Burkina-Faso is not only known for being “the country of honest men” but also the country of people on bicycles. Every year it hosts the “Tour du Faso”, one of the most famous bike competitions in Africa, and the capital city Ouagadougou has the reputation of being a two-wheeler’s paradise where bicycles and motorbikes reign on roads. Here, Donatien Bognini is the guardian angel of the ones without an engine.
Donatien grew up in an SOS family. He was five years old when he and his biological siblings Carole and Benjamin came to live at SOS Children’s Village Ouagadougou. Today, this 24-year-old young man is earning a living with his bicycle workshop located at Bilbalgo, not far from Théâtre Populaire, a neighbourhood known for being Ouagadougou’s major bicycle market. Donatien is already there at sunrise, ready to quickly troubleshoot hurried workers dropping by with their bicycles. Most of the time a few minutes are enough to fix the problem. However, in case nothing can be done to save the steel horses, he becomes a seller of second-hand repaired bikes.
After he left his SOS family on 31 December 2012, he undertook training in a famous bicycle shop in Ouagadougou. He then followed his technical manager who decided to create his own repair shop. At his side, he improved his skills before deciding in turn to open his own business. He has kept a great relationship with his former boss, who often sends him customers when he is overwhelmed. Troubleshooting now pays Donatien about $110 a month and he earns another $180 from selling bikes. This is enough to get a sufficient standard of living in a country where 40% live with less than one dollar per day.
Donatien is a real firebrand despite a difficult childhood. He wants everybody to cycle more as cycling is good for health and the environment. He is inventive and socialize with a lot of people every day. He wants to live a meaningful life and a life of his own.
His small success story started with a little money enough to buy a toolbox, accessories and to build an 8 m x 2 m hangar. The rest will come by time and resourcefulness.
Now that Donatien is on his own two ‘wheels’, he only lacks a name for his shop. “SOS Donatien bicycles”?
Kristine Lehmann Nielsen, SOS Children’s Villages Denmark
Photo credit: Fabien Offner / SOS Children’s Villages