Cycling in Togo | The Kpalimé Cycling Project is Changing Children's Lives With Bicycles
"The best school children in Kpalimé are those who are part of our program..."
The Kpalimé Cycling Project was created in 2013 to develop cycling and education in the city of Kpalimé and across the country of Togo in Western Africa.
The locally-run club have done some astounding work since then. Founded by 23-year-old Togolese national road cycling champion Abdou-Raouf Akanga, the club provides the opportunity for children to learn to cycle - providing they get good grades at school. They also help them achieve the latter with financial support and resources.
“Today the best school children in Kpalimé are those who are part of our program," says Akanga.
The club also runs the only women’s cycling team in Togo, something particularly notable given the stigma surrounding women’s cycling in Africa, and supplies all of their riders with bicycles and cycling gear.
Now the Kpalimé Cycling Project are re-developing a house into a cycling centre for the city. The centre will have means for accommodation, education - including mechanic courses for locals, crucial in maintaining and growing the cycling movement in the country - and will be the central hub for the project as a whole.
“The cycling centre would be a great start to help improve children’s lives through cycling"
Having run out of the “means to continue developing the project" though, they need your help to finish the job.
The cycling project recently launched a fundraising campaign for their cycling centre, the funds of which will go towards finishing the restoration of the house and investing in different cycling programs “like cycling development and also the education of our riders" - so they don’t have to turn anyone in want of an education away.
The project is only asking for €2,000 to reach their goal. €4 can support a child for a month. €25 for six months. €50 for an entire year. That full €2,000 could support 40 children for a full year. You can donate now through the fundraising page.
We spoke to Abdou-Raouf about the project, and about exactly what the centre and funding would mean for the community.
“The cycling centre would be a great start to help improve children’s lives through cycling," he told us.
“We recently bought the house that we are restoring now. The house will have sleeping rooms, a library, a bike room, a mechanic's room, a kitchen and a hut for our meetings. In this house our riders will help each other to master their school programs.
“It would be the base of all our activities and people from all over the city, even if they are not a member of the club, could come and borrow books from the library.
“We are working to extend the practice of cycling by giving bikes and other materials to kids and youths who wants to be cyclists. We also intervene in the education of our riders by giving them with school supplies, paying school fees for those who come from poor families.
“There will be mechanic courses, and courses to teach them things about cycling in which they will have exams. The money will help us to finish the restoration work and then we’ll invest in different programs like development and education."
The club currently trains three times a week, riding both road bikes and mountain bikes, and the impact on the community even outside of cycling is clear to see.
“Kpalimé Cycling Project is now the best cycling club in Togo," Akanga continued. “We have the first ever kids and female team. We are the first and only cycling club in Togo who give bikes and other cycling accessories free to its rider and also giving financial support to the riders for their education.
“With Kpalimé Cycling Project, kids have the luck to go to school and also having a good cycling program with us. It’s something unique in Togo for the moment."
We first spoke to Abdou-Raouf Akanga about the cycling project in February this year while exploring the ongoing movement around women’s cycling in Africa.
The stigmas surrounding women and cycling seem to have no ends on the continent, and simply getting on a bike can be a taboo, but the Kpalimé Cycling Project dismissed those stigmas to create the first ever women’s cycling team in Togo. They had 11 women riders at the time of writing in February.
“I try to show people that women can also be cyclists and do the same thing we are doing," Abdou-Raouf told us. “I also go on the local radio and try to change people’s minds about women on racing bikes being something bad.
“Like everywhere in Africa, women are the busiest in the house. It’s the same thing for female riders on my team. Sometimes they can’t come to training because of domestic work.
“Women also have the right to discover the joy and freedom of cycling. Cycling helps teach lessons of courage and skills that will be useful at school and in normal life."