Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso Report of what it's like to live there - 07/30/13
Personal Experiences from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
We have lived in multiple other African nations.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Eastern U.S. The trip is overnight to Europe (Paris, Brussels) then you arrive in Ouaga anywhere from the mid-afternoon to late evening depending upon the carrier.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Worked with the Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
For the embassy community there are two general housing areas. One is close to the Embassy and most houses in this area are a 2-10 minute drive to the Embassy. The second area is downtown and this can take up to 30 minutes by car. Houses are a mix of single and multi-level homes. At this point, all have pools and a walled-in, gated yard. Some are very close to other expats and others are removed from others.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
This is where Ouaga is amazing. There are 3 grocery store chains with 5 total stores, spread throughout the city. There are different products from different suppliers at each. Bingo, Marina and Scimas.
3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There is no fast food. The closest would be the sandwiches or pre-cooked pizzas at Baguette du Faso which is on the main road that connect the new Embassy area to the airport road. You can also get pre-made salads at the alimentation just down the road from there, Bon Samaritan. There are a ton of restaurants and most will cost you about US$40 for 2 consisting of a dinner and one drink each.
4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes and more mosquitoes. Flies start to be an issue in the dry season as they search for water sources.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
The Embassy only has the pouch right now.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Good domestics are hard to come by. Many of the existing help get complacent working for Americans. We went outside the pool and found great staff. The going rate for full-time nanny or housekeeper is anywhere from 50,000 to 90,000 CFA per month (US$100-$180). A gardener/day guard is 40,000-60,000 per month. Keep in mind that you have to register with the Burkinabe employment system an pay an additional up to 20% of the domestics salary to the national retirement system every quarter. This is paid at HR at the Embassy if you are connected to the Embassy and they will then pay it to the system.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are multiple gyms. The Embassy has an amazing gym with state-of-the-art equipment. There is also a gym at the American club downtown. There is a dance studio that runs dance and pilates classes.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Credit cards can only be used at large operations, hotels, airport etc. There are a ton of ATMs and most work well if they match the program your card uses.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It is really rare that anyone speaks English outside of the Embassy. I would say French is essential and Moore or Dioula is great if you want to do everything in the market yourself.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Some roads are great and others are more difficult due to weather and road conditions. If you are with the Embassy, the housing near the Embassy has better roads.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Local taxis are not recommended due to poor safety. No real trains. Local buses are present but I have not known anyone to take them.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Most makes can be serviced, Toyota and Ford have dealers here. Servicing U.S. spec vehicles can sometimes be difficult due to lack of parts.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet access is very slow. There are many plans that cost anywhere from US$40-200 a month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
An in country SIM is the best way to go. I recommend at least 2 providers, as one system may go down. This may be in a dual-SIM phone or one better and one back-up phone.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
There is a local vet that is wonderful. He is Burkinabe and French trained. Our dog had an acute issue and he treated her quickly and has all the supplies necessary. The facility is not even near U.S. clean but do not let that throw you. He also makes house calls.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
General situational awareness like keeping an eye out for things out of the ordinary like you would anywhere else.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Malaria is the largest health issue. Take your meds. Health care is poor on the economy. No real emergency services.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
The air quality ranges from good to unhealthy. It depends on the time of year as it is, at its worst, during the dry (dusty) season and better during the rainy and early dry season.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
There is a rainy season from about May-October which is variable year to year. The dry season usually starts with cool, beautiful days and nights lasting until January. Then the heat really starts to mount and it will be over 100 degrees F everyday until the rains come again. This latter season is also when the dust comes from the desert (harmattan winds) bringing dust storms that decrease air quality.
Schools & Children:
1. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
There are currently no accomodations that I know of.
2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
There are karate classes, tennis, soccer etc.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There are probably 200 or so Americans and countless other expats.
2. Morale among expats:
Morale is very high.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
This is a great place for all. There are many things to do and many groups for running, biking, dance, trivia, gaming etc.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Although not widely accepted in the local community, I have not heard about any overt anti-gay issues.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There is a true mix of Christian and Muslim societies here that live together as peacefully as I have ever seen. They have each other over for feasts on each others' holidays and have a "the more, the merrier" attitude. It is a very homogeneous society that enjoys that stability. I did see some cross-border issue in regards to the Malians and Tuaregs. The Burkinabe are a little more watchful, not racist, of those local foreigners in the country now as they are eager to keep the Malian issues to a minimum.
6. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Basic food items are very cheap. You can save a lot of money by using local products. The people really make this country special. They are some of the nicest people I have met in the world. You can do a lot of touring in the countryside and visit villages with artisans and shea butter factories.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely, in a heartbeat.