Thursday, 2 September 2010

African Experience - Personal Opinions

In July this year I participated in The Second African University on Youth and Development for the second part of the LTTC for Trainers in Euro-Africa Cooperation. It took place in Cabo Verde which is a group of islands in West Africa (closes country Senegal).

Based on my not so wide experience in Africa I dare still to make a comparative observation based on my time spent in 2 African countries (Ivory Coast and Cabo Verde). In both of these countries my experience didn’t limit at the time during the trainings or the programmed offered by the organizers – I spend extra days for exploring the local culture as much as possible.

  • Cabo Verde it was a group of unhabitated islands discovered by Portuguese around 500 years ago. After that they were populated with slaves from other parts of Africa and Portuguese colonizers – so technically they kind build this country and the culture is a mix of various African routes and Portuguese; they are proud of getting their so called independency 30 years ago but from my point of view it should be understood like a baby that get older enough to take care of him self so is cutting the ties with his parents and moving out of the house. In what matter Ivory Coast the situation of course is different being a country with a huge and long history behind, with a real occupation and colonization (by French) and with a real fight for independence and various struggles afterwards.
  • I mentioned the previous point because this historical aspects are reflecting in the culture of the people, of the place : in Ivory Coast I saw culture specificity (in clothes, in architecture, in hand crafts, in foods, music, etc) but in Cabo Verde I saw a brother of Portuguese (a bit more exotic) – no specific architecture, hand crafts, food , BUT they do have their music –about they are very proud)
  • I saw Cabo Verde as a expensive country and also as a more rich African Country, moving beyond the cliché that they want to play as victims of poverty it is a lot of richness in the country and I am not absolute at all (don’t take me wrong) – in Praia (the capital city) i don’t think you see less than 90% of 4x4 types of cars! between the islands are no so often passengers ships but daily are flights (that are not at all cheep) and seems that are quite popular; Products are expensive (but mainly because 90% of it are imported) and seems that human services look more cheep; food is expensive (even if is based on the fish around their own coast) and as tourist be ready to pay quite a lot for accommodation, travel to various touristic places and food.
  • Ivory Coast is indeed cheaper and being in land is easier to have mobility in various parts of the country or remote villages. The nature and wild life is bigger but in the same time is not so easy to access it (because of human activity and consuming behaviour) seems that the “nature and animals” are escaping from people.
  • Cabo Verde is not at all Verde (Which means green) is actually a very dry place and with a very dry colour.
  • In Cabo Verde there are many whites people, also the type of colour skins is more lither so for a white person in this country it will not be a very strong experience of “zoo” feeling. Also the begging is not spread so not too much hassling is happening.
  • In Ivory Coast to be a white and as I was travelling as a single white women (no guide, no group) was socking many and putting me on spot just by being in same buses. Because of late civil war the security at the moment I think it was high (army check points very often) the people perception was that is still dangerous for white people – so basically most of them were scaring me by saying that is a very dangerous place to be (one time a women came with me all the way until hotel to be sure I am fine, another guy from the hotel was my unwanted escort for all my travels in that region), people were asking for taxi or bus drivers numbers so they can follow my track ....etc well it didn’t happen anything to me but in the same time to travel all the time with the fear that people were giving me is not very fun and enjoyable either (of course I was really wondering if is a dangerous place or not after all);
  • I saw Ivoirians as nice, friendly and more humble people and I saw Cabo Verdean as more of proud, arrogant and with a more high self esteem and Cabo Verdean strong identity; at least from this point of view they are keeping their more keen to keep their own language (Creole) then Ivoirians that are using mainly French;
  • In Ivory Coast I almost didn’t see any promotional materials for the country (like t-short, key rings, hats, magnets, etc) but in Cabo Verde I think they were in every shop and corner in a high diversity and options!

Over all my experience in Ivory Coast was more reach in culture contact, observation and closure to the local reality then in Cabo Verde. Maybe I am easily “judging” the Cabo Verdean reality because it was not so easy to move around on all the islands but after all this is what it is a personal impression based on my not so wide experience in 2 African Countries.

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