|Michael Linke (back) with the crew at Walvis Bay|
After Transaid identified the need for a motivating, sustainable project to compliment the health initiatives in Menabe, the idea of bikes and repair was a natural fit. And they looked to BENN, who has been running successful bike co-op shops for nearly a decade, for guidance.
|TKMOAMS eBox crew with Michael Linke and Madagascar visitors|
Together, these two groups created the Malagasy eBox system, which looked a whole lot like BENN's eBox genius. BfW was quick to jump on board to help support the effort in Madagascar knowing first hand the success in Namibia.
BENN established their first official eBox (known then as a BEC, Bicycle Empowerment Centre) in December of 2006. This is also the first year BfW and BENN joined forces. Since then, BfW has donated nearly 2,000 bikes to Namibia in support of this program.
|Gloria rides by local eBox|
In addition to the tangible components of a bike shop, BENN also provides training to new mechanics and business skills essential to running a successful business.
What began as solely a 'bike business' has grown into much more over the last decade. Many of the established eBoxes provide funding to other organizations and community run efforts through income from bike sales. The eBoxes are supporting health care workers, feeding children, and providing jobs and transportation in areas where cars are scarce.
|Solar power station. Photo: Elephant Energy|
Through other partnerships, like Elephant Energy, eBoxes now supply a range of goods and services to the community, outside of 'just bikes'. This prompted BENN to change the name of these entrepreneurial shops from BECs, less emphasis on just BICYCLES, to eBoxes, more emphasis on ENTERPRISE and growth.
|Miandrivazo container shipped thru BfW|
And, as in Namibia, this newly formed bike business is already doing more than just selling bikes. It's creating jobs, incentives for health workers, and even planting the seed (pun intended) for new business ideas. Plans are already in the works for this community to start diversified businesses ranging from selling rice, fish, and vegetables.