Years back I asked my Father for a bike and, in a homily that introduced the idea of the Saturday job, he told me that they didn’t grow on trees. They do now. On the outskirts of Lusaka in Zambia next years crop of bicycles is being watered by Benjamin Banda: “we planted this bamboo last year and the stems are taller than me. When it is ready, we will cut it and cure it and then, turn it into frames.”

Introducing the Bamboo Zambike

Introducing the Bamboo Zambike

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There are 13 million SMEs in India which accounts for 80% of all companies. They have a 40% share of industrial output and account for 45% of all exports mainly from sectors such as textiles, leather, jewellery, auto components and pharmaceuticals. They are the biggest employers in the country – second only to Agriculture. Many of them are an integral part of all sorts of supply chains that lead to formal brands on shelves or in the showroom. Without them few brands could be cost effective. And yet, according to statistics from SMERA (Small and Medium Enterprises Rating Agency) of all the investments made by SMEs in 2007 – Rs 100,000 crore or, over $20 billion – only 14% was provided by the formal banking sector! (more…)

In other words, 4,300 children die of diahorrea every day – which is second only to pneumonia and more than deaths from measles, malaria and HIV combined. The trouble is that Jumbo Jets falling out of the skies and photo opportunities at the opening of new schools or healthcare centres have more PR clout than opening a safe toilet or, being the patron of an anti-open defecation campaign in some obscure village in Bangladesh or elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa. Behavioural change is much tougher than buildings but it is the only route to sustainable transformations … (more…)

Today Africa is divided into forty-six states, more than three times the number in Asia (whose land surface is almost 50% larger) and nearly four times the number in South America.[i] These boundaries cut through 177 cultural areas and this is a major seedbed for the informal economy. Despite these facts, few rail or roadways cross borders and there are no commercially navigable rivers to facilitate the movement of goods either. Add in the infrastructure that has been ravaged by war, the often rife corruption and poor governance and the picture is clear. There are few means in place to move whatever is extracted or generated from the vast natural resources of Africa to any place else. This is the key. If you can’t move what you produce cost effectively, you are physically and economically trapped. Logistics is key.

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