portrait of Rebekka Edelmann


Where summer never ends

Rebekka Edelmann is the Head of KfW Development Bank's office in Burkina Faso. Temperatures at night regularly reach 25 degrees Celsius. In Germany, tropical nights like this are pretty unbearable. Ms Edelmann's reaction: ”Nice and cool.“

In an effort to get a head start in the daily battle against scorching temperatures, many locals get up at around five in the morning. Work at offices in the capital city of Ouagadougou also starts early. Rebekka Edelmann tends to start work between 7 and 8 a.m. She has already survived the hottest months of the year; in April and May, temperatures reached over 40 degrees in the shade. So, how does anyone manage to get any work done when summer lasts the entire year? "We've got an air-conditioning unit in the office — that's quite a privilege," says Ms Edelmann.

Last summer, the 34-year-old moved to the Burkinabe capital with her husband and their son, who was just one at the time. Daily life for the family changed completely. The three of them have now gotten used to the heat. Their son is a particularly big fan of the never-ending summer. "On our first trip back to Germany, he had to wear winter boots and a winter jacket, which did not go down well at all."

Rebekka Edelmann has been working for KfW Development Bank since 2011. After starting out in the office in Frankfurt am Main, her current secondment on behalf of the promotional bank allowed her to fulfil one of her dreams. "The people in Burkina Faso are very open and engaged. It is a wonderful place to live and work." Her team is made up of Germans and Burkinabes, with seven staff in total.

Rebekka Edelmann
The whole kit and caboodle

Rebekka Edelmann moved to the Burkinabe capital with her husband and son. The family has since gotten used to their new home, where it can reach 40 degrees in the shade.

Colleagues and friends tell them that the heat is becoming increasingly extreme. The effects of global warming are even making an impact here, an area which was already used to hitting record temperatures. Along with its neighbours Mali and Niger, Burkina Faso is part of a scorching trio of countries — it's hotter here than any other KfW location. Working on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Ms Edelmann and her team are working on the West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL)

Based in Ouagadougou, this will be West Africa's first climate research centre. The German ministry's thinking behind this idea is to conduct "research with and in Africa, instead research about or for Africa". The future goal is for the centre to set up climate research networks for the region and train African scientists. "The building's design plays a central role," says Ms Edelmann, who is working with her team and colleagues in Frankfurt to supervise the financing and construction of the centre. When it came to selecting the architectural design, low energy costs and alternative solutions to air-conditioning were both key factors. In terms of climate, the building requirements are different to those common in Germany — both for the new research centre and residential property. "Our house points north so that no sun can get in." Straw mats are also placed in front of the windows for protection. Very few local people have an air-conditioning unit at home. "In the hot season, lots of people get up at night to tip water over themselves," explains Ms Edelmann. There was just one single rain shower between the months of October and February. And yet despite this, Burkina Faso's annual rainfall is higher than that in the German state of Hesse. When the water does come, then it comes in floods.

”We've got an air-conditioning unit in the office — that's quite a privilege.“

Rebekka Edelmann, Head of a Representative Office of KfW Development Bank

Acting on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), KfW Development Bank has been involved in providing funds for the water sector and agriculture for a number of years. "In the rice fields, basins are designed and secured so that they are able to collect rain water. This helps the rice plants to grow and quadruples the crop yield," says the office director, describing one field of assistance. While rice cannot be grown without rain, building projects are only feasible during the dry season as fast-flowing streams can pose a threat to new foundations. During the rainy season, Rebekka Edelmann tends to travel less, staying more in Ouagadougou. There, she works with the Burkinabe partners and liaises with the German embassy and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit to help boost progress on the projects.

cover of CHANCEN magazine

This article appeared in the spring/summer 2015 issue of CHANCEN magazine focusing on the subject of heat.

To German edition

On the one hand, it can be very handy to have her office so close to the government district. However, it can also be very dangerous. In autumn 2014, the incumbent President Blaise Compaoré, who had already been in power since 1987, wanted to pass a law that would have enabled him to extend his term of office even further. There were protests among the population and fatal shots were fired not far from the KfW office. Ms Edelmann decided to temporarily close the office. Under pressure from the masses, Mr Compaoré gave up, fleeing the country after 27 years in office. People began cleaning the streets the very next day, and day-to-day life returned. "The Burkinabe population managed to achieve a peaceful transition," says Ms Edelmann, who holds a degree in Social Sciences. While the situation remained unpredictable until the elections in October 2015, Ms Edelmann was impressed by peoples' attitudes. She also feels relieved on a personal level. "I am happy that I closed the office at the right time and that KfW's Security Management team in Frankfurt provided us with such great support."

Published on KfW Stories: Tuesday, 9 May 2017


All United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda in 2015. At its heart is a list of 17 goals for sustainable development, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our world should become a place where people are able to live in peace with each other in ways that are ecologically compatible, socially just, and economically effective.