I spent the last week in Burkina Faso. Given the presence of at least two million Burkinabe in Ivory Coast, it’s a nation you hear repeatedly mentioned in Ivory Coast, even if discussion is generally in a particular context. Burkinabe are generally economic migrants and in Ivorian eyes are the equivalent of the Poles in France and the UK, and Romanians in Spain. I was looking forward to experiencing the place first hand.
The first thing you notice are the motorbike/scooters. They’re everywhere – not perhaps in the absolutely chaotic sense you see in Ivory Coast’s second city Bouake, but still ever present. Here they don’t seem to be used as taxis, but rather an affordable means of transport – often used by women, something you don’t see in Abidjan. Two-wheel transport also extends to bicycles, which children seem to learn how to use almost soon as they can walk, and, in rural settings, donkey carts. In fact in rural settings donkeys are ubiquitous. The main boulevards have a lane for bicycles and scooters, though this is not always respected.
The roads in Ouaga are one of the big things that African travellers notice. There are broad boulevards and sophisticated junctions that provide a fluid transport system around the city. The number of paved roads is almost certainly less than in Abidjan as it seems that away from the highways most roads are bare earth. Still this isn’t terrible as they seem to be regularly scraped and given how flat Ouaga is, they were in good condition. The capital is extremely flat and with even the slight rain we witnessed, several areas seemed to struggle with the water.
I didn’t really get to taste much local food. I was told that they way the chicken in Burkina is the best in the world, but after several dishes, I really didn’t find anything special.
In general the country feels peaceful – I can’t remember seeing one weapon on the streets – something that’s so regular in Abidjan it hardly draws attention. I didn’t see a single check point either, apart from the toll booths. The people are friendly and humble and I met none of the pride and arrogance you get in some Ivorians. Finally there’s a good degree of development in Ouagadougou and grand buildings have an authentic Sahelian style – something that I now see is almost completely lacking in Abidjan which has preferred to try and look as modern as possible. Aside from perhaps the Alpha 2000 building in Abidjan (SIB headquarters) and the Palais de la Congres at Hotel Ivoire it’s hard to think of much architecture in Abidjan that feels African.