Container #54 lands in Kenya

Our 54th container of donated bikes recently landed with our partners in Kenya.  After Fredrick and the rest of the Cycloville crew did such a fantastic job with the first container they received (that was back at our #47), we couldn't wait to get another one out to them.  The Kenyan government, however, couldn't be less helpful, as the customs authority presents all sorts of ridiculous demands just to bring donated bikes into the country.  It really makes us wonder what's happening there, but it does make it quite clear why there aren't more bikes in the country already.

This second container for Cycloville has been joined by another recent container arrival from our friends at Bikes Not Bombs in Boston.  These two containers are forming a new logistics center in Machakos County, very close to the capital of Nairobi.  From this place, Fredrick and his team will distribute bikes and gear to their own shops, and to other small shop owners in the region.  Staff will be working at the center full time, will have access to housing, and will be training local youth in mechanics and logistics.

When a container lands in a part of Africa that doesn't have the cool side-loading trailers, a huge crane must be called in to lift the container off the chassis and drop it into its new home.  This one arrived full of bikes, and work quickly began converting it into the new logistics center:


Meanwhile, the existing operation closer to Nairobi continues to hum, as new bikes arrive to replenish their stock:

The Bicycle Enterprise Development Center is now a reality.

Fredrick, David and the crew in Nairobi have completed the transformation of the green can into the Bicycle Enterprise Development Center.  There, Cycloville is currently training 5 local youth, 4 of them young women.  They're making a special effort to get more women involved in cycling and proficient in mechanical skills.  Once these folks have completed their training, they will be employed at local existing and new bike shops, or at the Development Center itself.  As the Kenya program expands, this training will be a regular activity, as new shops throughout the area will require skilled owners and employees to succeed.  This organic growth of local cycling culture is in perfect alignment with the goals of the MB Foundation, and we could not be more proud of the planning, initiative and dedication of our Nairobi partners!! 

The container begins its transformation

Fredrick and David and the crew have begun to transform the green shipping container into their new Bicycle Enterprise Development Center in the outskirts of Nairobi, where they will sell and service the donated bicycles, and train local youth on mechanics and basic business skills.  This closely follows the BEC (Bicycle Empowerment Center) model that's been hugely successful in Namibia.

The team has also been giving a facelift to their existing storefront located in Nairobi, where they're upping their game considerably with their new tools, newly received merchandise, and a newly organized service area.  Looking great, guys!! 

First progress report from Kenya. All indications positive!

Our awesome new partners in Kenya are calling their project the Bicycle Enterprise Development Programme.  With near perfect alignment with our own goals at the Mike's Bikes Foundation, they're all about creating sustainable employment in the cycling industry in Kenya through "starting more bicycle enterprises and/or making sure the ones that are already existing are sustainable in the long run by regularly supplying the shops with resources."  Through the project, they're also promoting the use of bicycles through doing regular events, training youth in mechanic skills, and improving access to cycling equipment and services around Nairobi, and eventually, all of Kenya.  Mirroring our successful model in Botswana, Fredrick and his team in Nairobi are partnering with both existing and new locally-owned community bike shops to step up their game, and to maintain regular supply of used bikes and equipment.  Fredrick says it best:  "In short we are saying, the more bike shops we have in Kenya, the easier it becomes to access affordable equipment, accessories and services, which also makes the use of bicycle more convenient for people, therefore making more people to use the bike.  This will create more employment directly and indirectly and therefore also contribute in the reduction of poverty.  And also when many people take up cycling our environment becomes safe due to reduced air pollution."   We really love these guys!!

In the pictures below, Fredrick's group, Cycloville Kenya, are distributing to local bike shop owners, and also directly to some local residents in the Mathare slums.  Cycloville has known many of the more established shop owners before, but the shops lack adequate finance to purchase the bikes for resale.  In these cases, Cycloville is providing a micro-lending structure, as well as mentoring and monitoring on best practices for running a successful shop.

The green container from Mike's Bikes is being modified into a workshop and local bike store.  It will become a Bicycle Enterprise Development Center where Nairobi youth will be trained about mechanics and basic business skills to run bike shops.

We couldn't be more proud of the quick progress made by our incredible partners in Kenya!

Big green container arrives in Kenya!

Very happy to report that our first ever shipment to Kenya has arrived safe and sound.  This one was unusually challenging, as Kenya has extremely "unique" requirements for inbound bikes, even donated ones.  Through a pretty rigorous inspection process on the US side, we managed to pre-clear those hurdles, and our partners on the ground in Nairobi shepherded the container through Kenyan customs.

After a long journey from Oakland to the port of Mombasa, and then overland up to Nairobi, the container was placed using the now-familiar "crane method" in its final location just outside of town.  Fredrick and his team were ecstatic to finally see this big green can rolling into town, and they're super excited to get to work on the bikes inside. 

Container #47, and a brand new country for us - Kenya!

We recently completed an unusually difficult container as our first attempt at used bike distribution in Kenya.  Let's just say it was a learning experience...

As usual, our customers donate their old bikes at local Mike's Bikes stores, those bikes are brought to our HQ in Novato, where they're loaded into 40' shipping containers as they arrive.  Typically, we gather up 450-550 bikes, seal up the container, and off it sails.  However, as we prepared to do this for our new partners, Cycloville Kenya, we were informed at the last minute "By the way, Kenya Customs requires that you conduct a pre-inspection of the goods here in the States."  Oh, well that couldn't be too hard, right?  Wrong.  It requires that the container be completely unpacked and offloaded so that each bike was viewable, and some bizarre and frankly ridiculous Kenya law requires that every used bike entering the country include a lock and a bell!

We very nearly bailed entirely on the Kenya project, but finally decided to power through and give it a go.  So we ordered 400+ locks, 400+ bells, scheduled the inspection, unloaded the entire shipping container one morning, somehow cleared the inspection mid-day, and reloaded the entire container in the afternoon.

We're still trying to figure out how to handle the logistics of this for the next Kenya container, but now, container #48 is loading up gradually and destined for our usual partners in Botswana.

More on our new Kenya friends in a later post...