Elizabeth Boorman July 22, 2014

In our previous blog post, we told you about our initiatives in Benin and even promised we would tell you about African Drive one day. Well, the suspense is over and now you can read all about the African Drive and its first project, the Baobab Express.


How Did African Drive Start?

Materialise’s CEO Fried Vancraen saw that for people to get medical treatment, they first needed to get to medical facilities. Fried began to work with the Hubi and Vinciane Foundation for African Drive for a few reasons, two of which are:  1) to transport people to get comfortably and on-time to their destinations, to hospitals and receive the healthcare they need, and 2) to provide safe transportation to decrease car accidents so there are less injuries.

The traditional mode of transportation for people in parts of Africa to get to other cities, markets, and neighboring regions is to pack sedans or small vans with people, goods and livestock. These vehicles only leave once they are well beyond their intended capacity, causing a safety risk and arriving at their destination at unforeseen times.

These photos show the traditional method of transportation for Beninese people.

Why the Baobab Express?


Materialise’s CEO Fried Vancraen worked together with Chris Van Assche, and many other people, and together they started the Baobab Express, the first project of the African Drive company, and began reviving their engines in November 2013 with 6 buses.

The opening ceremony in December 2013 with the King of Parakou, the Prefect of Parakou, the Mayor of Parakou and African Drive’s CEO Chris Van Assche.

The Baobab Express is a project that provides low-cost, safe, reliable and comfortable transportation services to Beninese people and has been well-received after reaching an initially reluctant crowd. The company works to stimulate entrepreneurship and create profit, partly to be reinvested back into the country. This is why the slogan for Baobab Express is “Bouger and gagner ensemble, c’est bon!” which literally translated to English means “Move and win together, that’s good!”


Today Baobab Express operates 9 bus lines in north-Benin. On top of that, three other bus lines are franchised out by local entrepreneurs, the real aim of this project. All together 50 people found a respectful and official income at Baobab Express.

The Baobab Express’s three co-managers.
The Baobab Express’s three co-managers.

Since African Drive is a company, the goal is to make a profit. This profit will be used for other social activities to be reinvested back into the community. One initial idea is to start a sanitation project, so that people have access to clean toilets and drinking water at the bus stops.


Materialise lives out its mission and value statement. Find out more about their manifesto here.