The best solutions to complex problems are often very simple. This also explains the success of the bicycle ambulances of Sakaramenta in Malawi, that offer a practical means to transport sick or injured people to health care facilities. Almost 1,000 products been delivered since the start in 2009. The best news? The bike concept of this social enterprise is now ready to be exported to other African countries!
In Africa’s rural areas, there are not many hospitals and so getting a pregnant woman or a sick child to a doctor is difficult and time-consuming. The weather and the quality of roads make carrying goods and people a though job. When Peter Meijer first saw how the people of Malawi transport virtually anything on bikes, he knew he found the solution for this problem. Three years later and with support of BID Network, investors and donations, Sakaramenta produces a strong, reliable and inexpensive (€ 350) CareCar bicycle ambulance: a bike with a cart which a patient can be laid down in and taken anywhere.
Aid organisations and village councils all over Malawi have ordered the CareCar Bicycle Ambulance. In Blantyre (Malawi), Peter Meijer – a former bank employee from The Netherlands – is excited about reaching the point of having sold almost 1,000 bikes. Peter is rightfully proud of his staff of twenty. “Being a social company, we try to offer a better life and future for our own staff. Some of them for instance have already used money from a company loan to build a house. Also: every employee can have an education of their own choice, like a computer course or welding; we pay 80 percent, the employee 20 percent. I am happy to be able to provide this kind of support to our own employees.”
Sakaramenta can offer this support because it managed to develop Peter’s one-person-workshop into a business that makes a profit, by offering different types of bikes: the TengaCar 120 (a push and bicycle cart to transport goods up to 120 kilogram, the TengaCar 250 (a heavy duty handcart, which can carry up to 250 kilogram), the ShopCar (for transporting, displaying and selling products in streets and markets) and the MadziCar (a push cart to transport up to 230 litres of water). Meijers: “We also design and produce custom made bike products, like carts to transport milk cans, cool boxes, advertisement boards, garbage and much more.”
“In Malawi, we found the perfect starting point for a bike factory, because everybody uses bikes. From the interest we get from other African countries we learned that this concept can work anywhere on this continent.” Peter Meijers is therefore putting together a package of design, technical, financial and practical expertise, to be offered to social businesses in other countries. “We have contacts in Ghana and other countries. Now that we have found a good manager for our business in Malawi, it may be time for us (Peter has a wife a son, ed.) to move on.”
What do you think of the CareCar bicycle ambulance? Let us know on Facebook!