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Conakry’s hustle and bustle

By Cecile Sow
Posted on Friday, 21 November 2008 16:53

Avenue de la République, Conakry’s main thoroughfare, teems with people every day of the week, no matter the season. It is the principal artery of the Guinean capital and it is alive with the traders that dominate the pavements, with their goods laid out on makeshift tables, hanging off wooden boards or placed behind glass: newspapers, cigarettes, sunglasses, mobile phones and kola nuts.

Those in a hurry have to walk in the road, dodging around cars searching for parking spaces, avoiding the traffic. An immaculate policewoman in a smart blue outfit and starched white gloves ignores the chaos, holding a phone glued to her ear. Taxis push past, honking to pick up passengers, signalling with their frantic hand gestures the routes they are taking away from the Kaloum peninsula, where Conakry’s main government and business offices are located.

The city’s main buildings and principal landmarks include the National Assembly, the ‘Statue de la Liberté’, representing a man breaking his chains, other monuments from the days of Sékou Touré and the Jardin du 2 Octobre. Bordering Kaloum are Dixin and Matam, and beyond these are the main population centres of Rotoma and Matoto.

In little over a decade, the number of people in the capital has more than doubled to well over 1m. Away from the administrative centre, the atmosphere is more relaxed, as kids play football in the road and women cook plantains and mangoes in palm oil for passers-by. Conakry lives at two speeds. Away from the congested centre, freed from the traffic jams, drivers zip along the seafront in either direction, or head out of town on the Route du Niger.

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