27 September 2011 at 15:15 6 comments

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.

A peaceful afternoon in beautiful Burkina, about 15 miles outside of Ouagadougou

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):

Burkina Dancing

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!

The view from the bus as we head to Bani, about 250 km north of Ouagadougou

The view from the hill above the grand mosquée in Bani

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.

Our wonderful little friends who joyfully showed us around Bani

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.

To come alongside one of Kiva’s newest partners, check out Micro Start’s partner page, and lend to a Burkinabe borrower!

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.

Entry filed under: Anti-Poverty Focus, blogsherpa, Client Voice, Facilitation of Savings, Family and Community Empowerment, Social Performance. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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  • 1. Mart  |  26 December 2011 at 02:33

    Dear Allikson,

    So good to find out there is a KIVA partner for Burkina now. Looking forward to lots of opportunities to place our loans there!

    And yes, the restaurant of the Sisters still was active last year in Bobo, they serve the most delicious dinner, and close shop by singing an Ave Maria. I think they also have an establishment in Ouaga, don’t miss it!

    Kind regards,


  • 2. Sheila Furlong  |  8 October 2011 at 23:09

    Thank you for the descriptive reporting Allison! I recently made a loan in Burkina-Fasso, and this added a much more personal view of the area and people than the dry statistical facts about the country. We all have so much to learn about the world outside of our own neighborhoods. Each time I make a Kiva loan, I try to learn a little about the country and it’s people. This story from the field started with my exact reaction to seeing the name for the first time; “what?, where is it?, why don’t I know this place?, etc.”
    Keep up the good work!
    S. Furlong

    • 3. AMoomey  |  14 October 2011 at 07:36

      Hi Sheila,

      I’m so glad to hear it helped to provide a bit of insight, and even more excited you were able to give a loan to one of our borrowers here! They’re pretty incredible. I definitely agree that we have a lot to learn outside of our neighborhoods, and I’ve already learned so much during my time here. Thanks for taking the time to read!


  • 4. Antoine S. Terjanian  |  27 September 2011 at 20:48

    Re-bonjour Allison:
    You bring back memories from the last millenium when I often visited Ouaga and Bobo-dioulasso (where the previous French Equatorial Medicine Research institute is located). The Burkinabés are indeed wonderful people, and they renamed their country from Upper-Volta, to Burkina-Fasso which translates into “La patrie des gens intègres” (The Homeland of people with integrity).
    I don’t know if the restaurant operated during lunch hours only by the Sisters of charity is still there, if it is, don’t miss having an ‘honest and clean lunch’ there.
    Best wishes for a successful mission.

    • 5. AMoomey  |  14 October 2011 at 07:39

      Hi Antoine,

      I haven’t heard of it yet, but I’ll have to see if the restaurant is still around; it sounds great! I do love the translation of “Burkina Faso;” it is definitely true of the people here.


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