Since 2005, Qhubeka, a South African non-profit organization, has distributed more than 50 000 bicycles in rural communities across South Africa. Being able to move on a bicycle is a way to have access to opportunity: education, healthcare, shops, community services… Bikes are not given to the people: the system works on a work-to-earn basis. Beneficiaries have to work for their community, or they have to improve their school results to earn a Qhubeka bicycle. Giovanni Mottalini, project manager of Qhubeka, gives us his vision.
Interview conducted in March 2014.
Why are bicycles a way of improving the lives of people living in rural communities?
Giovanni Mottalini: “If you are not mobile, if you are not able to get around, then you are not able to do much in your life. Mobility is extremely important for people to create sustainability for themselves.
Giovanni Mottalini, project manager of Qhubeka
Why was Qhubeka created?
“Qhubeka was created on the basis that mobility is possibly one of the most important issues for anybody to create a sustainable lifestyle. The decision was taken to mobilize people with bicycles.
Qhubeka is operating since 2005 in South Africa, how does it work exactly?
“Qhubeka is a non-profit funded by donors. We use the funding to buy bicycles and to manage their procurement, assembly and distribution into the communities on a work-to-earn basis. We have various projects. The first one is an eco-project, where people have to plant trees or clean their area to earn a bicycle. With the educational and the health project, it is more personal: students have to improve their scholar results and doctors must see more patients to keep their bicycle.
Nine years after the creation, what the results that you are proud of?
“The results are evident when you visit our areas of operation and when you speak to the people that have been involved. Today, we have distributed more than 50 000 bicycles across South Africa, and we have numerous stories of success for the various recipients.
Do you have three words to describe the spirit of Qhubeka?
“There is only one word, it is an Africa word: ‘Ubuntu’ (I am because we are). You have to look after your fellow humans.
What was the biggest difficulty since the beginning?
“The biggest difficulty is always funding. We don’t have sufficient funding to do what we would like to do. The biggest obstacle is to try to raise the funds we need to achieve the results.
How do you see your organization in ten years?
“Hopefully five or ten times bigger than what we are now, with five or ten times the results that we have now! Instead of our 50 000 bicycles we have got 500 000 bicycles.
Today, a lot of young South Africans want to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure to help society. Could you give them a piece of advice?
“Be an entrepreneur is being able to realize a goal in life and work to achieve it. It is a matter of working to earn something. If you do it well, you will in fact be successful!