Sitting beside the main road 100km from Niger’s capital Niamey is a gang of lads. They are talking softly and amusing each other. One is making tea, a process that involves much water play. The water pot fills a tiny tin teapot, the teapot a tiny glass; it’s poured back into the pot, sugar added, the stream of nectar poured once more, and so forth. It’s 2:00am. The boys have no interest, possibly no place, to sleep. They are sitting and reclining outside a shop that has generously left its outside-light on. They invite me to join them. We chat away the hours, laughing at the driver’s snoring and being nervously amused when seven donkeys wander down the main street nearly trampling those sleeping.
The one with the teapot is called
Shoma; he's 22 and single. He’s completed two years of a four-year course in
"Informatiques". It’s a small class and standards are high; there
is much pressure to keep up with the studies. At the end of it he hopes to be
an air-traffic controller. It is a good job and not many people qualify. He‘s
still single but unlike his friends believes there is plenty of time. His priority
is to study, qualify, get a good job, and build a good house. Then, when he's
28 he will marry and start a family. His bride will be 18 years old.
"Are you sure?" I ask him.
"Yes," he says, "it’s better to get a fresh one".