Burkina Faso has been making headlines for an Islamist insurgency that has created one of the world's fastest growing humanitarian crises. But one man is showcasing what the country has to offer beyond conflict with a group he created called “Burkina Faso est Chic” (Burkina Faso is Chic).
Since conflict began six years ago, tourists in Burkina Faso have become a rare sight. The U.S. State Department advises against all travel to the country due to the risk of terrorism, kidnapping and crime.
Ben Nombre, a local web developer, is doing what he can to turn the tide on the country’s image and showcase the good the country has to offer.
"Burkina Faso est Chic" was an idea he came up with in 2019, says Nombre. When he started to notice the number of [terrorist] attacks he saw that Burkina Faso’s image was being tarnished. He points out that for a long time, Burkina Faso was a country where there were a lot of tourists coming in, before many of them were lost in recent years.
"Burkina Faso est Chic’s" Facebook page has attracted almost 24,000 followers. It posts regularly, highlighting a range of topics from lively nightspots to nature and wildlife.
The West African country has a rich equestrian heritage, but one local business that had catered to tourists wishing to ride horses is struggling, says the owner, Siaka Gnanou.
“It's been affected a lot, it's been affected a lot since 2016. It's like, you see, at one time in such moments here it was full of people but since the terrorism it's affected a lot,” Gnanou said.
The government says that as international tourist numbers have dropped, they are looking at aiding businesses in the tourism industry.
Élise Foniyama Ilboudo Thiombiano, Burkina Faso's minister of culture, arts and tourism, says “we had a lot of money coming in from tourism, but we saw a considerable drop of more than 28% of that income. So there was a negative impact, at least at the beginning.” Now, she says, it is necessary to develop domestic tourism instead of foreign tourism.
Phillipe Yameogo, the manager of Squash Time, a recently opened club, which offers visitors the chance to play squash before drinks and dancing, says that when Nombre made a post about the club on "Burkina Faso est Chic," it transformed their business.
He says it boosted their business to the point where they were forced to turn people away on the weekends. They are now in the process of extending the building to accommodate more people because they were so overwhelmed. “I really take my hat off to Mr. Ben,” says Yameogo.
Even in the midst of conflict, some aspects of Burkina Faso still thrive.