Talent and determination, Michael built himself a small bicycle shop and became the first port of call for Nairobi’s small cycling community. But minor and major disasters keep pulling Africa’s people back into poverty and make it difficult for them to rise to the middle class.
Far from pompous World Bank strategy papers, benevolent NGO donor conferences and industrial policy, millions of Africans are running their business to make ends meet for themselves and their families. They pay neither taxes nor do they have access to social benefits, insurance or bank loans. Apart from their tools and skills, they have little collateral to access capital. The sum of their daily achievements is what we find as abstract figures, such as poverty rates or gross domestic product or income per capita in country reports of various international institutions. Michael from Kenya is one of them.
Thanks to his grandfather, he learns the trade of bicycle mechanic, which he first develops in Nairobi and finally perfects with the European Tour d’Afrique. Together with European tourists, Mike cycles almost half of the African continent, several thousand kilometres, and is available to them as a mechanic. With the contacts he makes and the money he earns, he opens a small bicycle shop in Nairobi, where he becomes the contact point for the small cycling community in the Kenyan capital.
Nevertheless, know-how and capital are by no means guarantees of success and the poverty trap is always within reach for every single entrepreneur, and with COVID the whole continent was once again in danger of being swept away. Read more in Africa’s century – Is the grip on prosperity succeeding?