Posts

From The Hippo’s Ears: Cameroon

Facts you may not have know about Cameroon:

Cameroon (Cameroun), officially the Republic of Cameroon (République du Cameroun), is a country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Nigeria to the west and north; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republic to the east; and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo to the south. The country is sometimes identified as West African and other times as Central African due to its strategic position at the crossroads between West and Central Africa. The country is often referred to as “Africa in miniature” for its geological and cultural diversity.

Cameroon has a population of around 23 million, is a unitary dominant-party presidential republic under an authoritarian dictatorship, and gained independence from France in 1960.

1.  When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?

A handshake is a very common greeting in all areas. In Francophone areas, kissing cheeks may also be used as a greeting. Greetings should not be rushed – it is important to take time to inquire about the person’s family and other matters of general interest when greeting someone. Greetings in French include ‘Bonjour’ (good day) and ‘Comment allez-vous?’ (how are you?)

2. What languages are spoken in the country?

Both English and French are official languages, although French is by far the most understood language. Cameroonian Pidgin English is the lingua franca in some areas. A mixture of English, French, and Pidgin called Camfranglais has been gaining popularity in urban centres since the mid-1970s. The government encourages English and French bilingualism, and official documents are published in both languages.

3. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?

We use a 24-hour system.

4. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in the country?

We drive on the right side of road.

5. How important is punctuality?

Time is flexible in Cameroon. People don’t always arrive on time for meetings – this is part of the culture.

6. Which types of music are popular? Who are some of the most popular musicians?

Popular music styles include ambasse bey of the coast, assiko of the Bassa, mangambeu of the Bangangte, and tsamassi of the Bamileke. Nigerian music has influenced Anglophone Cameroonian performers. The two most popular styles of music are makossa and bikutsi. Makossa developed in Douala and mixes folk music, highlife, soul, and Congo music. Performers such as Manu Dibango, Francis Bebey, Moni Bilé, and Petit-Pays popularised the style worldwide in the 1970s and 1980s. Bikutsi originated as war music among the Ewondo. Artists such as Anne-Marie Nzié developed it into a popular dance music beginning in the 1940s, and performers such as Mama Ohandja and Les Têtes Brulées popularised it internationally during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

For a taste of music from Cameroon, listen to Anne-Marie Nzié’s Beza Ba Dzo.

Elephants in Waza National Park, Cameroon.

7. Are there any Traditional Dances?

Dance is an integral part of Cameroonian ceremonies, festivals, social gatherings, and storytelling. Traditional dances are highly choreographed. The goals of dances range from pure entertainment to religious devotion. Traditionally, music is transmitted orally. In a typical performance, a chorus of singers echoes a soloist. Traditional dances segregate dancers based on age, occupation, sex, social status, and other factors. Some dances require special costumes and props such as masks or fans. Professional dancers make a living among some ethnic groups, and other professionals perform at national festivals and for tourists. Popular dance, wherein men and women dance together, is found in Cameroon’s bars, nightclubs, and private parties. This style is closely tied with popular music, such as makossa, bikutsi, highlife, and hip hop. Dancing is an important avenue of social protest and political rallying in the country. Cameroon is home to more than 200 different traditional dances.

Watch traditional Assiko dancing here.

8.  What traditional Festivals are celebrated in the country?

Nyem-Nyem Festival

Held during July in Ngaoundéré, a city in the Adamawa area, the Nyem-Nyem Festival is held to commemorate the resistance movement of the Nyem-Nyem people against German control. Locals come out in full force, showing their support for those who fought for the region’s independence. The occasion is marked by cultural dances with full traditional attire.

Culture Week

Observed in either August or September, Culture Week takes place all over Cameroon. The youth travel back to their villages to pay respect to their families and ancestors. The week also involves music shows, wrestling matches, sports games and traditional dances that involve sacred masks.

African Theater Festival for Children and Young People (FATEJ)

November in Cameroon marks the exciting arrival of the FATEJ. Held every two years in Yaoundé, the festival brings together young people from across Africa and around the world to participate in theatre workshops delivered by industry professionals. The event is a great opportunity for troupes around the country to hone their craft in a cosmopolitan and collaborative environment.

Festival National des Arts et de la Culture (FENAC)

FENAC is the largest festival in Cameroon that has no religious affiliation. Simply a celebration of the country’s vibrant arts scene, artists from all over help to grow the event and promote the rich heritage of the region. Taking place in Moroua in December, FENAC is characterized by lively parades, colorful music and dance shows.

9. What are the seasons like?

The climate varies with terrain, from tropical along the coast to semiarid and hot in the north. Exceedingly hot and humid, the coastal belt includes some of the wettest places on earth. For example, Debundscha, at the base of Mt. Cameroon, has an average annual rainfall of 10,300 millimetres (405 in). Almost everywhere, there is a dry season in winter and a rainy season in summer due to the African monsoon, which is shorter in the north and longer in the south, while along the coast, even in winter there can be some showers. The northernmost part of the country, on the shores of Lake Chad, is the driest area, where less than 600 millimeters (23.5 inches) of rain fall per year

10. What are some interesting facts about the President?

President Paul Biya has been the President of Cameroon since 1982. A native of Cameroon’s south, Biya rose rapidly as a bureaucrat under President Ahmadou Ahidjo in the 1960s, serving as Secretary-General of the Presidency from 1968 to 1975 and then as Prime Minister of Cameroon from 1975 to 1982. He succeeded Ahidjo as president upon the latter’s surprise resignation in 1982 and consolidated power in a 1983–1984 staged attempted coup. The regime is supported by France, which supplies it with weapons and trains its repressive forces. France is the leading foreign investor, ahead of the United States.

Biya introduced political reforms within the context of a one-party system in the 1980s. Under serious pressure, he accepted the introduction of multiparty politics in the early 1990s. Opposition politicians and Western governments have alleged voting irregularities and fraud on numerous occasions. President Biya is currently the longest-ruling non-royal leader in the world.

11. What are the country’s major industries?

Cameroon’s main industries are petroleum production and refining, aluminum production, food processing, light consumer goods, textiles, lumber, and ship repair. Its major exports include crude oil, cocoa beans, coffee, and cotton. France is Cameroon’s main trading partner and source of private investment and foreign aid.

12. What are some of the things visitors can look forward to experiencing?

Major tourist attractions include Mount Cameroon, Dja Faunal Reserve, Lobé Falls, Korup National Park, and the National Museum in Yaounde.

Douala, Cameroon.

13. What is a popular local drink?

Water, palm wine, and millet beer are the traditional mealtime drinks, although beer, soda, and wine have gained popularity.

14. What is a popular local dish?

Cuisine varies by region, but a large, one-course, evening meal is common throughout the country. A typical dish is based on cocoyams, maize, cassava (manioc), millet, plantains, potatoes, rice, or yams, often pounded into dough-like fufu. This is served with a sauce, soup, or stew made from greens, groundnuts, palm oil, or other ingredients. Meat and fish are popular but expensive additions, with chicken often reserved for special occasions.Dishes are often quite hot, spiced with salt, red pepper sauce, and noodles. French bread is widely consumed as part of breakfast in Francophone areas.

15. What do you pay, on average, for the following?

Cameroon uses the Central African CFA franc. (1 USD = approximately 588 CFA).

3 Course meal: 6,000 CFA
Domestic beer: 600 CFA
Cup of coffee: 700 CFA
Coca cola (330ml): 470 CFA
Milk (1l): 1,200 CFA
Loaf of white bread: 300 CFA
Apples (1 kg): 1,400 CFA
Water (1.5l): 400 CFA

16. Any general safety tips?

  • Travel to the far north, within 40 km of the Nigerian border, within 40 km of the Chad border, and within 40 km of the Central African Republic border is not advised.Travel is also not advised in the towns of Buea, Muyuka, and Tiko.
  • There are Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa terrorism risks in Cameroon, especially in the northern regions.
  • Health authorities have classified Cameroon as having a risk of Zika virus transmission.
  • Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings.
  • Travel at night should be avoided.

17. In conclusion, famous (and sometimes infamous) people from the country include:

  • Richard Bona, a Grammy Award-winning bassist.
  • Marc-Vivien Foé, a footballer who played as a midfielder for both club and country.
  • Véronique Mang, a track and field sprint athlete, competing internationally for France.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa  can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, and Remuneration needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]. Image sources: Amcaja [1], [2], Emiliano Gandolfi [3].

From The Hippo’s Ears: Cabo Verde

Facts you may not have know about Cabo Verde:

Cabo Verde, officially the Republic of Cabo Verde, is an island country spanning an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean, and forms part of the Macronesia ecoregion. In ancient times these islands were referred to as “the Islands of the Blessed” or the “Fortunate Isles”. Located 570 kilometers (350 miles) west of the Cabo Verde Peninsula off the coast of Northwest Africa, the islands cover a combined area of slightly over 4,000 square kilometers (1,500 sq miles).

Cabo Verde has a population of approximately 540,000, and is a unitary, semi-presidential republic. Cabo Verde gained independence from Portugal in 1975, and began using a multi-party system in 1990.

1.  When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?

A handshake is a very common greeting, and some people may prefer to greet by kissing on the cheek. Useful phrases include “olá” (hello). “modi bu sta?” (how are you?), and “te logu” (goodbye).

2. What languages are spoken in the country?

Cabo Verde has one official language – Portuguese.

It is the language of instruction and government, and is also used in newspapers, television, and radio. Cape Verdean Creole, a dialect continuum of Portuguese-based creole, is a recognized national language. It is used colloquially, and is the mother tongue of virtually all Cape Verdeans.

3. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?

We use a 24-hour system.

4. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in the country?

We drive on the right side of road.

5. How important is punctuality?

Time is flexible in Cape Verde. People don’t always arrive on time for meetings – this is part of the culture.

6. Which types of music are popular? Who are some of the most popular musicians?

Cape Verde music incorporates African, Portuguese, and Brazilian influences. Cape Verde’s quintessential national music is the morna, a melancholy and lyrical song form typically sung in Cape Verdean Creole. The most popular music genre after morna is the coladeira, followed by funaná and batuque music. Cesária Évora is a well-known Cape Verdean singer worldwide, known as the “barefoot diva”, because she liked to perform barefooted on stage. Other popular singers include Sara Tavares, Lura, and Mayra Andrade.

For a taste of Cabo Verdean music, listen to Cesária Évora’s Bia Lulucha.

7. Are there any Traditional Dances?

Two major traditional dances are the funaná (accompanied by accordion-based music), and the batuque (which is danced in a circle, and accompanied by singing only).

Watch traditional batuque dancing here.

8.  What traditional Festivals are celebrated in the country?

Carnival 

Taking place each February or March, this is Cabo Verde’s most famous festival. The carnival is characterized by revellers cladded in fancy dresses who throng streets creating an electrifying atmosphere with the beat of good music. There is an entertaining float procession, with incredible, flamboyant costumes against the backdrop of a clear blue sky.

The Flag Feast

This festival takes place on April 30th, on the island of Fogo. The festival starts with the ritual of women peeling and pounding maize in a pestle to the beat of the drum. The flags are important symbols and are blessed in water. Fogo males compete in horse races to have the honour of organizing next year’s event. The event combines a ceremonial mass and street party.

Sete Sóis e Sete Luas

Taking place in Ribeira Grande, on the island of Santo Antao, this festival offers superb music and culture. The name means ‘Seven Suns and Seven Moons’.

9. What are the seasons like?

Cape Verde’s climate is milder than that of the African mainland, because the surrounding sea moderates temperatures on the islands and cold Atlantic currents produce an arid atmosphere around the archipelago. Conversely, the islands do not receive the upwellings (cold streams) that affect the West African coast, so the air temperature is cooler than in Senegal, but the sea is warmer, because the orographic relief of some islands, such as Santiago with steep mountains, cover it with rich woods and luxuriant vegetation. Average daily high temperatures range from 26 °C (79 °F) in February to 31 °C (87.8 °F) in September. It rains irregularly between August and October.

10. What are some interesting facts about the President?

President Jorge Carlos Fonseca has led the country since 2011. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1991 to 1993. President Fonseca studied law, which he lectured at the University of Lisbon. He was also Assistant Professor and Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Law and Social Sciences in Cape Verde. The President has been married to Lígia Fonseca since 1989.

11. What are the country’s major industries?

Cape Verde’s notable economic growth and improvement in living conditions despite a lack of natural resources has garnered international recognition, with other countries and international organizations often providing development aid. The economy of Cape Verde is service-oriented, with commerce, transport, and public services accounting for more than 70% of GDP. Although nearly 35% of the population lives in rural areas, agriculture and fishing contribute only about 9% of GDP. Light manufacturing accounts for most of the remainder. Cabo Verde has cooperation with Portugal at every level of the economy, and in 2007, joined the World Trade Organization (WTO).

12. What are some of the things visitors can look forward to experiencing?

Major tourist attractions include Pico do Fogo (a stratovolcano), Buracona (a popular lagoon and cave), Monte Verde (the highest peak in Cabo Verde, with beautiful views), and Praia da Atalanta beach.

13. What is a popular local drink?

Popular drinks include Strela (a beer produced in the capital), and several varieties of wines from Chã das Caldeiras, including Santa Luzia and Brava.

14. What is a popular local dish?

The Cape Verde diet is mostly based on fish and staple foods like corn and rice. A popular dish served in Cape Verde is cachupa, a slow cooked stew of corn (hominy), beans, and fish or meat. A common appetizer is the pastel, which is a pastry shell filled with fish or meat that is then fried.

15. What do you pay, on average, for the following?

Cabo Verde’s currency is the Cabo Verdean Escudo. (1 USD = approximately 97 Cabo Verdean Escudo).

3 Course meal: 1,500 CVE
Domestic beer: 170 CVE
Cup of coffee: 130 CVE
Coca cola (330ml): 110 CVE
Milk (1l): 110 CVE
Loaf of white bread: 110 CVE
Apples (1 kg): 275 CVE
Water (1.5l): 90 CVE

16. Any general safety tips?

  • Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings.
  • Keep sight of your belongings at all times. Leave valuables in a hotel safe if possible and don’t carry large amounts of cash.
  • Avoid unlit areas after dark.
  • Petty crimes like pick-pocketing or handbag snatching can occur, including on beaches.
  • Make sure your holiday accommodation is secure. Lock all doors and windows at night and when you go out.
  • Sexual assaults are rare but they do occur. Be alert and avoid secluded stretches of the beach with limited or restricted visibility.
  • Carry valuables in your hand luggage when traveling via Boa Vista airport.
  • Make sure your car or bike is in good condition, and insured.

17. In conclusion, famous (and sometimes infamous) people from the country include:

  • Cesária Évora, a popular singer. She has appeared on local bank notes and stamps, and was awarded the Grand-Cross of the Order of Prince Henry, Portugal.
  • Lidiane Lopes, a Cape Verdean sprinter who specializes in the 100 meters and 200 meters. She is a 100 meters record holder, and competed at both the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.
  • Ryan Mendes, a Cape Verdean football winger who plays for Sharjah in the UAE.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa  can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, and Remuneration needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]. Image sources: [1], [2],  Rainer Strehl [3].

From The Hippo’s Ears: Burundi

Facts you may not have know about Burundi:

Burundi, officially the Republic of Burundi, is a landlocked country amid the African Great Lakes region where East and Central Africa converge.

Burundi has a population of approximately 10.5 million, and gained independence from Belgium in 1962.

1.  When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?

A handshake with the right hand is the most common form of greeting. At any time of the day, it is common and appropriate to greet others saying amakuru (‘what’s the news?’). Amakuru comes from the verb gukura which means ‘to grow,’ or ‘to become big.’ Consequently, you are not asking about just any news, but the headlines, the big news. The answer is n’amahoro (‘it is peaceful,’ or ‘it is calm’).

2. What languages are spoken in the country?

Burundi has three official languages – Kirundi, French, and English. Swahili can be found spoken along the Tanzanian border and it has some official recognition by law as a language “spoken and taught” in the country. Kirundi is spoken by the vast majority of the population.

3. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?

We use a 24-hour system.

4. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in the country?

We drive on the right side of road.

5. How important is punctuality?

Time is flexible in Burundi. People don’t always arrive on time for meetings – this is part of the culture.

6. Which types of music are popular? Who are some of the most popular musicians?

The drum such as the karyenda is one of central importance. Internationally, the country has produced the music group Royal Drummers of Burundi. One feature of Burundian men’s folk songs is the presence of an inanga, a type of stringed zither. Other popular instruments include Ingoma drums, made from tree trunks, and the inzogera, a closed bell. Popular Burundian-Belgian musicians include Khadija Nin, Ciza Muhirwa, and Éric Baranyanka.

For a taste of Burundian music, listen to Khadija Nin’s Wale Watu.

Burundian Presidential Palace.

7. Are there any Traditional Dances?

Traditional dance is strong within Burundian culture, and often accompanies the drumming, which is frequently seen in celebrations and family gatherings. Some Burundian artisans have special songs to accompany different stages of their work.

Watch an traditional drumming-dance performance from Burundi here.

8.  What traditional Festivals are celebrated in the country?

Sorghum festival (umuganuro)

A magnificent display of traditional dances by court dancers (intore). Also participating in the festival are drummers beating the Karyenda (“sacred drum”), an emblem of the monarchy—their performance is intended to give both musical and symbolic resonance to this festival and to other ceremonial occasions.

Sauti Za busara

This festival brings people together to celebrate African music under African skies. The 17th edition will take place in Stone Town, Zanzibar from 13th – 16th February 2020. It will feature over 400 musicians over 4 days, as well as a parade and fringe events by the local community.

9. What are the seasons like?

Burundi in general has a tropical highland climate, with a considerable daily temperature range in many areas. Temperature also varies considerably from one region to another, chiefly as a result of differences in altitude. The central plateau enjoys pleasantly cool weather, with an average temperature of 20° C (68° F ). The area around Lake Tanganyika is warmer, averaging 23° C (73° F ); the highest mountain areas are cooler, averaging 16° C (60° F ). Bujumbura’s average annual temperature is 23° C (73° F ). Rain is irregular, falling most heavily in the northwest. Dry seasons vary in length, and there are sometimes long periods of drought. However, four seasons can be distinguished: the long dry season (June–August), the short wet season (September–November), the short dry season (December–January), and the long wet season (February to May). Most of Burundi receives between 130 and 160 cm (51–63 in) of rainfall a year. The Ruzizi Plain and the northeast receive between 75 and 100 cm (30–40 in).

10. What are some interesting facts about the President?

President Pierre Nkurunziza has served in the position since 2005. He was the Chairman of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), the ruling party, until he was elected as President of Burundi. On 7 June 2018, Nkurunziza announced that he would not seek another term and step down when his current term ends in 2020. He was born in Bujumbura, and has a wife and 5 children.

11. What are the country’s major industries?

The economy is predominantly agricultural, accounting for 50% of GDP in 2017 and employing more than 90% of the population. Subsistence agriculture accounts for 90% of agriculture. Burundi’s primary exports are coffee and tea, which account for 90% of foreign exchange earnings, though exports are a relatively small share of GDP. Other agricultural products include cotton, tea, maize, sorghum, sweet potatoes, bananas, manioc (tapioca); beef, milk and hides.

12. What are some of the things visitors can look forward to experiencing in Burundi?

Major tourist attractions include the Kibira National Park, Ruvubu National Park, Ruzizi River Park, and National Museum of Gitega.

Traditional dance performed in Burundi.

13. What is a popular local drink?

Popular drinks include urwarwa (homemade banana wine) and impeke (beer brewed from sorghum).

14. What is a popular local dish?

Burundi cuisine is very representative of the African culinary culture, as it includes beans, which are the staple of Burundi cooking, exotic fruits (mainly bananas), plantains, sweet potatoes, cassava, peas, maize and cereals, like corn and wheat. Profiteroles are also sometimes enjoyed as a rare delicacy. Not much meat is consumed in Burundi, because animal breeding is a secondary occupation; still, there are some dishes that include goat and sheep meat but cows are very sacred.

15. What do you pay, on average, for the following? (1 USD = approx. 1,835 Burundian francs)

Burundi’s currency is the Burundian franc.

3 Course meal: 19,000 francs
Domestic beer: 2,000 francs
Cup of coffee: 3,200 francs
Coca cola (330ml): 1,500 francs
Milk (1l): 1,200 francs
Loaf of white bread: 2,000 francs
Apples (1 kg): 3,200 francs
Water (1.5l): 2,200 francs

16. Any general safety tips?

  • Do not walk around Bujumbura at night.
  • The road north of Bujumbura towards Cibitoke should be avoided.
  • Do not attempt to visit the Parc National de la Kibira or Parc National de la Ruvubu.
  • Do not travel anywhere by road at night.
  • Avoid the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) border areas.
  • Carry your passport at all times.

17. In conclusion, famous (and sometimes infamous) people from the country include:

  • Khadja Nin, a singer and musician. Her first album was released in 1992, and sung in Swahili.
  • Vénuste Niyongabo, a former middle-distance runner. Niyongabo won a silver medal in the 1500 m at the 1992 World Junior Championships and also came fourth over 800 metres.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa  can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, and Remuneration needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]. Image sources: musiccity [1], [2], [3].

From The Hippo’s Ears: Burkina Faso

Facts you may not have know about Burkina Faso:

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa. Burkina Faso is a francophone country, with French as the official language of government and business. Roughly 40% of the population speaks the Mossi language.

Burkina Faso has a population of approximately 20 million, is a unitary semi-presidential republic, and gained independence from France in 1960.

1.  When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?

A handshake with the right hand is the most common form of greeting. There’s usually a handshake accompanied by head taps on holidays: this means touching the sides of your head to another person’s head four times – two on each side. To say hello in French, it is “bonjour”, and in Mossi, it is “Ne y windiga”.

2. What languages are spoken in the country?

Burkina Faso is a multilingual country. An estimated 69 languages are spoken there, of which about 60 languages are indigenous. Mossi is spoken by about 40% of the population, mainly in the central region around the capital, Ouagadougou. The country has 4 official languages; French, Mòoré, Fula, and Dioula.

3. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?

We use a 24-hour system.

4. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in the country?

We drive on the right side of road.

5. How important is punctuality?

Time is flexible in Burkina Faso. People don’t always arrive on time for meetings – this is part of the culture.

6. Which types of music are popular? Who are some of the most popular musicians?

The music of Burkina Faso includes the folk music of 60 different ethnic groups. Burkinabé traditional music has continued to thrive and musical output remains quite diverse. Popular music is mostly in French. With a musical career that lasted half a century, singer Amadou Balaké was one of the foremost singers from the country during the 20th century. In his music, Balaké combined Mandé, Mossi, and Afro-Cuban traditions. Other influential artists from the country include George Ouédraogo and Joseph Moussa Salambéré “Salambo”.

Popular traditional groups from Burkina Faso include balafon bands, percussion ensembles and others such as Farafina and Gabin Dabiré, who uses elements of traditional Burkinabé music. More recently, modern musicians in Burkina Faso are beginning to incorporate more foreign influences into their music, especially those from the United States, with genres such as hip-hop, rap, salsa and techno entering the music scene.

For a taste of Beninese music, listen to Amadou Balaké’s Taximen, and George Ouédraogo’s Munafica.

Monument des Héros Nationaux in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

7. Are there any Traditional Dances?

Dancing is a long-time part of the culture of Burkina Faso, both traditional dancing and contemporary dancing. There are many small groups of dancers that perform locally or travel small distances for special events. Dancing and music groups exist for all occasions, and Bobo-Dioulasso’s Djembe drumming tradition is internationally famous.

Watch an traditional Gour’mache dance here.

8.  What traditional Festivals are celebrated in the country?

Festima Festival

Every two years, in the city of Dedougou, the Festima Festival occurs. This is a mask festival attended by around 40 villages, each of them represented by their own group of masks. Aside from much dancing, there is also the “market of the communities”, as well as the cabaret nights when various “griots” (storytellers) are in competition to reveal their own talent.

FESPACO

The PanAfrican Cinema and Television Festival of Ouagadougou is one of the most important festivals revealing the African cinema. It happens every two years in Ouagadougou. Goals of the festival include allowing contacts and exchanges between cinema, television and radio professionals; promoting the distribution of African cinema pieces; and encouraging the blossoming, development, and protection of the African cinema as a mean of expression, education, and social awareness.

Jazz à Ouaga

The festival was created in 1992, in Ouagadougou. Over the years, Jazz à Ouaga has become a major festival for all jazz lovers. The high quality of the artistic program satisfies an always increasing international body of attendees.

9. What are the seasons like?

Burkina Faso has a primarily tropical climate with two very distinct seasons. In the rainy season, the country receives between 60 and 90 cm (23.6 and 35.4 in) of rainfall; in the dry season, the harmattan – a hot dry wind from the Sahara – blows. The rainy season lasts approximately four months, May/June through September, and is shorter in the north of the country. A relatively dry tropical savanna, the Sahel, extends beyond the borders of Burkina Faso, from the Horn of Africa to the Atlantic Ocean, and borders the Sahara to its north and the fertile region of the Sudan to the South. The Sudan-Sahel region is a transitional zone with regards to rainfall and temperature. Further to the south, the Sudan-Guinea zone has cooler average temperatures than the northern region.

10. What are some interesting facts about the President?

President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré has been in office since 2015. Previously he served as the Prime Minister of Burkina Faso between 1994 and 1996, and as President of the National Assembly of Burkina Faso from 2002 to 2012. He has also served as President of the political party Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP). In January 2014, he left the ruling CDP and joined a new opposition party, the People’s Movement for Progress. Upon taking office, he became the first non-interim president in 49 years without any past ties to the military. He is married to Togolese-born jurist and healthcare advocate Sika Bella Kaboré, and has three children.

11. What are the country’s major industries?

Burkina Faso’s main industries are agriculture and mining. Agriculture represents around a third of the country’s GDP, and employs around 80% of its workforce. It consists mostly of rearing livestock. Especially in the south and southwest, the people grow crops of sorghum, pearl millet, maize (corn), peanuts, rice and cotton, with surpluses to be sold. A large part of the economic activity of the country is funded by international aid. Major exports from the country include raw cotton, sesame seeds, and non-monetary gold.

12. What are some of the things visitors can look forward to experiencing in Benin?

Major tourist attractions include the Domes de Fabedougou (fascinating rock formations outside the town of Banfora); Cascades de Karfiguela (a series of waterfalls along the Komoé River in Southwestern Burkina Faso); Ouagadougou Cathedral (a 1930s-build cathedral showcasing beautiful architecture); and Reserve de Nazinga (a wildlife reserve where visitors can see elephants, among other animals).

Bobo Dioulasso Grand Mosque in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso.

13. What is a popular local drink?

Popular drinks include bissap (a sour-tasting drink made from roselle (bissap) flowers (a member of the hibiscus family) and sweetened with sugar; and degue, a drink made from pearl millet and yogurt.

14. What is a popular local dish?

Burkinabé cuisine, the cuisine of Burkina Faso, is similar to the cuisines in many parts of West Africa, and is based on staple foods of sorghum, millet, rice, fonio, maize, peanuts, potatoes, beans, yams and okra.

Popular local dishes include tô (cooled polenta-style cakes made from ground millet, sorghum or corn, served with a sauce made from vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, sumbala, and carrots); and babenda, a stew of fermented beans, fish, cabbage, and/or spinach.

15. What do you pay, on average, for the following? (1 USD = approx. CFA 581)

Benin’s currency is the West African CFA franc (CFA).

3 Course meal: CFA 12,500
Domestic beer (500ml): CFA 1,000
Cup of coffee: CFA 2,000
Coca cola (330ml): CFA 450
Milk (1l): CFA 1,100
Loaf of white bread: CFA 1,500
Apples (1 kg): CFA 2,000
Water (1.5l): CFA 850

16. Any general safety tips?

Burkina Faso carries a risk of terrorist activity, and there are travel warnings for many parts of the country, including the capital. In December 2018, the Government of Burkina Faso declared a six-month state of emergency in the entire East and Sahel regions, the provinces of Kossi and Sourou in the Boucle de Mouhoun region, the province of Kenedougou in the Hauts Bassins region, the province of Loroum in the North region, and the province of Koulpelogo in the Center-East region.

UK health authorities have classified Burkina Faso as having a risk of Zika virus transmission.

17. In conclusion, famous (and sometimes infamous) people from the country include:

  • Georgie Badiel, a model and activist living and working in New York City. Badiel was Miss Burkina Faso in 2003 and Miss Africa 2004. She is also an author and activist who has taken on the issue of the lack of potable drinking water in her West African homeland. Therein she runs the Georgie Badiel Foundation which is dedicated to raising funds to support the cause.
  • Gabin Dabiré, a singer, guitarist, kora player, and composer. In 1979 his collection of ethnic music of Western Africa was published by the cultural association and music group Futuro Antico, which he co-founded with Walter Maioli and Riccardo Sinigaglia.
  • Jacky Ido, a Burkinabe-born French actor, who has starred in movies including Lockout, West, and Salaud, on t’aime.
  • Fulgence Ouedraogo, a French rugby union player. He currently plays for Montpellier Hérault RC in the Top 14 championship. His usual position is as a flanker.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa  can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, and Remuneration needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]. Image sources: musiccity [1], [2], [3].

From The Hippo’s Ears: Benin

Facts you may not have know about Benin:

Benin, officially the Republic of Benin (République du Bénin), is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east, and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. The majority of its population lives on the small southern coastline of the Bight of Benin, part of the Gulf of Guinea in the northernmost tropical portion of the Atlantic Ocean.

Benin has a population of approximately 11 million, is a presidential republic, and gained independence from France in 1960.

1.  When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?

The most common greeting in Benin is the handshake. Some may choose to greet with cheek kisses. Basic verbal greetings in French include “Bonjour” (good afternoon) and “Comment allez-vous?” (How are you?)

2. What languages are spoken in the country?

Benin has one official language – French – which is spoken by around 4 million locals. For the majority of French speakers in Benin, it is their second language. Most print media is in French, and it is important to  know the language in order to work in government. A unique variety of French called français d’Afrique has developed in the country. Fon is the most widely spoken indigenous language. Other spoken languages include Yoruba, Bariba, Mina, and Yom.

3. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?

We use a 24-hour system.

4. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in the country?

We drive on the right side of road.

5. How important is punctuality?

Time is flexible in Benin. People don’t always arrive on time for meetings, as part of the culture.

6. Which types of music are popular? Who are some of the most popular musicians?

Benin has played an important role in the African music scene, producing one of the biggest stars to come out of the continent – Angélique Kidjo.

Post-independence, the country has been home to a vibrant and innovative music scene, where native folk music combined with Ghanaian highlife, French cabaret, American rock, funk and soul, and Congolese rumba. It also has a rich variety of ethno-musicological traditions.

The northern regions of Benin are home to the Bariba and the Somba peoples. Each has a different approach to the role of music in their culture. Within the highly hierarchical Bariba society, music is usually performed by professional musicians, or griots, storytellers in ceremonies; the function of this music is to enhance the prestige and the pomp surrounding a prince or his dignitaries. For the Somba, in contrast, music is part of everyday life

In recent times, hip-hop and R&B have become popular genres. Benin is also home to zouk musicians such as Richard Flash, Martin Hod, and Miss Espoir.

For a taste of Beninese music, listen to Angélique Kidjo’s Batonga, and Gnonnas Pedro’s Abigbedoto.

Ouando Market in Porto-Novo, Benin.

7. Are there any Traditional Dances?

Benin, a country with a multitude of ethnic groups, has various interesting and unique traditional dances. Each dance can be linked to the heritage from which the respective ethnic group comes, and each has its own specific characteristics. Kpanouhoun is performed across the country, mostly during special events, such as weddings and graduation ceremonies. Other popular dances performed in various regions include Agbadja, Ogbon, Adjogan, and Akonhoun.

Watch an example of traditional dance in Benin here.

8.  What traditional Festivals are celebrated in the country?

Quintessence Film Festival

An annual film festival held in Ouidah, the Quintessence Festival is simply a celebration of local and international cinema that takes place in early January. Most of the films are in French with English subtitles. There is also a special selection of African films, of which the organizers are especially proud.

Gelede Festival

Taking place during the dry season between March and May, Gelede is a festival which honors mothers in the community and to pay respect to their female elders. One of the more vibrant festivals in Benin, choreographed dances, singing, music, and drumming are loved by all. The men don large masks and walk around to amuse the women. The city of Cové is especially known for its public displays during the period.

Waba Festival

The Waba festival is a recent initiative in order to facilitate and promote collaborative work between the visual artists in Benin. Held from June 5 to 9 in the galleries in Porto Novo and Cotonou, the event showcases works from around the country. The hope is to popularize art and start a more passionate dialogue between all sections of society about the role that art plays. Exhibitions are open to the public and are well worth a visit.

International Festival of the Dahomean Cultures

One of the last festivals of the year, the Dahomean Cultures runs for 10 days in December and is tasked with highlighting and celebrating the cultural diversity of Benin. Taking place in Abomey, the event showcases traditional songs, dances, folklore, and stories of the ancient Dahomey Kingdom and the many groups around the country.

9. What are the seasons like?

Benin’s climate is hot and humid. Annual rainfall in the coastal areas is low for coastal West Africa. Benin has two rainy and two dry seasons. The principal rainy season is from April to late July, with a shorter less intense rainy period from late September to November. The main dry season is from December to April, with a short cooler dry season from late July to early September. Temperatures and humidity are high along the tropical coast. A dry wind from the Sahara called the harmattan blows from December to March. Grass dries up, the vegetation turns reddish brown.

10. What are some interesting facts about the President?

President Patrice Talon has been President of Benin since April 2016. Talon is of Fon origins and was born in Ouidah. Talon had a successful career in business (in the agricultural industry), before getting involved in politics. He is married to Claudine Gbènagnon, from Porto-Novo, and has two children.

11. What are the country’s major industries?

Benin’s main export is cotton, accounting for a large percentage of the country’s GDP. The country also produces textiles, cocoa beans, maize, palm products, pineapples, and yams. Subsistence farming is common. Benin is also involved in the construction materials industry, producing cement.

12. What are some of the things visitors can look forward to experiencing in Benin?

The capital, Porto-Novo, showcases great examples of historical architecture, and houses the Musée da Silva and the Porto-Novo Museum of Ethnography. Cotonou offers a variety of street-side markets to explore, and the nearby Foundation Zinsou offers visitors a chance to see modern African art. Benin’s two national parks offer visitors the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife. Pendjari National Park is know for its birds, while the UNESCO-listed W National Park is home to some of West Africa’s last wild elephants.

Babs Dock, Cotonou, Benin.

13. What is a popular local drink?

Choukachou or “chouk” is a Beninese millet beer, commonly consumed in northern Benin, and shipped to southern Benin by railway and roadways. Sodabi is a liquor made from wine palm, and often consumed at events and ceremonies.

14. What is a popular local dish?

Frying in palm or peanut oil is the most common meat preparation, and smoked fish is also commonly prepared in Benin. Grinders are used to prepare corn flour, which is made into a dough and served with sauces. Wagasi is a specialty cows’-milk cheese of northern Benin made by the Fulani people, and is abundantly available in cities such as Parakou. It’s a soft cheese with a mild flavor and a red rind, and used often in Beninese cooking. Acarajé is a dish made from peeled black-eyed peas, formed into a ball and then deep-fried in dendê (palm oil). It is found in most parts Benin. Other local dishes include akpan (corn dumplings, dipped in a sauce) and ñam pilé (mashed yams with tambo chili).

15. What do you pay, on average, for the following? (1 USD = approx. CFA 583)

Benin’s currency is the West African CFA franc (CFA).

3 Course meal: CFA 3,500
Domestic beer (500ml): CFA 650
Cup of coffee: CFA 2,100
Coca cola (330ml): CFA 525
Milk (1l): CFA 1,000
Loaf of white bread: CFA 565
Apples (1 kg): CFA 2,500
Water (1.5l): CFA 530

16. Any general safety tips?

Foreigners are advised to avoid the northern border region adjacent to Burkina Faso, as well as Parc W, due to terrorism. Be cautious in urban areas, as crime is common. Use caution when walking or driving at night. Dantokpa market is particularly dangerous at night. Fraud is common – be cautious when using ATMs and credit card machines. Street crime, robberies, car-jackings, and muggings do occur, particularly along the Boulevard de France (the beach road by the Marina and Novotel Hotels in Cotonou), and on the beaches near hotels frequented by tourists.

17. In conclusion, famous (and sometimes infamous) people from the country include:

  • Alois Dansou, an Olympic swimmer who represented Benin at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
  • Djimon Hounsou, an actor and model born in Cotonou. Hounsou has starred in movies such as Gladiator, Serenity, and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
  • Olympe Bhely-Quenum, a writer, journalist, and magazine editor, who has published several works of fiction in French.
  • Florent Couao-Zotti, a writer of comics, plays, and short stories, and editor of a number of satirical magazines.
  • Angélique Kidjo, a singer-songwriter, actress, and activist who is noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos. Kidjo has won multiple Grammy Awards, the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award, and Amnesty International’s Ambassador Of Conscience Award.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa  can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, and Remuneration needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]. Image sources: Fanick Atchia [1], Esteve Nimbus [2], Babylas [3].