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Pedaling A New Narrative for Africa

One of my favorite authors is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. When I started listening to her TED talks, I loved her all the more, especially, "The Danger of A Single Story." Called one of the most popular TED talks of all time, Adichie explores the danger of telling a single story, hearing only one narrative about a people or a nation.

Adichie talks of her experience coming to the United States as the middle-class daughter of a Nigerian professor and an administrator and meeting her college roommate. Adichie says her roommate's "default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning, pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa. A single story of catastrophe.”

"Africa as catastrophe" is an all too familiar narrative. A misguided perception that the Continent is only a boil of conflict, poverty, disease and AIDS. I've traveled to Africa–Senegal and Mali over the decades, and I know there is much more! It's why I am so excited about a narrative I will be sharing over the next few weeks.

Social entrepreneur Bernice Dapaah, and Deputy Minister, The Hon. Elizabeth Sackey are coming to the states later this month for a three-city tour which includes Philadelphia. Almost a decade ago, with a start from the Clinton Global Fund, Dapaah founded and is CEO of the Ghanaian Bamboo Bicycle Initiative. Since then, she has opened three factories which employ women who make bamboo bikes. Bamboo is as strong as steel and grows abundantly throughout Ghana. Dapaah is providing much needed transportation in her country. She is creating jobs for women. She is using sustainable resources which protect the environment. And she is a philanthropist. Part of her business model includes giving away bikes to people in remote areas, thus allowing them to get to school, receive health care and work. Enter Philadelphians Bruce Crawley – a veteran public relations and business leader, and his partner, health nutritionist, and businesswoman Patricia Marshall Harris. Patricia was looking to give Bruce, an avid cyclist, a gift for a milestone birthday. But she was stuck – what do you give the man who has everything? Her thoughts kept returning to his passion, which is cycling, and it reminded her of a trip to Africa. Bruce asked a young girl how long it took to get to school. He was profoundly struck by her response – "it takes me two hours if I run." That comment sparked the idea to bring more bikes, something we all take for granted, to Ghana. Thus was born the African Bicycle Contribution Foundation (ABCF). This non-profit which started as a birthday gift, has one mission, one goal, one focus to help Dapaah give away bikes to Ghanians who need them. ABCF wants to give away 2500 bikes over five years. A year in existence and they've already raised funds to give away 150 bikes. I will be sharing more about Bernice Dapaah's visit in the days ahead. It should get wheels spinning on how Africa is more than a single story.

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