Residents of the Ivorian city of Man may soon get an Eindhoven Mayor: journalist Alex Gbanse has applied from Eindhoven for this position. He wants to improve the place where he grew up and hopes Brainport can lend a hand.
A male choir sings a song as Alex Gbanse arrives at Man centre to kick off his election campaign. The lyrics reveal that the Eindhoven native’s name is already resonating quite a bit in the city. They sing: ‘We wonder … who is this Gbanse anyway? Who is this Alex? But now it’s clear. Because voilá, he’s here’.
So the name recognition seems fine. Although to become Mayor you need much more than that. Alex doesn’t know what exactly, but he rates his chances pretty high. “I’m going to win”, he grins confidently .
“It’s a kid from here coming back from the whites”, Alex’s sister, who has lived in Man all her life, says. She, too, is confident that this election will be won.
Work to do
Man is the ninth largest city in Ivory Coast, has about 200,000 inhabitants and is located in a wonderful natural area where mountains and jungles alternate. After the devastating war several years ago, conditions in the city have improved somewhat but there are still significant problems. For example, at the elementary school in the city, classrooms are bursting at the seams: 150 children being taught at the same time in a room without air conditioning has been daily practice in Man for years.
“It’s unbearable, 150 children in a very hot classroom”, Alex says in his home in the Eindhoven neighbourhood of Gestel while showing a photo as proof. It does indeed depict an improbably high number of children in a classroom. “They are short of space and short of staff. Meanwhile, one half of the class is taught in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. How I would love to make sure that all children in the city could just go to school”, he sighs. But there is much more. Pollution, youth unemployment, corruption…. The city’s roads are bumpy and bad, and market vendors complain bitterly about the abominably poor facilities.
If it is up to Gbanse, these problems will soon be addressed. The founder of the only independent Ivorian internet newspaper Connectionivoirienne.net has run for Mayor and wants to work to improve the quality of life in Man. The hilly area with its overwhelmingly beautiful nature and humorous people is so close to his heart that he feels a great need to serve the city. He has since secured a team of hundreds to assist the campaign. In May, he travelled more than 7,000 kilometres in the area to campaign himself.
Should Gbansé win, he wants to govern the Ivorian city partly from Eindhoven. With a Deputy Mayor on the spot and a good video connection, he believes that should work. “It is precisely interesting to stay here and make the connection with Brainport. The innovations coming out of our region can have a huge impact there. Man also has a technical university, who knows, I might manage to set up a partnership.”
But the magic can also work in the opposite direction: he is sure that the Brabanders around him can be charmed by the extraordinary landscape, the mystical West African culture and the cheerful nature of the Ivorians. A place where you can pick mangoes right from the trees. The journalist is therefore organising a trip during the week when the people of Man go to the polls. Anyone who wants to contribute something to his mission, is looking for new usefulness or just wants to take a breathtaking trip through Ivory Coast may join him.
Residents will go to the polls at the end of August; until then, Gbansé will have the opportunity to spread his message. Even if he is not elected Mayor, he wants to work with other Eindhoven residents to help Man. People who want to help can email email@example.com.
Translated by: Bob