I'll add some extra information about this city to agazade
's excellent node.
The town centre hosts most administrative and corporate headquarters.
The presidential palace and embassys can be found in an area located to the
east, called Quartier des ministères. The area around the Great
Market which burnt down on May 27, 2003, is currently being rebuilt. This
program is called the Zaca project and should last several years.
There are no sky scrapers due to the proximity of the airport, located
south east, and most edifices do not exceed three or four storeys. As a
result the city has rapidly stretched further and further creating many
peripherical informal districts. To avoid shanty-towns the government has
established residential zones called Cité de l'An II, III and IV
during the Revolution. Land pressure is very high and the business
center district is to be relocated in Ouaga 2000 (15 km south) where
the new presidential palace will be established.
The city is composed of several districts organized around the historical
centre. Each district has an area of about 2 to 5 square kilometers and
blocks are laid out in geometric chessboard fashion. A large avenue, called
the Boulevard Circulaire circles the inner districts. The city is further
divided in about 30 sectors and encompasses 17 villages.
Street names are typically something like "rue 28.229", which means
street 229 of sector 28. Only few of them, the large ones - like Boulevard
De Gaulle - and those located near the centre have "real
names". When people talk about somewhere in town, they refer to the closest
administrative building for the sake of simplicity. Only the main streets
and those of the centre are tarred, the others are often chaotic because
the rain flow creates large holes in the ground.
The number of motorcycles and bicycles in the streets is impressive.
Its low functioning costs - the taxes on gas are low - and the high cost of
cars and four wheel drives make moving on two wheels the means of
transport of choice for the citizens. When the traffic light turns green,
the streets look like the departure of a grand prix moto and the air is
rapidly filled with exhaust fumes. The heavy traffic has two major drawbacks
: firstly the air quality is abysmal and secondly circulating is very
dangerous. Very few people wear helmets so accidents are generally serious
when a car and a motorcycle are involved. To tackle this issue, some streets
have been arranged : there is a separate lane for the two wheels with their
own traffic lights. The unpopularity of helmets discourages politics to take
measures to enforce their usage.
The main streets are bordered with various shops (selling goods as
diverse as clothes, furniture, refrigerators...), banks, barbers, restaurants,
etc. When the night falls, women set up small stands near the road crossings
where they sell food such as roasted corn, boiled peanuts, meat on sticks,
fruits and vegetables. All day long, people - often kids or teenagers -
sell paper tissues and mobile phone cards at each crossroad.
Very few homes are equipped with telephones and there are no public phone
booths so people have to resort to one of the many
Télécentres. There are many, many of them : on some
streets one can be found every 50 meters. Some of them offer Internet
access, others offer keyboarding, binding and copy services, etc. An
increasing number of people own mobile phones. There are three major
companies : Celtel, Tétécel and Onatel, all
three in severe competition.
Another famous means of transport used by the citizens is the taxi cab.
After motorcycles and bicycles taxis represent the next most important cause of
traffic in the city. Taxis are apple green and charge between 200 FCFA and
600 FCFA (0.3 to 1 EUR) for a typical journey. Prices are discussed in
advance. Most vehicles are in a catastrophic state : some taxi drivers have
to fix things under the hood at every traffic light, many of those I've used
had burnt or had malfunctioning headlights. Very often I've wondered whether
I'd die of carbon monoxide poisoning given the amount of exhaust fumes that
enters the cockpit each time the taxi comes to a halt.
A taxi driver has to pay for registration (about 5000 FCFA / 10 EUR per
year), for insurance, for gas and for repairs. The taxi must pass a technical
revision every three years. All in all it costs about 250 000 FCFA (400
EUR) per year. Taxi drivers can subscribe to a company that helps them spread
their expenses throughout the year. Nevertheless they need about 100 000 FCFA
(150 EUR) to start their business, which represents an important expense.
Last year a bus company has re-opened after bankruptcy ten years ago,
offering very interesting fees which are very likely to harm the taxi market.
The priority of the Burkinabè government is fostering development
and fighting against poverty, which is far from being nature preservation.
As a result there are very few measures taken to avoid pollution and the
population isn't at all aware of environmental issues.
The intense traffic of old broken taxis and motorcycles is responsible for
most of the air pollution in the city. Besides it is very hard to find binss
in the city : people throw garbage directly in the streets which is not a great
concern for organic waste since they rapidly get degraded by the sun or eaten
by animals, but is a big problem for plastic based objects such as bags.
People wait for the rain to drain garbage away, which eventually
concentrates somewhere in the city. When the stack gets too big, it is set on
fire and the smoke produced adds up to that produced by the vehicles which
renders the air quality of Ouagadougou alarming.
Source : information gathered during a trip to Burkina Faso from many locals from various social backgrounds.