The Covid-19 pandemic notwithstanding, more than 80 cyclists will embark on the fourth edition of the Great Africa Cycling Safari, a two-month long East African tour, to raise awareness of climate change in the region and spread the gospel of regional integration.
So far, the tour has registered cyclists from 11 countries: Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, the United Kingdom and United States. EAC citizens are paying $20 to participate in the tour while non-members of the bloc will fork out $500 to register.
Tour organisers, Campfire Logs Guild (CLG), a not-for profit group, say they are now wiser, after the cancellation of last year's tour because of Covid, and are still intent on covering the 5,200km journey in 55 days.
The 2021 tour will be flagged off on August 1 at the Askari Monument in Dar es Salaam, from where it will head north into Kenya arriving after five days, then Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and back to Tanzania, where the event will end on September 25 at the East African Community headquarters, in Arusha.
John Bosco Balongo, the CLG executive director and expedition director said this year, riders will have to undergo coronavirus tests at each border entry and exit, and while there is a risk of contracting the virus, there will be co-ordinators to make sure the riders stick in squads of 10 with a leader to enforce Covid protocols.
"We weighed both the risks and the benefits," he said. "Cycling has emerged as a reliable way to stay connected and keeping fit and healthy, as it stimulates and improves your heart, lungs and blood circulation, which is important in surviving the pandemic."
Not to be derailed by long Covid-19 PCR testing protocols, the safari organisers are appealing to health agencies of partner states through the EAC, to accept rapid tests for entry, and pick the tab as part of their support.
On July 7, EAC Secretary General Dr Peter Mathuki met the expedition team and commended them for their commitment to EAC integration through their project.
More than 500 cycling enthusiasts will join short sections of the tour as the tour rides through their countries.
This year's theme is expressed as: Experience Africa, Integrate Humanity. Francis Munywoki, the chairman of the Great Africa Cycling Safari said so far, the group has 1,000 trees donated by a partner, which they will plant in Tanzania at the start of the tour, the cyclists will take time off to engage communities in climate change and environment conservation discussions.
The annual event has grown in stature, from the inaugural seven riders and eight crew in the first edition in 2016, to more than 500 expected this year, and partnerships from the EAC Secretariat, the GIZ, the East African Business Council and charity organisation African Calabash.