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 "We want to participate in global life" – In Senegal, especially young people want to have access to information.

 

 

Dakar, September 2014

Koussanar is a small town in the region of Tambacounda in the South East of Senegal. In Koussanar and its surroundings some 25,000 people live in a total of 109 villages. Apart from the village of Dawady and Koussanar itself, all of the villages have a population of less than 1,000. Electricity is only available along the main street of Koussanar. And it's hot there, with temperatures easily reaching 40° and higher.

 

 

The first Internet café in the Koussanar region

cafe-bleu2-enPlucky young people have opened an Internet café on this main street. Its name was inspired by the giant baobab tree growing nearby: the café is called Café Baobab Bleu. It is run by Arona Badji and his three sons. They are supported by Ron Otteson, an American who has lived in the region for many years as a development aid worker for the Catholic Relief Center. "I was welcomed here like a member of the family and have seen the three lads grow up. We developed the idea for the Internet café together," Ron Otteson said at the opening in April 2014.

 Café Baobab Bleu is open every day until late in the evening. There are four computers for guests to use. Some of them even bring their own notebooks or tablets. An Internet router provides WiFi access. The customers pay a flat rate for an hour or buy a beverage with Internet use included in the price.


cafe-bleu3-en"Information is capital," says Molamine Badji, the café's 28-year-old manager. "If we have access to information this will give our region a chance to develop". Molamine studied Computer Science at a private university in Dakar. He and his brothers also offer courses in computer science and English. A small library offers books in different languages. The café already has 4 students who regularly take lessons in the Microsoft products.

Light draws people in
"Our earnings already enable us to cover all running costs," Molamine says. "But like everywhere in the country, there are frequent power outages. When that happens we lose all our customers". Via the Internet, he contacted Bonergie and since the beginning of September 2014, Café Baobab Bleu has had its own solar installation. "A big competitive advantage," Molamine Badji says. "All around us it's pitch dark, only our café is brightly lit". Light draws people in – an old marketing adage.

cafe-bleu4-en"My dream is to open up Café Baobab Bleus all over the country," Molamine says. "At the moment I'm inspired by a book by Richard Branson. He says, every idea you have is a good idea. "Business as usual" is an outdated business model". The café is buzzing like a beehive. There's a continuous coming and going. We hear voices via Skype from the US. "Technology connects people. It brings the world closer together – and thanks to solar energy we are part of it," says his brother Ousmane.

Café Baobab Bleu is now also a sales partner for Bonergie. Together we visit the outlying villages and sensitize people for solar energy. Ousmane Badji is a qualified electrical engineer and we have already completed our first installation of a solar home system in the village of Dawady together. An exemplary project worth imitating!

 

Gabriele Schwarz