Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Sitting on top of the world

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At 26, Annick Vangah is on top of the world. She’s in the driver’s seat of a 7.2-ton public bus in Abidjan, one of the biggest and busiest cities in West Africa and Ivory Coast’s commercial capital.

Until 2002, only men were allowed to drive the buses owned by Abidjan’s public transport company SOTRA. Today, Vangah is one of 19 women behind the wheel of the city’s public buses. The company’s nearly 1,900 other drivers are all men.

“Commuters were surprised at first to see a new woman driver on Route 18,” she remembers, as she steers her 32-seater Tata bus from the city’s port zone to the business district in the centre, a route which before was always driven by men. “There are clients who congratulate us, others who think it’s better for women to stay at home. We just have to deal with it.”

This wasn’t always Vangah’s dream. After failing her high school diploma she trained as an auto mechanic but couldn’t find work. So when SOTRA recruited new bus drivers in 2006, she jumped at the chance.

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