Ouagadougou- pronounced Wagadugu and lovingly referred to as Ouaga by those who live here- is home to Micro Start, Kiva’s first partner in the small west African country of Burkina Faso. If you’re like most, you’re wondering … Is that a country? Where? I must know it by another name. Is it a new country? Why have I never heard of it?
Yes it’s a country. In West Africa. It’s previous name was the Republic of the Upper Volta (awesome). No, it’s not a new country. I’m not sure why few have heard of it, but I would venture to guess because it’s small, stable, and poor. African countries don’t tend to make the news when they’re peaceful and lack global economic impact.
Although I’ve only been here one month, I’ve quickly fallen in love with this country of gorgeous landscapes and beautiful people. Ouagadougou is the country’s capital and largest city with about 1 million people and is the business and political center. It’s also a city alive with culture. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a concert with a local band and dancing. While I lack anything resembling African rhythm, it is nonetheless so fun to dance with them- plus they think it’s hilarious, and I’m happy to provide a good laugh . (In lieu of the video I’m unable to upload, here’s the music that was being played. You’ll just have to imagine awesome African dancing in your head):
I also recently had the chance to adventure outside of Ouaga to a smaller village in the north. When we see pictures of Africa, they are usually of hot, dry nothingness. While the heat (index of 103 yesterday and only going up) has risen to expectations, the countryside here is incredibly green. I hear this won’t stick around for dry season, but for now I’m loving it!
Visiting the village was a great way to get a taste of Burkinabe life as the other 16 million people live- outside of Ouaga. Bani is fairly large by Burkinabe standards, but it had only a single generator and one well for water. There was however a maquis (a chilled out version of a bar, where you can get soda or a beer) that had a generator and was playing Akon, Rhianna, and endless other American favorites. The juxtaposition was hilarious- I was sleeping outside under beautiful stars in a village with a single water well and listening to the same music that would be on the radio in Chicago.
One of the absolute joys of my experience here has been incredible hospitality. Whether the staff at Micro Start- a fabulous new Kiva partner!- or the little girl next door who screams “Bonjour Allison!” every time I see here, Burkina’s warm and energetic culture make it an easy place to call home.
Allison Moomey is a Kiva Fellow (KF 16) working with Micro Start in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. To learn more, please visit Micro Start’s partner page, join the Friends of Micro Start/AFD lending team, and lend to Burkinabe borrowers.