We wanted to visit a place that cooked with solar, unfortunately it was closed. So now we had to improvise.
We visited the outskirts of Ouagadougou and stopped at a restaurant because the sun was burning and we wanted to sit in the shade. The restaurant was lively and, as we were thirsty, we decided to drink something. While we were drinking our soda’s we took a look around. Hanging solely from the roof was our object; a solar light.
Because we did not speak the local language, it was a bit of a challenge to communicate in French.
The main functions of this light are:
1) so that the store can be opened until 23:00 every night.
2) So that it will deter thieves after 23:00.
The light is switched on every evening when it gets dark, and is left on until the next day when the restaurant owner starts a new day. The light is connected to two solar panels that are on the roof of the restaurant, which, in turn, charge a battery in the back. The light can be switched on by connecting the wires of the solar light to the battery; it also has a small hook and it looks like you could take it from the beam its hanging on. However, this never happens. During the day there is no fear of theft and at night the light is working.
The entire setup of the light (solar panel, battery and light) was installed by an external party (an electrician), who the owner calls whenever some electrical work was to be done.
The name of the owner of the restaurant is Diarra. He has a family that lives very close to his business. He has a wife, who is about to give birth, and a 5-years-old child. Diarra is also a professional mason (builder). From 1999 to 2003 Diarra was learning to be a mason. From 2003 until today he has been a professional and he works on a consulting basis. He only works sometimes, when he is given a contract. When he doesn’t have a contract, he spends his time in the restaurant. Sometimes he gets a contract to build a part of a house, but sometimes he also gets a contract to be responsible for building the entire house. This means that he has to find and subcontract work to other such as electricians and plumbers. Diarra really wants to work and he doesn’t like to be without a contract. He loves his job.
While we were talking to Diarra, we were attracting a lot of attention from the people that worked around the restaurant repairing motorbikes; one by one they took a break and came into the restaurant to listen to our conversation. They did not feel that the restaurant was a boundary for them.
The restaurant has 4 employees, who consist of 3 women and 1 boy. They work every day to offer different kinds of food, which can have rice, meat and fish. For preparing these dishes, Diarra has 2 types of stoves, charcoal and GPL (gas) stove. They do not have a specific stove for a specific meal, it is depending on what is available, wood or gas. Yet, they prefer GPL because it is faster; this, as well as the charcoal, is delivered to the restaurant. There are also many drinks available: Coffee, tea, fanta, cola and sprite, as well as multiple beers such as Brakina, Flag and Carlsberg. The drinks are brought by the suppliers with trucks, who also deliver the same drinks to the other restaurants in the street.
Diarra’s restaurant is a place of exchange, where men who do not have employment come together. When someone has a job to offer, they will come to the restaurant and find men that are willing to work.
Diarra bought the solar light on the market, just a few stores down from him. He decided to buy it because his previous light was broken after 4 years of use. The broken light is now hanging next to the working light. There are also many cables hanging from the ceiling around these 2 lights. But only one cable connects to the battery in the back. By attaching the cable to the battery the light switches on. This is a job that is done by the women working in the restaurant, they demonstrated this process to us. The battery, which had a pack of cigarettes on the top, rests on a crate.
Diarra indicated the exact spot that he bought the light, place tha we also visited. When we got to the kiosk there were many different types of light. But the specific kind that Diarra uses in his restaurant was not available. The light that was available was the same as the previous, now broken, light. The shopkeeper indicated that this light was cheap but consumed a lot of energy. The light that was hanging in the restaurant was a better quality. The shopkeeper indicated that he only sells the lights and not the solar panels, because the demand of the later is low and the investment to supply them is too high. On the other hand, there is a lot of demand for lights.