Rihanna and ofo have formed a partnership to send bikes to schoolgirls in Malawi via the singer’s foundation and role as ambassador for an education charity. ofo is also joint funding a scholarship program to send students to the US for a college education.

Ofo and the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF), Rihanna’s own charitable foundation she set up in 2012 and named after her grandparents, announced a five-year partnership which will provide scholarships through CLF’s Global Scholarship Program to help hundreds of girls attend high school in Malawi. ofo will provide bikes for the girls who win scholarships, in part to bring down high drop-out rates in Malawi’s schools.

Singer Rihanna with an ofo bicycle (Image credit: Clara Lionel Foundation)

The partnership is via the “1 KM Action” (一公里计划), ofo’s collaboration with the UNDP to bring greater access to sustainable transport worldwide.

Robyn Rihanna Fenty who recently visited Malawi in her role as ambassador for Global Partnership for Education and was quoted by the scheme’s press release as saying:

“I’m so happy about the Clara Lionel Foundation’s new partnership with ofo because it will help so many young people around the world receive a quality education, and also help the young girls of Malawi get to school safely, cutting down those very long walks they make to and from school all alone.”

Ofo bikes being put through their paces in Malawi (Image credit: Caijing)

According to CLF’s release, only 8 percent of students in Malawi complete secondary education. “Determined to do something about it, the Clara Lionel Foundation and ofo joined forces to provide bikes and scholarships to girls in Malawi,” the release said.

The first batch of little yellow bikes have already been sent and have received “positive feedback from students and teachers,” according to the release. More bikes will be sent. We asked ofo for more details on numbers and maintenance but had not received a reply at time of publishing. From the photos released, the bikes appear to be a slightly different model, possibly without locks.

ofo founder and CEO Dai Wei said:

“We are delighted to work with Rihanna and the Clara Lionel Foundation on this innovative initiative as we are keen to help improve education accessibility for students living in poverty. We believe in unlocking every corner in the world with equal access to education as well as with our bike-sharing scheme.”

CLF’s Global Scholarships Program for college study in the US which ofo is now jointly funding is available for applicants from Barbados, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Guyana, Jamaica, the US—and now China too.

Iconic bikes provided by ofo and the Clara Lionel Foundation (Image credit: Caijing)

The collaboration with the singer who is most famous in North America and Europe comes at a time when ofo is hoping to expand aggressively in the two regions.

The announcement follows other corporate social responsibility projects by Chinese tech majors in Africa such as Huawei’s ICT training for students in various countries such as Kenya. Beyond the spread of soft power in Africa, the news of ofo’s Malawi project came the same day as China opened its firsts overseas military base in Djibouti, further north in East Africa.

Frank Hersey

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...

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