EVERY so often one falls upon a random story that carries no excitement until one exercises the brain a little bit.
‘Fred’s Bicycles’ was started a few years ago by Jonny Coppel and Tom Davenport, in London, after Davenport visited Uganda on holiday one year and “…saw the ‘beautiful’ bikes used by farmers in Uganda to ferry cattle…”, at which point “he immediately saw the appeal they might have back home.”
More importantly, this story underscored to me once again the importance of a good education, rather than the instructive one-plus-one-equals-two type of schooling many of us got.
This is not to say that all British young men who visit Uganda are well educated enough to do what Davenport and Coppel did, but the fact that they came over here and identified opportunity out of an item that we actually despise as a sign of poverty and backwardness, means they are well educated.
The bicycles they talk about were not even designed or made in Uganda; from the photos on the website, these are what we used to call Hero bicycles, which eventually gave way to Roadmaster Cycles.
One other website containing a research paper by United States university Professor Jason A. Morris, even states that the Hero Bicycle was “originally built in 1913 for the British military, and it has not changed since”.
This researcher came all the way from the US to Hoima to design a bicycle for Ugandan use to replace the Hero and Roadmaster bicycles. His efforts are available in that research paper but I, personally, know nothing of the results being on the road.
What about the realisation that on the day I fell upon this story of Uganda’s inspiration, I saw three stories in one newspaper talking about sums of money being earned by Ugandans -Ushs100billion, Ushs15billion and Ushs400million – yet none of these will ever be converted into bicycle manufacture, assembly or anything similar anywhere in the country.
Wait! Wait! What is the most notable bicycle story YOU can think of…? Yes! The one in which Permanent Secretary John Kashaka was convicted over the sham importation of bicycles worth Ushs4billion, right?
You would probably have been less confused about it if the 70,000 bicycles in question there had been ordered direct from the Roadmaster Assembly Plant in Nalukolongo, wouldn’t you?
But according to the Public Procurement and Disposal Authority (PPDA) Investigation Report into the matter, Roadmaster was not even one of the bidders that successfully submitted bids – which list included names such as “Nile Fishing Company Limited and Shinyanga Emporium”.
I swear – go to this link for the full report and see for yourself!