During a last part of our trip, we stayed in Parakou to continue some good and old traditions before heading off to Cotonou and finally off to Belgium. Starting the day with avocado, baguette and malarone-pills for breakfast, switching to rice, spaghetti or couscous with tomato sauce for lunch and trying to be creative by preparing a mix of everything we could find at the local market in the evening. Ow yes, we will all miss it!
In the meantime, we started the process of putting all essential information together and drawing the main conclusions for our final report. Also some meetings with insurance companies and employees of Baobab Express were scheduled on the program. Besides that, we were honoured to welcome the CEO of Materialise – who came up with the idea of Baobab Express – and his family for a brief and informal discussion of our work. During the latter, we shared our experiences with Baobab Express, the pros and cons of the current network in Benin, and most importantly, the international connection towards Togo and the possible expansion in Togo that we investigated.
Steve, our Beninese friend, and his friendly family accompanied us the last two days of our trip, with as highlight a baptism-party that we so much enjoyed. While we had the chance to take a last deep breath of fresh air from the Atlantic Ocean, we looked back to an unforgettable six weeks. On the one hand, we got the chance to understand and to respect the beauty of imperfection, in sharp contrast with the strive for perfection that we are all used to in Europe, the African way of doing business, the organisational side of development cooperation, and the impact of transportation on a country’s economy and wealth. We learned to take time pour se reposer – to take a rest every now and then – , and to shout doucement – careful – to those around you whenever you do something wrong or clumsy. On the other hand, we hope we have left some useful information and ideas to enhance local transportation in Benin and Togo, and to offer many more the opportunity to move from town to town in a secure, comfortable and punctual way.
Thank you Roeland, Inge, Nelle and Sam for your continuous support and for making sure we survived this adventure. Thank you Charlotte, Chris, Asis and Nestor for sharing the inside information we often needed. And thank you Academics for Development and Materialise for giving us, four brave students, the chance to explore, to work in and to discover this fantastic country. Dear Baobab Express, we wish you all the best! Au revoir!