Written by: Admin_SheEvo
Africa has a history of not owning its own solutions. This is because Africa has been exploited by the international arena for decades, which meant that every economic, social and environmental challenge always had western inspired solutions. However, Africans have proved to have tailor-made solutions to their challenges using available resources and giving confidence in ownership. Malawi is common in finding or designing solutions to confront its daily challenges. Due to the multifaceted problems that the country encounters, the high cost of living, the fuel crisis, the skyrocketing unemployment rate etc., Kabaza (Bicycle) have become the most effective and efficient means of transport in the country. The streets of Malawi are a craze of Kabaza drivers going up and down looking for customers/passengers.
The encouraging part of this business is that most Kabaza owners are young adults, which has eased the burden of unemployment and reduced crime. The Kabaza is easily accessible in any part of the country and therefore functions informally like an uber as one can get a Kabaza from anywhere, even as close as getting one by the doorstep. In terms of job creation, it is a value concept. It only requires a few resources or capital. Anyone can start the trade as long as they have a bicycle. The Kabaza business is meeting a critical need in Malawi by offering the most flexible and affordable means of transport. Undoubtedly, it brings socio-economic groups out of poverty and empowers the youth to be self-reliant. Therefore, the business is an easy start-up since most homes, on average own a bicycle. In addition, it is an effective way of enhancing economic and entrepreneurial growth. The business also contributes to empowering local communities to help them survive economically, socially and physically.
The Kabaza story began in Karonga, in early 2005, a district located in the Northern Region of Malawi under a business called Cargo. This small trade became very lucrative in Karonga, attracting many unemployed youths and young adults. In no time, they became Cargo business owners with an enviable income, sustaining their families and day-to-day living costs. Subsequently, the business became overcrowded, resulting in the spread of the industry in other parts of Malawi. This overwhelmingly fast-paced spread eventually led to urbanisation, unemployment and adequate, affordable intra-city public and commercial transport. As a result, the Kabaza business became an attractive venture and captivated a few established businessmen, the likes of Mr Salumpha based in Mzuzu. He was the first to buy about 5 000 Kabaza, employing 5 000 youths at the time, which attracted the government’s attention in recognising and appreciating his job creation efforts.
This trade in a developing country has various advantages: availability and affordability. They can also easily traverse through narrow roads and rough terrain and easily navigate the most jammed roads. They quickly reach remote areas and meander through the hectic urban traffic, meeting some urban residents’ unmet transport needs. This type of transportation has quickly become popular not only in Malawi but also in other countries. Its acceptance has increased steadily and has become the primary mode of transportation in Malawi and Africa. It has become a means of transportation regularly used by people of all ages, men and women alike, mainly middle to lower-income earners.
Unfortunately, not all Malawians embrace this means of transport as it is associated with the less privileged. One pointed out and said, “the problem with Africans is that we want to jump stages of economic and industrial growth, instead of wishing to be developed in one day, it is good to start with what we have. I see uber eats in Kenya being delivered on small motorbikes, and people get food on time without worrying about traffic jams. In New York deliveries are even done on skateboards” Another said, “it is environmentally friendly as there are no carbon emissions.”
Indeed, it is time we embrace African solutions to African problems towards a united, prosperous, peaceful Africa. To build the Africa we want to see and live in, we need to unlearn certain imported principles irrelevant to our existence and embrace our authenticity and being. As Africans, we need to navigate our resources and bank on Africa’s future, having a sense of self-reliance, responsibility, pride and ownership. We need to re-brand Africa and leave the image of a permanently troubled land behind or totally erase it.
In conclusion, Malawi is a beautiful country with a vibrant populous of inventors and solutions-minded youths. If we could all embrace and support them, we could build a better Malawi and a great Africa.
Cathrine Banda, from Mzuzu Malawi. She is a Community Activist, Motivational Speaker, Writer, Poet, Former Radio Presenter The 1873 FM, Johannesburg South Africa