“Life is like a bicycle: if you don’t pedal you stand still.”
By Edith Yah Brou
Andy Costa frequently uses this quote, which is an adapted version of Einstein’s famous “Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving”.
Every time we meet, he never misses an opportunity to use the quote again. He loves it.
I met Andy Costa a few years ago. He’d called on me for a photo project. This 40-year-old Ivorian ecologist, who is married and the father of two young boys, constantly sees life in green. What could be more normal when you’ve grown up in the Sud-Comoé region of Côte d’Ivoire, and more specifically in Grand-Bassam: this town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the country’s first sustainable town via the agenda 21 project. “I grew up in a natural environment favourable to biodiversity and today, in the face of ecological challenges, climate change is jeopardising our planet. It is therefore no longer just a passion but a duty: we have to think about the environment because it’s something we all share, and we need to leave a sustainable legacy to future generations”.
What sets Andy Costa apart from other ecological activists and gives him a genuinely remarkable identity (no doubt globally unique) is his green cycling helmet. He never leaves home without it. He wears it wherever he goes: conferences, forums, airports, on walks and rides, etc. I suspect he even sleeps and showers with it on (laughs). To such an extent that if he isn’t wearing his green helmet, I can walk right past him in the street or a hotel lobby. He has managed to establish his own personal branding, but how did he come up with this surprising idea?
The cycle helmet symbolises protection and the message I’m spreading: protecting the environment
Andy Costa began working, very soon after he obtained his high-school diploma, in the field of Communications. Around a decade later, he got involved in social entrepreneurship via his “MyDream For Africa” NGO. Through this organisation, his aim is to advocate for the implementation of sustainable development initiatives. “MyDream For Africa” was founded in 2010. I’m its founder and CEO. Our goal is to promote the environment and sustainable development. We have around ten members, including Sory TOURE, Thiery N’GUESSAN and Edith Brou”.
Bold, a believer and an “Afro-optimist”, as he defines himself, Andy Costa and his green bicycle helmet have travelled around the world and successfully grabbed the attention of many institutional decision-makers and figureheads. Wherever he goes, he raises awareness of change steering through his bike trips and his interviews on his bicycle. This is what he calls “climate diplomacy”.
In Côte d’Ivoire, he is very well-known for pushing the government and institutions to create cycle lanes. And, thanks to his perseverance, a law was approved by the Council of Ministers on 9 October, 2019 to create cycle lanes when new road infrastructures are built. Unfortunately, this small victory didn’t stop him experiencing a mishap at Felix Houphouët Boigny airport in Abidjan: when returning from Paris, his bike was blocked.
But this negative experience was quickly forgotten, and it was with one of the key members of the Ivorian government that he had his most remarkable experience: “Getting Ivorian Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly on a bike and presenting my plea to have cycle lanes in Côte d’Ivoire”, he says. Benefitting from institutional support, Andy Costa says he has very good relations with the various Ministers responsible for the issues he fervently fights for. So it’s no coincidence that Andy Costa has decided to appoint himself Ambassador of Cycling in Africa. “My mission is that of an ambassador. People become what they think. Today, I am the globally-recognised ambassador of Cycling and SDOs”.
Andy Costa has received the CEDEAO award for Best Environmental Journalist for his TV programme that raises awareness of sustainable development issues, “Tous au transport vert”, which is broadcast on national television channel RTI 1. Each day, in this TV programme, Andy Costa welcomes – for interviews on bikes – public, cultural, sports and political figureheads to talk about sustainable development. “Tous au transport vert”, which encourages people to use green means of transport, is an innovative programme in which people discuss climate change in Africa and look at simple and ecological ways of countering the problem. “This platform also enables us to urge African governments to take cycle lanes and customs fees on bikes into account in their development projects and, more importantly, increases awareness amongst Africans of the notion of green transport”. Full of energy and determination, Andy Costa is also behind the Salon Africain du Vélo bicycle trade fair, an annual even held in Abidjan.
Initiated to help reduce pollution, this bike and green transport trade fair takes place every June at Felix Houphouët Boigny University in Abidjan-Cocody. 5th June being World Environment Day, this fair is attended by consultants, specialists, cycling enthusiasts, transport aficionados and experts in the field of infrastructures, the environment and sustainable development.
“The fair includes an initiation in cycling, tests of the latest models as well as bike races, rides and mechanical workshops. At the end of the fair, there is a moment called “Une journée sans pollution’’ (a day without pollution), a day without cars where participants go on a bike ride”.
Amongst his other projects, Andy Costa is considering creating a bike trail through the Felix Houphouët Boigny University forest. This circuit, which will also be called “Tous au transport vert”, will have self-service bicycles. Last but not least, he is intending to launch Abidjan Bike, another self-service bike activity in the city’s Le Plateau district.