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Pedal power -

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One Australian backpacker's project, taking bicycles no longer being used in Australia and shipping
them to Africa, has proved so successful that a string of bike shops have now been opened in
Namibia.

Transcript

TRACY BOWDEN, PRESENTER: Every year in Australia, more bikes are sold than cars, yet many of the
two-wheelers end up in the back shed gathering dust and cobwebs. Realising that this is a large
wasted resource, Australian backpacker Michael Linke began shipping unwanted bikes to Africa. His
project has proved so successful that he has opened a string of bike shops in Namibia, one of the
most sparsely populated countries in the world. Africa correspondent Andrew Geoghegan reports from
Namibia.

MICHAEL LINKE, THE BIKE EMPOWERMENT NETWORK NAMIBIA: This is easily the best thing I've ever done
in my life. I think all my family and friends thought I was a crackpot when I just set off to
Namibia and said I'm starting a non-profit organisation. We're gonna distribute bicycles.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN, REPORTER: After a 700 kilometre drive through Namibia's unforgiving landscape,
Michael Linke has arrived in the remote town of Uphou, near the Angolan border. He's visiting a
little project he set up that's fast becoming a major Namibian enterprise.

The town's first bike shop is a converted shipping container, a gift from Australia. Last year the
container was sitting on a dock in Melbourne. Michael Linke's friends arranged to have dozens of
donated bikes packed up and shipped off to the other side of the world.

MICHAEL LINKE: I saw these bikes and it was a bit of an emotional thing for me. I knew that the
bikes had been collected and packed into the container from my home suburb in Melbourne.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Several years ago, Michael Linke was backpacking around Europe, working as a
bicycle mechanic. Looking for a new adventure, he came up with an idea that would change not only
his life, but the lives of many Africans.

MICHAEL LINKE: One day I was walking around the streets of Hamburg where I was at the time and I
saw an old bike chained to a lamp post. And I saw dozens of these kinds of bikes everywhere I went
in the world. Seeing that bicycle there abandoned and unused and a potentially useful resource, I
thought, well, there's got to be a better use for this bicycle somewhere in the world.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: With the help of the global organisation Bicycles for Humanity, Michael Linke
kick-started Namibia's Bike Empowerment Network. It now has 25 shops that are all self-funded.

MICHAEL LINKE: We don't think that just giving things away works. And that's been our experience. I
mean, I know because we've done it. It doesn't create the kind of mechanisms of ownership that you
need to make a program sustainable. It also doesn't do anything for the local economy.

The shops are generating enough income to pay for the resupply of their own bikes and they're
buying new spare parts from wholesalers and they're communicating with each other. So it's really -
we've created a business network rather than a one-off project.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: The shops have also created desperately needed jobs. More than half the
population here is unemployed and in remote towns like this one, most people live in poverty.

RAUNA SHIKONGO, STORE MANAGER: It's helping me. I built my own house, my corrugated house. I send
my mother monthly money. I also - some of the money I spend it to give it to my children, to buy
their clothes and also their food.

Michael Haputa couldn't afford to support his family before he became a bike mechanic.

In a country where most people get around on foot, word has spread quickly about the bike shops.

I'd be exaggerating to say the bicycle is revolutionising transport in Namibia. However, it is
starting to get towns like this one moving. Very few people here can afford a car, yet a bike is
both affordable and liberating.

MICHAEL LINKE: There's no bus coming through the village. There's not even private vehicles in the
villages. So a bicycle becomes a vital link, a vital transport link to the outside world for a lot
of these isolated villages.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Health workers can now access remote communities more quickly and frequently.

MICHAEL LINKE: This particular organisation, they had a network of 700 home-based care volunteers
and these people were all walking long distances, some of them up to 30 kilometres, just to visit a
client who was living with HIV or AIDS. And trying to provide them with basic palliative care.

BLAUDINA PETLUS, RED CROSS CARER (voiceover translation): Without the bike, sometimes if you want
to visit some clients, it's very difficult because you have to walk there and the place is far. But
now, I have the bike, it's very quick.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Red Cross worker Blaudina Petlus has become a vital link between civilisation and
one of the world's most isolated cultures. The Himba people have shunned the modern world, but in
recent years their health has suffered as they succumb to diseases such as AIDS. Blaudina Petlus
monitors the health of these people and offers advice.

MICHAEL LINKE: Getting information about the disease to these people is very important and that's a
strong component of what these volunteers do.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Realising the value of a basic means of transport, Michael Linke used his
ingenuity to come up with a bicycle ambulance.

MICHAEL LINKE: I'm convinced a lot of lives have been saved through the bicycle ambulance project.
We have around 100 ambulances out in the field.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: The Australian expat has no shortage of helpers and he's actively encouraged
street kids to get involved.

Helping Michael Linke drive his bicycle revolution is his Brazilian wife Clarice.

MICHAEL LINKE: One of the really inspiring things that's happened since I began work in Namibia is
that we've connected with a lot of people around the world who've wanted to support our work.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: So what's your ultimate goal?

MICHAEL LINKE: The ultimate goal? Every African's riding a bicycle. (Laughs).

TRACY BOWDEN: What a fantastic project. Andrew Geoghegan reporting there from Namibia.