blog from chad

IKEA Africa Flatpack


The office is an imposing dual  – double storey building with terraced rooftop.


The topography department has been here 6 months. Offices downstairs and the roving staff members occupy the first floor rooms. Up till now it was clear that they regard these premises as temporary. But in view of the pipeline work lying ahead they will be here for a long time! It is time to make this our home.I finally persuaded head office to upgrade the facilities so that we can work properly.


We finally received a delivery of furniture and goods for our Moundou office. A bunch of battered boxes and bags arrived on Monday. Chairs, a few desks, cupboards etc. in flatpacks.

The bags contained parts for 4 office swivel chairs and 4 normal chairs, backrests and seats. The steel tubing frames and wheels for swivel chairs stacked in a corner. Nassour and I tackled the 4 chairs – simple enough screw on the backrests and cover, bolt in the 4 seats with screws provided. No plans or instructions but who needs those for simple chairs. The backrests were easy except that we had to twist and strain to get the screws to line up with the corresponding holes in the support tubing. These backrests are made of bent plywood upholstered with mock leather. The plastic back covers sort of match their shape. The seats are much more rigid and at first we could not locate the screw holes. They were simply stapled over with a black cloth covering under side of the seats. We had to cut little holes in this cover to expose the screw holes. We screw in the left hand side and proceed to the other side only to discover that although clearly intended for screws, the holes do not match. It is no use, try as we may, we simply cannot fix the RHS screws. Our chair bases are now loose on one side. Manufacturer simply did not follow the steel tubing chair template. Maxim – where did you say they were made? Dubai.

We decide to give up, perhaps some local woodscrews will solve the problem. I miss my trusty old Makita drill!

Maxime and Yves in the meantime tackle the swivel chairs. Screw in the wheels at the bases. Put in the piston upright with its plastic cover. Screw in the metal support under the seat. Again no holes visible as the upholstery simply covers the whole chair in one go. We feel with our fingers and discover them hidden – snip away to expose. Careful you will tear the fabric –  mock leather – but they manage. The armrests are simple enough EXCEPT that we only find 1 screw for the 4 chairs and guess what, only ONE piston upright, where is the rest? What has N’Djamena head office been doing when they packed these in plastic bags or is it the factory? Maxim where did you say they were made?


We give them up for a bad job.

With renewed enthusiasm we tackle the first big flatpack.

It is evidently a desk all neatly packed. AHA IKEA style. We neatly stack all the planks and components on the side and prepare a clean assembly area with as little dust as possible. WHAT no assembly instructions!?  Maxim is getting annoyed and wails where do these come from? I immediately see how it is supposed to work thanks to my extensive exposure to IKEA flatpacks. So I direct the works. First these special screws in all the pre marked holes and see these special round “nuts” fit in these holes and you twist them to grab hold of the screws and voila two planks are held together.

By now there is no electricity on the premises AGAIN and the temperature is rising steadily. We are steaming inside. Only one of our screwdrivers works with these screws and it is hard. We assemble the side supports and put the top on. Miraculously the holes match the screws! But then discover that we have to take the top off in order to assemble the drawer supports. They sort of fit but start sagging along the middle. Nassour puzzles over some planks until I explain that these are for the drawers. How do they work then? Thanks to IKEA I know and show them how- BUT the steel roller guides are all different and it takes 45 minutes to discover the differences and how we are supposed to mount these rails inside the half made desk. Instead of holes nicely aligned we find some marks where the screws go. I miss my MAKITA drill! It is hard using only screwdriver- tools are scarce in this office. I only ordered screwdrivers etc for surveying equipment not carpentry! But we manage – sort of. The back plank of one of the drawers was packed at the factory all broken but we manage to nail it together. Where did you say there were made? Have they heard of quality control?

We are all sweating profusely, me the most and  my entire shirt is soaked. It reminds me of my time in humid Thailand – we give up it is lunchtime.

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I arrive after lunch to find everyone sitting at their desk the half assembled desk forlorn and studiously ignored. Maxim says he saw similar desks in town and he will find out who installed those. I refuse to give up – My shirt has dried out at lunch and with renewed ardour we tackle the rest of the desk. It works but I drew the line at fitting the locking mechanism of the drawers – I figured it out but it is too fiddly and without a drill……!

So now we have ONE desk put together there are 3 more big flatpacks waiting and two smaller ones.

Surely the smaller ones will be easy- they are also small desks with no drawers. No assembly instruction (what did you expect?) but easily figured out. I manage to assemble this one ok but struggle with some of the screws as our screwdriver is too long to fit between the shelves. Many plastic trims etc simply fall off when you touch them. The glue simply did not adhere or is it the Chad heat? I sweat and curse the A–hole that designed and manufactured this. What were they thinking at head office buying this?

I have been doing too much talking and computer work the last few months. My hands have  become soft and I discover a blister where the screwdriver ate into it while forcing the screws in the non existing holes. Where is my Makita?

IKEA! You are sorely missed in CHAD.



One Response to “IKEA Africa Flatpack”

  1. Jane and Mike Says:

    Hi ”Msr Ikea substitute”-great description of impossible task-sledge hammers are always useful when there’s only one screwdriver?Also u must have lost a few avoirs de poids-was there enough beer at the end of this marathon…And where was this wonderful easy-to-fix furniture made?! A real L & H event-do u remember their piano moving film-they r my favourites.Nothing to report here except the usual round of aperos etc so u better get into training.Cheers-Mike/Jane