Meet the campaigner urging Botswana youth to embrace bicycles

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Mpaphi Ndubo poses with his bicycle at Botswana's 'Three Kings' Monument in the capital Gaborone. The self-proclaimed cycling ambassador is urging his fellow Batswana to embrace bicycles, not only as a sport, but as a mode of green transport. (Photo via BYCS)

It has become the norm among Botswana youth to graduate, get a job and immediately buy a car, even if it means securing a hefty loan.

What encourages young Batswana to quickly procure motor vehicles is the desire to escape long bus stop queues during rush hours. And the desperate need to escape congested and stuffy public minibuses prevalent in the country, that either drive dangerously too fast or at a snail pace.

This escape of Botswana’s poor public transport system has encouraged the rise of the unprecedented motor vehicle population in the country, said Mpaphi Ndubo, Founder of Cycling Embassy Botswana supported by BYCS, an Amsterdam-based social enterprise whose work is rooted in the belief that bicycles provide more than efficient and sustainable transportation.

In urging the youth to opt for bicycles as a clean mode of transport, Ndubo said climate change and global warming are a result of human activities that destroy the ozone layer through air pollutants.

“Transportation contributes about 20 to 25 percent of carbon emissions,” he said.

His concerns emanate from the fact that before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent travel restrictions, figures by Statistics Botswana had revealed that the population of locally registered vehicles on Botswana’s roads had risen to 584,000 by the end of June 2019, doubling the number from the previous decade.

At these levels, the country has about 254 vehicles per 1,000 people, a statistic that put Botswana among the world’s highest in terms of vehicle density.

Because a high number of the vehicles imported into the country are second hand low efficiency cars, they contribute immensely to air pollution. As a result, the capital city is consistently ranked among the worst in air quality across the globe.

“Everyone can manage their individual carbon footprint, and there is no better way to do that other than cycling,” said Ndubo.

“The youth are leaders of tomorrow, but this leadership cannot be suspended until tomorrow. This leadership needs to start now,” he said, adding that being leaders of tomorrow means appreciating the value of cycling and doing all to ensure the creation of a future one will be proud to have contributed to.

Cycling, Ndubo said, is not only a clean mode of transport, but it is also cheap and affordable.

“Today one of the greatest challenges for youth is sedentary lifestyles. Sitting behind the television at home, lack of playing space for children and parental pride of wanting to be seen dropping off and picking their children from school,” he lamented.

The resultant lack of exercise will have adverse impacts on children’s health in the future as it predisposes them to non-communicable diseases, he said.

“One of the critical factors that is killing people who are infected by COVID-19 is pre-existing or underlying conditions,” he said, adding that cycling is an antidote to securing a healthy future.

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