March 29, 2023

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Hamadou Sadiou Bah, a young Belgian-Guinean national, made the long journey from Brussels to Conakry, mainly on foot and by bicycle. His goal: to create awareness about water shortages in Guinea. He hopes to help drill a well to ease the struggle of the Guineans, a third of whom have no access to clean drinking water.

Hamadou Sadiou Bah was just 130 kilometers from the Guinean capital Conakry on August 22. The young activist left Brussels to return to his country of origin more than 100 days ago.

He set out on 8 May, on foot and by bicycle through France, Spain and Morocco. He then flew to Senegal, where he cycled back to Guinea via Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. In total he covered more than 6,500 kilometers.

He documented his journey on TikTok and Instagram.

Hamadou Sadiou Bah told the FRANCE 24 Observers team why he decided to quit his job as a manager in a sports shop in Brussels and embark on this journey.

Guinea is nicely nicknamed “the water tower of Africa”. A paradoxical nickname, because many Guineans do not have access to drinking water, or at least have to walk for miles to find it.

When you grow up in Europe, it seems obvious: drinking water comes from the tap. But our parents [who grew up in Guinea] often reminded us not to waste water; they told us that sometimes they had to travel to find it.

Hamadou Sadiou Bah flew from Casablanca to Dakar because travelers were advised not to pass through Mauritania, he explained. © France Médias Monde Graphic Studio

Nearly a third of Guineans do not have access to safe drinking water, according to UNICEF, a number that rises to more than half in rural areas. Still, the country has abundant water reserves due to heavy rainfall during the rainy season and the many rivers that have earned it its nickname. Unfortunately, these resources are not fully utilized.

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Hamadou Sadiou Bah was soon confronted with this reality upon his arrival in Guinea:

Among the families who welcomed me to stay with them in Guinea, there was a lot of concern about water. Everything is accounted for: for example, everyone has one sink to wash, that’s all.

While I was in Koundara, I saw one liter bottles of water costing up to 4,000 guinea francs, or about 4 euros. While in France it costs 50 cents. Of course, Guineans have a much lower income.

Hamadou Sadiou Bah poses with his bike in Koundara on August 15, before he leaves for Labé.
Hamadou Sadiou Bah poses with his bike in Koundara on August 15, before he leaves for Labé. © Hamadou Sadiou Bah

In the streets of this city I also saw children picking up empty water bags [Editor’s note: sachets of about 25 centilitres sold at 5 cents] and squeezing them to collect the little water that was left.

Hamadou Sadiou Bah wants to achieve a concrete goal with this trek: to drill a well in Guinea, or even several if he can raise enough money. “The borehole is a guarantee of permanent water,” he explains. Since arriving in Guinea, the activist has met several local officials who have encouraged him, including the mayor of Labé. He hopes to start drilling the first borehole in September.