In February, we brought you news of the student research team at Columbia University’s graduate School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) working to assess the feasibility of bringing bamboo bikes to Kisumu, Kenya. Kat Athanasiades, Michelle Eames, Riham Hussein, and Young Rhee will present their final report and business plan to the public this Thursday at 4:50pm in SIPA room 1512. We sat down with Kat before the team’s big day, to learn more about their recent return trip to Kenya, the insights they gained, and some details of their final proposal to the UN Millennium Cities Initiative.
For two weeks in mid-March, this SIPA team traveled through Kisumu and the surrounding region collecting market data and information on bamboo infrastructure. They collected information on the pricing costs of potential factory components, as well as detailed information on labor costs, import taxes, and industry fees. They attempted to size the potential bamboo bicycle market, using the KPMG-authored Ghana study as a partial model. They worked to determine who would be able to afford the cost of a bamboo bicycle (at the same time that they investigated ways to drive down the potential cost of a bamboo bike to significantly less than what is available now in Kisumu, by pricing with Chinese components), and they identified three principle markets for sturdy bamboo cargo bikes in Kenya: boda boda drivers, community health workers, and rural students and commuters (many of them women who travel daily to the urban market stalls they staff during the day). The team brought back a good deal of demographic information that will also translate well into market information for the final study to be presented this week.
The team met with representatives of Kenyan professional organizations like the Boda Boda Association, giving these leaders the opportunity to test-ride bamboo bicycles that Kat and crew brought from New York. They encountered nothing but receptive responses, and encouragement. They left a good deal of excitement about bamboo bicycles in their wake!
The group also visited the Kenya Forest Research Institute, where they learned that the bamboo industry in Kenya is already in its primary stages of development! Bamboo in Kenya is already being harvested and used to make a number of specialty crafts items ranging from tables and chairs to kitchenware, and is also burned in the form of bamboo charcoal. Contacts at the African Bamboo Center in Kisumu say that this industry could likely supply enough bamboo to support a bamboo bike factory in the very near future!
Come to the Columbia University School of International Affairs, room 1512, this Thursday at 4:50 to learn more about the intricacies of the business plan to be presented by Kat, Michelle, Riham, and Young. We certainly look forward to it!