Rick de Gaay Fortman, a renowned cyclist from the Netherlands, on Saturday, cycled with a group of 30 Rwandans including two women cyclists from Kayonza District, Eastern Province to raise awareness about renewable energy.
The journey kicked off from the Banque Populaire du Rwanda (BPR) branch in Kayonza District and concluded at the main BPR branch, in Kigali City.
The event was organised and sponsored by BPR and involved two cycling teams: Satellite Bicycle Racing Club from Kayonza and LESAMIS-Sportifs. This trip is part of Fortman’s bigger 7,000km cycling project to create awareness about renewable energy in the heart of Africa.
Fortman, 31, is internationally known for his epic 7,000 km cycling journey through nine African countries to create awareness for renewable energy. The four-month journey begun in Cape Town, South Africa on August 23, 2010 and will wind up in Nairobi on December 15, 2010.
According to Fortman, cycling through Rwanda was another opportunity to learn about Africa.
“It would have been a missed opportunity if I cycled through Tanzania directly to Kenya. Outside, not so many people know about Rwanda and I was curious to know about this country because what they say in Holland is that, ‘Rwanda is the Switzerland of Africa’; it’s very clean, has beautiful mountains, nice people and I wanted to see this in person,” Fortman said.
Additionally, he said that his government was investing a lot of money into different clean energy projects in Rwanda—a very important factor that contributed to his coming to Rwanda: He also wanted to play a part in this development as he advocates for the use of renewable energy.
Netherlands, is investing about $100million in renewable energy in Africa and half of that money is going to different projects associated with clean energy in Rwanda.
In support of Fortman’s epic journey, Frans Makken, the Dutch Ambassador to Rwanda was present at the BPR event.
“We are happy to support cycling as sports that raises awareness for different projects. Rick’s determination is impressive and if more people were involved in such initiatives, development would be achieved faster,” the Ambassador said.
According to Paul Van Apeldoorn, the Chief Commercial Officer of BPR, an amount of 2,600 Euros was raised from the cycling event and donated to a health centre in Kayonza District.
“As a bank we see the importance of bringing energy to the rural areas. 30 percent of BPRs shares are owned by RABO BANK in Netherlands, which supports several energy projects. So, one of our aims is to finance different projects in the countryside that involve energy such as Bio, Solar and Hydro energy; that is why money was raised to finance the clinic in Kayonza,” Apeldoorn said.
Fortman the ‘Clean Energy Cyclist’, is an Engineer by profession with a MScin Aeronautical Engineering and carries five years of project management experience with Shell, including four years in Qatar with Pearl GTL.
Fortman who is currently cycling through Uganda for Kenya said that, “My dream is to see a world where everybody has access to clean and affordable energy.”