Against the heat wave, ruses from Africa

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A Touareg on the Tagmart plateau, in southern Algeria, in January 2016. Wearing loose clothing helps fight against heat.
A Touareg on the Tagmart plateau, in southern Algeria, in January 2016. Wearing loose clothing helps fight against heat. FAROUK BATICHE / AFP

The heat wave that is raging in France these days is a familiar climatic phenomenon in many African countries. A continent where air conditioning is gradually being installed but remains a luxury reserved for the better-off. To resist the heat, the population adapts its rhythm and uses proven techniques for generations

  • In Burkina Faso, we bend to the cycle of the sun

In this country, which is one of the sunniest in West Africa, temperatures are around 40 ° C from March to May and can even exceed 45 ° C in the Sahel region (north). Everyone takes his trouble patiently watching the arrival of the " good weather ", as we call the first rains. To tame this extreme climate, locals adapt their daily rhythm to the sun's cycle. In Burkina Faso, the days begin around 5 or 6 o'clock, in order to enjoy the last moments of nocturnal freshness. By noon, we prefer to shut up, shuttered shutters, in his office or at home to take a nap after lunch.

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City dwellers avoid walking in the furnace of the streets in the afternoon, when the air is filled with a strange smell of tar and burning sand. Those who must still move, usually by bike or motorcycle – air-conditioned cars remain a luxury – rely on vendors selling water bags, fans or handkerchiefs to mop the forehead. The most affluent equip their home with air conditioning, the others are satisfied with fans. But we still have to deal with the power cuts and water, almost daily during the hot season and which are the obsession of the Burkinabe.

  • In Cameroon, we sleep outside or near the water

The northern part of Cameroon is most exposed to hot weather during the dry season, from November to April. A period during which the inhabitants compete of ingenuity to escape the heatwave inexpensively. In the Far North region, mercury can reach 47 ° C in the shade. Access to electricity remains a luxury in this region among the poorest in the country.

Read also Of the ten cities most threatened by climate change, eight are in Africa

To protect themselves, the inhabitants " have not changed their habits for decades, " reports Daïrou Hamidou, a journalist at Equinoxe TV. During the day, sheltered under the acacias which line the streets and the courts of the houses, they are refreshed with the help of traditional fans in feathers of ducks or in straw. After dark, they usually sleep outside under "Danki" these awnings open to the four winds, spreading their mats on the sandy soil. In the most remote villages, established on desert lands, some even spend the night near water points.

  • In Senegal, you wear the boubou and drink tea

In the Sahelian countries, centuries of nomadism have given rise to tried and tested techniques, such as loose, light-colored clothing made of cotton or linen, and as little as possible of synthetic fibers. In Senegal, the boubou does wonders: each step creates a current of air that inflates the outfit and refreshes. The layers are sometimes superimposed to increase the effect. In the countryside, locals also wear a conical straw hat that effectively wicks away heat, known as "Tengade" in the Fulani or "Gaban" among the Bambara.

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Summer and winter, the Senegalese are used to drinking"Ataya". This traditional black tea, a real juice that is reduced on a coal stove, is served sparkling, three times, as is customary. The first "bitter as death", the second "sweet as life" and the third "sweet as love". It is a real ally during periods of heat wave. A hot beverage in the middle of the summer may seem counter-intuitive, but Sahelian nomads have known for a long time that such a drink facilitates sweating and moisturizes the body while refreshing it.

Today, most Senegalese households have a fan, sometimes covered with a wet towel. But in the bush, in homes without electricity, it is customary to spend hot summer nights with the family outside, by installing mattresses on the terrace or on the roof.

  • In Tunisia, we work less time

Every year in Tunisia, at the dawn of July, the debate resurfaces. Should the "single session" be canceled or maintained? The expression refers to a particular organization of the working day that replaces, fromst July to August 31, the classic 8 am to 5 pm. Systematic in the public sector, this measure is at the discretion of the private sector bosses. In practice, most companies adapt during the summer season, as they do during Ramadan.

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From 1st July, administrations open their doors at 7:30 am and close at 2 pm, Monday to Thursday. On Friday, the day ends even an hour earlier, weekly prayer obliges. This lightened pace is not unanimous, however. In March 2018, the Governor of the Central Bank of Tunisia proposed to abolish the single session to support economic growth and wealth creation.

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