Making a Difference

Many people have asked us WHY we’re doing this ride. Mainly it’s for fun. Well, a kind of fun. The challenge, then. And because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But there’s another reason. We call it ‘Making a Difference’.

First off, some of the riders are raising money for charity, notably for the Tour d’Afrique Foundation (www.tourdafrique.com/foundation), which – among other things – donates bikes to rural health workers in Africa.

As well as the direct raising of funds, our ‘Making a Difference’ activities also aim to raise awareness of wider issues. We’re not under any illusions: the hard fact is that giving away some bikes isn’t going to make much of an impact on the massive social, economic and development issues facing the entire continent of Africa.

Several campaigning organisations look at the bigger picture; they highlight the root of many of Africa’s problems (imbalance of trade, unfair import tariffs and restrictions, top-heavy or unsustainable investment, aid-dependence) and propose solutions to these big-picture issues – including ethical investment, grassroots funding, charitable loans not charitable gifts, ‘trade not aid’, and so on.

We’re also aware of the contradictions that surround charitable donations. As the ethical investment lobbyists point out, giving $10 to help African war orphans or conflict victims is pointless if your savings account earns interest via your bank investing in the defence manufacturer that makes the guns and tanks in the first place.

In the same way, giving $10 to Greenpeace is pointless if your pension fund include shares in a logging company cutting down the rainforest. The real way to help is not to financially support (and benefit from) the loggers or arms companies, and make sure your bank or pension fund is ‘clean’ by investing ethically.

To find out more, the following links may be useful:

· ethical investment bodies, such as www.eiris.org and www.ethicalinvestment.org.uk, that advise on savings, pensions etc that *don’t* invest in the arms trade.

· micro-credit finance organisations, such as www.shared-interest.com where instead of giving $50, you lend $500 and get your money back a few years later.

· lobby groups, such as World Development Movement (www.wdm.org.uk ) that argue there’s no point Western countries giving aid to Africa with one hand, but then with the other hand preventing those countries from exporting their goods.

The Lonely Planet team, and Lonely Planet as an organisation, does not necessary support or advocate support for any of these organisations, but we hope you find the information useful for learning more about the complexities of aid and charitable donations – and then making up your own mind.

~ David Else

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