Friday, September 12, 2014

In Burkina Faso

The rather charming, village like capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, apparently is insufficiently modern. It needs a high rise, business district to attract 'foreign investment' so the government, according to the in flight magazine of air Burkina, has allocated a huge central plot to accommodate this thrusting modernity. It is most depressing to imagine that the best image of prosperity remains the displacing rationality of an anonymous architecture stripped of any reference to culture or place.

This in-flight magazine was a wonderfully anachronistic product, wholly fashioned to the need to 'puff' Burkina, more than specifically reflect the airline (though it happily did tell us that it is the only sub-Sahara African airline to have every recognised international safety standard)!

More up beat was the news that Burkina was getting its first major solar plant with the help of the European Union to meet growing energy needs more securely and cleanly.

I found myself skimming the magazine as we circled and circled and circled the airport in a manoeuvre more familiar to arrival at Heathrow than to Ouagadougou whose airfield is literally in the middle of the city but hardly busy or bustling. We could only imagine the ever going President was arriving at the same time.

The ever going one (he is attempting to change the constitution so he can run yet again in elections scheduled for November 2015) can be credited with maintaining a degree of peace and stability (until his ever presence begins perhaps to unpick this) that becomes ever more important (and an achievement in the region). So to is the delivery of 'development' that is making real gains in a country whose people are delightfully forthright, direct and proud.

The country too has a played an important role in providing a neutral space and conciliation services in a number of its neighbours' conflicts - indeed my hotel is flowing with colourful Touareg delegates to a conference trying to navigate the crisis in Mali. Meanwhile in the 'shadows' there are a number of clean cut Americans who cannot hide their obvious allegiance to security services (broadly defined). It is akin to skirting another 'great game' with significant ideological stakes at hand and, sadly, too many people's lives.

Meanwhile, we happily chug on with our small contribution to the country's inclusive economic development. The business planning competition appears embedded and now planning its third cycle.  The SME bank guarantee fund is moving along with a more swinging step and its general manager is significantly more upbeat. The social investment fund is poised to make its first investment. If the good is done in minute particulars, we are doing good! Though we do still have 10 tonnes of organic cotton that nobody appears to want! Any takers? Knockdown price...


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