velafrica to finance specific mobility initiatives or innovations initiated by the hub.

How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the CSV Prize?

Exposure will help to promote and distribute our Swiss developed vocational technical training program. Sharing best practices with African governmental institutions and the private sector to focus on practice oriented training is an important part. Apart from that, it is my concern improve the framework for cycling worldwide. On the organizational level, linking our West African with our East African partners. On the policy level, as part of the World Cycling Alliance, to collaborate with a variety of stakeholders to push the cycling agenda . And last but not least, on the entrepreneurial level, there is always potential to co-create within the Schwab Foundation Community / Young Global Leaders or the Ashoka Changmakers.

How will you leverage an investment from Nestle to expand the impact of your work?

Nestlé’s support will enable Velafrica and our local partners to kick-off the planned project. The project will bring 10’000 bicycles every year to the bicycle fanatic Burkinabe, and impact 40’000 livelihoods per year who benefit from access to quality second hand bikes and services. This initiative is a second key pilot project to test the model of our social business approach. Key lessons and experience for West Africa influence the future of scaling, working towards our vision of 1’000’000 bicycles by 2030. Similarily, this investement would spur the need for good recycled bicycles, and thus accelerate our strategy to look for partnerships with other integration workshop initiatives in Europe.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact? What’s the projected impact for the coming years? Are you planning to expand your programme into new locations? On what assumptions do you build your scale-up plans?

Velafrica set its ambitious vision of improving bicycle mobility of 1’000’000 Sub Saharan households by 2030 and therefore contribute sustainably to various Sustainable Development Goals. We believe that a social business model is a very effective approach to create shared value in a sustainable manner for a broad set of stakeholders. Burkina Faso is the second country after Tanzania to pilot our entrepreneurship approach. Experiences, investment mechanisms as well as training requirements will complete our picture to move ahead and scale the impact and promote rural development.

Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, number of full-time vs. part-time staff, board members, etc.)? How will this team evolve as your initiative grows?

Velafrica consists of a team of ten people responsible for managing collection, refurbishment and integration as well as fundraising and communication in Switzerland. The African division is constituted by three project coordinators who manage the existing 13 partners. The team is complemented by a Vocational Trainer and -advisor who implements Velafrica’s vocational program. Our team shares a common vision that everyone should be able to enjoy the benefits of cycling, globally. Being part of the foundation Sinnovativ, a group of five board members supports Velafrica’s activities. Operating on a limited budget with a hybrid financing model, Velafrica strives for an organic yet innovative growth of our activities and resources, including human power, to scale our impact.

Awards: What awards or honors has the initiative received?

North-South-Prize (2001), Prix Evenir (2009), Social Entrepreneurship of the Year Award by Schwab Foundation (2009), seif – social impact readiness label (2015), SwissRe Charity of the year (2016), UBS Social Innovator (2016)

Organizational leadership: How are you influencing your field of work in the present?

Velafrica can be seen as a pioneer for social entrepreneurship in Switzerland. Back in 1993 when the initiative was founded, combining integrational work with international development, in an entrepreneurial setting, was exotic. Today, our approach gains more and more attention and recognition, particularly in the field of integrational work. Being part of networks such as Ashoka, Schwab Foundation or also in my role as founding member of the World Cycling Alliance, I try to continusoly learn from and share with others, to look for options to co-create or innovate, to implement new practices within Velafrica.

Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend the Ashoka Impact Boot camp and Creating Shared Value Prize Live Pitch Event at the World Water Forum 13-16 March 2018

  • Yes, I am available to attend the events on 13-16 March 2018


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Photo of Andréa Squilace de Carvalho

Adorei. Muito bem pensado. Ação que faz diferença na vida das pessoas. Parabéns!

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