Ability Bikes Cooperative
Ability Bikes Cooperative is a micro-enterprise bike shop based in Koforidua, Ghana, that is cooperatively owned and operated by physically challenged people. Ability Bikes imports bicycles, refurbishes them, and sells the bikes at affordable prices from their retail shop to people who need them. Ability Bikes also wholesales used bicycle parts to other bike mechanics and sellers in the Koforidua area, and has become a foundation stone for the bike market in Koforidua, strengthening the local economy and keeping more bikes repaired and on the road.
All of the members of Ability Bikes Cooperative are physically challenged, mostly from polio, and are “mobility challenged,” yet on a daily basis they run a business that provides a valuable service, increased mobility, to able-bodied people. Through these daily interactions with people in Koforidua, Ability Bikes members actively transform social perceptions of physically challenged people in society and redefine their role as highly valued.
Ability Bikes employs 7 full-time staff, including two administrators and five mechanics. According to the cooperative structure of Ability Bikes, these staff members are also business owners, sharing the responsibility and the gains of the business, adding value to the used bikes through their labor and owning the process of their employment. Ability Bikes represents an important model for sustainable development that cultivates autonomy through capacity building and strategic technical support.
Ability Bikes is continually developing improved systems of administration and accounting, refining their business strategy to increase their net profit and building their skills as mechanics and administrators. Only one member of Ability Bikes completed Secondary School, but all have developed the skills to successfully and cooperatively run the bike shop.
In 2008, Bikes Not Bombs helped establish Ability Bikes Cooperative in Koforidua, Eastern Region, Ghana. We sent a fieldworker for 15 months to support the early development of Ability Bikes and provide the initial training. Once the members of Ability Bikes were successfully running the business, the fieldworker stepped back, and the members stepped up with full responsibility. Bikes Not Bombs continues to ship bikes to Ability Bikes and to provide technical assistance to support their ongoing development as bike shop owners and as advocates for physically challenged people in Ghana, and throughout the world.
Above, from the full-length film "With My Own Two Wheels," this 8 minute excerpt profiles Miriam, a mechanic and worker-owner at Ability Bikes in Koforidua, Ghana.
Above, this 10 minute video about Ability Bikes Cooperative was made by David Branigan, International Programs Director at Bikes Not Bombs.
In 2013 Bikes Not Bombs' Mechanic Derek McIntire traveled to Ghana to provide Advanced Mechanical Training to the worker-owners of Ability Bikes. Above is his documentary highlighting the strengths and impacts of the program.