The small room was rather dim and lit by small stubs of candles. Their wicks were almost burnt right down to the bottom and the wax was running out, but that was all Lesley’s poor family could afford. That small flickering flame was their only source of light.
As Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis drags on, an economic crisis is digging deep into the country’s two English-speaking regions. Despite the ongoing crisis, entrepreneurs like Bongajum are not giving up on their communities. Bonga has a deep concern for villages that lack electricity.
His most recent project, Bonga Power Bike, aims to illuminate millions of homes in Africa through a bike called the Bonga Power Bike. With Bonga Power Bike, you can power your household simply by exercising with the bike.
Bonga Power Bike is the next best alternative to power supply in Africa’s remotest villages that lack electricity. It’s a fitness innovation that generates electricity by pedaling or exercising on a stationary bike. While keeping its users fit, Bonga Power Bike converts and saves energy which can be used to electrify homes in rural areas. It’s like using one stone to shoot two birds.
“We succeeded in building a prototype in #Ndu, one of the interior villages in the North West region. If you believe it, you can achieve it,” Lesley, author of the innovation stated.
The Bonga Power Bike project was accorded one of the most significant and sustainable businesses in Africa at the African Entrepreneurship Award.
The motivation behind the Bonga Power Bike
Growing up in a village where he did his primary and secondary education, Bonga suffered from inconsistent power supply. Some of his mates were not connected to the national power grid. As such, they suffered at night to do assignments and when he decided to make use of candles, tears will drop from his eyes and destroy some of his notes.
Some of his mates saw their homes burnt from the side effects of using candles and fuel generators. Although some of them succeeded with the GCE, most dropped out of school or didn’t succeed because they were disadvantaged. Their results couldn’t march that of their peers from the city.
After secondary school, he decided to move to the city and as the years passed by, members of his village developed a series of non-communicable diseases (high blood, obesity, diabetes, etc) which also hit his family. As such, doctors recommended exercising to all those affected and I had to take it seriously even at my age since I was more predisposed to it.
“I started seeing all the overweight signs on me and I had to hit the gym. Spinning classes was one of my favorite fitness exercises. I will ride for 1 hour, enjoy the music, burn calories and sweat a river. A few months later, I started seeing changes physically, mentally and emotionally. I started asking questions where the energy I was burning was going to. That’s when the law of conservation of energy came to my mind (energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but can only be transformed from one form to another),” Lesley says.
Lesley started thinking of ways to convert this energy he was wasting in every gym session into useful energy. That’s how the idea of the development of an exercise bike that converts the mechanical energy from the pedaling of the user into electricity while building muscles, was birthed.
Eight months into the program, Lesley and a small team he struggled to put together had succeeded in building a sample of the prototype.
“We call it a sample because with the crisis plaguing the Anglophone region, we couldn’t travel out of Ndu where it was being developed and tested. Ndu is in the ‘far northwest region’ of Cameroon and when we started the project, the roads leading in and out were blocked. We used parts from abandoned cars and motorcycles to build the sample of the prototype. At times, our technician couldn’t do the welding job because of lack of electricity, ghost towns, fear of harassment from both camps, etc.”
At one time, mobile telephone communication lines were cut off, hampering communication. The shops they had to buy some appliances from, also ran short of materials. But amidst all these odds, their technician succeeded to build a sample prototype that lights 7 bulbs, charge phones and powers low energy consumption TVs for up to 12 hours after 30 minutes of pedaling.
This project was developed during the African Entrepreneurship Award journey. Lesley used this pan-African journey and the feedback from its mentors to define the product and the business model.
“We can now say that the vision is clearer and we are ready to deploy the innovation that will change the fitness and energy industry in Africa.”
While they are still working on the final pricing, they have developed solutions and business models that will enable every student in Africa’s remotest villages to be assured of at least 7 hours of clean lights to study at night for the whole academic year with just $20 US (FCFA 10,000) annually.
The Bonga Power Bike is only the beginning of a revolution that will take Africa’s fitness industry by storm. For example, the team behind this innovation is already developing the BONGA Virtual Bike that is poised to become a fitness revolution in Africa. This bike will target people living sedentary lifestyles in the cities. Among other future innovations, Lesley’s team also has plans for a power kit that will be attached to horse carts and any bicycle to produce electricity.
With the Bonga Power Bike, Africans can now harness the true power of sports to power their homes and devices.