Making Pizza In Africa To Break Endless Cycles Of Foreign Aid

Italians teach locals in Burkina Faso both the recipe for pizza, and the formula for a successful small business. Is this how foreign aid is transformed into sustainable development?

Signs for a pizzeria, a few miles from Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou
Signs for a pizzeria, a few miles from Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou
Sandro Cappelletto

FADA N’GOURMA - The aroma of pizza mingles with the smell of wood as we wait in line to buy a slice of "Margherita" tomato-and-mozzarella in Fada N’Gourma, a city of 50,000 in the east of Burkina Faso, near the borders with Togo and Niger.

“This is the third pizzeria-bakery that we’ve opened in Burkina Faso,” says Claudio Vanni, from the Italian “Heart Melts” foundation. “They’re co-ops, and we provide technical resources and training, but otherwise is handled entirely by local workers. It's a success, both from an economical point of view and for the solidarity values that it brings.”

Burkina Faso is a little country of 15 million inhabitants, which regularly ranks last on the UN Human Poverty Index, and where 62 different ethnicities and three religions – Animist, Muslim and Catholic – are all recognized by a state that prides itself on its religious freedom. Burkina’s President, Blaise Compaoré, has been leading the country for 26 years.

In every little village in this country, there are signs sprouting up that indicate the presence of international agencies that develop agriculture, wells, schools and hospitals. Meanwhile, in the north of Burkina Faso, in the Oudalan region that borders with Mali, the EU and UN have set up refugee camps to accommodate the 100,000 who have fled the Malian conflict.

Jobs and social growth

“Right now, Burkina Faso seems to be at the center of global strategic interests. And because of this, it’s necessary to do everything to intensify cooperation projects. If this country explodes with ethnic and religious hatred like in Mali, Nigeria, Uganda and the region around Africa’s horn, all of Western Africa will be ablaze,” says Monsignor Andrea Cristiani, founder of the Shalom Movement, which in Ouagadougou, Burkina’s capital, has just organized “L’Africa sviluppa l’Africa” (“Africa Developing Africa”), its first pan-African conference bringing together delegations from 17 nations.

Cristiani wanted to give this title to the conference to end the logic of assistance, or charity. "All over our continent there are resources, intelligence, and the will to escape from misery and to remain at peace," he said, noting that for the first time well-off African families are being asked to adopt African babies from their own regions.

“Jobs and social growth – our project is all about the founding principles of the cooperative movement,” says Claudio Vanni. Volunteers will remain in Fada N’Gourma for the long term, to follow the arrival and the installations of the machinery, as well as to train the five Burkina youths who will manage the new pizzeria. “We have just opened and we’ve already broken even. There is every reason for this initiative to be as successful as our two previous pizzerias, which make profits of 20,000 euros – reinvested in other charity projects."

In addition to the pizzeria, "Heart Melts" has built a carpentry school that will be supported by sales revenue; in Burkina Faso there is an old tradition of cabinet making and wood is still used today in the building trade.

At the “Africa Developing Africa” conference, the strongest words were from Joseph, a 30-year-old lawyer, representing the Shalom Movement in Angola: “I don’t want to hear anything else about the misery of Africa," he said. "Africa has everything it needs to be a rich continent. Poverty is caused by men.”

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Migrant Lives

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

Migrants in Michalowo, Belarus, next to the border with Poland.

Wojciech Czuchnowski

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.

Tactics of a strongman

Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.

Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.

Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Photo of Polish soldiers setting up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Maciej Luczniewski/ZUMA

Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross

Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.

An incomprehensible absence

Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.

In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.

Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.

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