It is 10 days since the finish of the Ultra Africa Race in Burkina Faso. I have completed many challenging desert, multi-stage races in recent years, but never has it taken this long to recover.
My feet became badly blistered from the second day onwards as a result of the intense heat and roughness of the terrain. By the last day of the race I had infections in both feet which only deteriorated during the three days of post-race travel from Banfora to Johannesburg.
But that’s life for participants in extreme sport events such as multi-stage desert races. It is not a case if it will be challenging of not, but rather how best your body will cope with circumstances. The sad part of this race was that other than the problems with my feet I felt strong throughout, but a runner without feet in the conditions which we encountered in Burkina Faso is quickly relegated to someone which resembles a slow moving tortoise. And towards the end of the race I was nothing more than a big tortoise in serious pain. Fortunately, I finished the five-day, 213km race, and the healing of my feet is slowly making progress.
I have dedicated my participation in the 2013 Ultra Africa Race to the work of the ONE Campaign in Africa. During each day of the race we highlighted a specific issue of interest to the work of ONE – technology, health, energy, transparency and agriculture. These 5 issues are of special relevance to a country such as Burkina Faso, and especially the south-western region where the race was held. In addition to the intense heat which characterizes the area, modern infrastructure and government services are mostly absent. There is no electricity and running water, hardly any functional education and healthcare facilities, and the primary economic activity is subsistence farming. Daily life is a struggle for most, and the local circumstances that we witnessed during the race highlighted the challenges that still confront people in many parts of Africa, especially rural Africa.
Although Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world, and therefore should continue to benefit from international support, it is also a country rich in mineral resources. Many international mining companies and other players are busy exploring opportunities in the country. The challenge for Burkina Faso, as with many other African countries, is ultimately how they will utilize their natural wealth to improve their citizens’ quality of life.
ONE’s increasing emphasis on transparency related to the conduct of multinational companies, while also urging African governments to be more “open” about the allocation of resources in support of development priorities such as health, education and agriculture, are important interventions in ensuring that the proceeds of Africa’s natural wealth ultimately support the future development of the continent. This is no easy task and will require the sustained efforts of ONE and many other like-minded civil society actors.
My organisation, TechSoup Global, will support the hosting of a Net2 Camp in early 2014 in Burkina Faso, which will provide local civil society organisations with a strategic opportunity to learn more about the power and potential of technology in support of their work and citizen action.
I would like to thank the ONE team in Johannesburg and London for all their support before and during the race, and the many messages of support and encouragement which people posted on the ONE Facebook and blog pages.
It is an honour to be associated with ONE as a member of the Africa Policy Advisory Board, and the opportunity I had to support ONE’s work through my participation in the Ultra Africa Race.
I am already planning my next desert running adventure and hope to continue supporting the work of ONE and other worthy causes through my participation.
But for now, my run for ONE is done!
David Barnard is a member of ONE’s Africa Policy Advisory Board and the Vice-President, Africa, of TechSoup. From 14-18 November he took on an incredible challenge: the Ultra AFRICA Race in Burkina Faso.