Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

   flag of Burkina Faso


Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) achieved independence from France in 1960. Repeated military coups during the 1970s and 1980s were followed by multiparty elections in the early 1990s. Current President Blaise COMPAORE came to power in a 1987 military coup and has won every election since then. Burkina Faso's high population density and limited natural resources result in poor economic prospects for the majority of its citizens. Recent unrest in Cote d'Ivoire and northern Ghana has hindered the ability of several hundred thousand seasonal Burkinabe farm workers to find employment in neighboring countries.

Official name:

Burkina Faso


name: Ouagadougou
geographic coordinates: 12 22 N, 1 31 W
time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Government type:

parliamentary republic


note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2007 est.)


French (official), native African languages belonging to Sudanic family spoken by 90% of the population

Official Currency:


Currency code:



total: 274,200 sq km
land: 273,800 sq km
water: 400 sq km


tropical; warm, dry winters; hot, wet summers





Western Africa, north of Ghana

Geographic coordinates:

13 00 N, 2 00 W

Map references:



total: 274,200 sq km
land: 273,800 sq km
water: 400 sq km

Area - comparative:

slightly larger than Colorado

Land boundaries:

total: 3,193 km
border countries: Benin 306 km, Cote d'Ivoire 584 km, Ghana 549 km, Mali 1,000 km, Niger 628 km, Togo 126 km


0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims:

none (landlocked)


tropical; warm, dry winters; hot, wet summers


mostly flat to dissected, undulating plains; hills in west and southeast

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Mouhoun (Black Volta) River 200 m
highest point: Tena Kourou 749 m

Natural resources:

manganese, limestone, marble; small deposits of gold, phosphates, pumice, salt

Land use:

arable land: 17.66%
permanent crops: 0.22%
other: 82.12% (2005)

Irrigated land:

250 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

recurring droughts

Environment - current issues:

recent droughts and desertification severely affecting agricultural activities, population distribution, and the economy; overgrazing; soil degradation; deforestation

Environment - international agreements:

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note:

landlocked savanna cut by the three principal rivers of the Black, Red, and White Voltas



OUAGADOUGOU 12 35 N, 1 51 W, 1003 feet (306 meters) above sea level.

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. Temperature
25 27 31 33 32 29 27 26 27 29 28 25
Avg. Max Temperature
33 35 38 39 37 35 32 31 32 35 36 33
Avg. Min Temperature
18 19 24 27 26 24 23 22 22 23 20 18
Avg. Rain Days
0 0 0 2 3 5 7 8 6 1 0 0
Avg. Snow Days
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

BOBO-DIOULASSO 11 16 N, 4 31 W, 1509 feet (460 meters) above sea level.

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. Temperature
26 28 31 30 29 27 25 25 25 27 28 26
Avg. Max Temperature
33 34 37 36 34 32 29 29 30 32 34 33
Avg. Min Temperature
20 22 25 25 24 22 22 21 21 22 21 20
Avg. Rain Days
0 0 0 1 2 3 5 8 4 2 0 0
Avg. Snow Days
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

OUAHIGOUYA 13 56 N, 2 41 W, 1102 feet (336 meters) above sea level.

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. Temperature
25 27 31 33 33 31 28 27 27 29 28 25
Avg. Max Temperature
32 34 38 40 39 36 33 31 33 36 36 33
Avg. Min Temperature
18 19 24 27 27 25 23 23 23 23 20 18
Avg. Rain Days
0 0 0 0 1 1 4 4 4 1 0 0
Avg. Snow Days
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Burkina Faso's 13.9 million people belong to two major West African cultural groups--the Voltaic and the Mande (whose common language is Dioula). The Voltaic Mossi make up about one-half of the population. The Mossi claim descent from warriors who migrated to present-day Burkina Faso from Ghana and established an empire that lasted more than 800 years. Predominantly farmers, the Mossi kingdom is still led by the Mogho Naba, whose court is in Ouagadougou.

Burkina Faso is an ethnically integrated, secular state. Most of Burkina's people are concentrated in the south and center of the country, sometimes exceeding 48 per square kilometer (125/sq. mi.). This population density, high for Africa, causes migrations of hundreds of thousands of Burkinabe to Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana, many for seasonal agricultural work. These flows of workers are obviously affected by external events; the September 2002 coup attempt in Cote d'Ivoire and the ensuing fighting there have meant that hundreds of thousands of Burkinabe returned to Burkina Faso. A plurality of Burkinabe are Muslim, but most also adhere to traditional African religions. The introduction of Islam to Burkina Faso was initially resisted by the Mossi rulers. Christians, both Roman Catholics and Protestants, comprise about 25% of the population, with their largest concentration in urban areas.

Female genital mutilation, child labor, child trafficking, and social exclusion of accused sorcerers remain serious problems, although the government has taken steps in recent years to combat these phenomena. Workers and civil servants generally have the right to organize unions, engage in collective bargaining, and strike for better pay and working conditions. Few Burkinabe have had formal education. Schooling is in theory free and compulsory until the age of 16, but only about 44% of Burkina's primary school-age children are enrolled in primary school due to actual costs of school supplies and school fees and to opportunity costs of sending a child who could earn money for the family to school. The University of Ouagadougou, founded in 1974, was the country's first institution of higher education. The Polytechnical University in Bobo-Dioulasso was opened in 1995.


note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2007 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 46.7% (male 3,356,737/female 3,327,058)
15-64 years: 50.9% (male 3,635,152/female 3,650,303)
65 years and over: 2.5% (male 141,554/female 215,399) (2007 est.)

Population growth rate:

2.997% (2007 est.)

Birth rate:

45.28 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)

Death rate:

15.31 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)

Net migration rate:

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.009 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.996 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.657 male(s)/female
total population: 0.992 male(s)/female (2007 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 89.79 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 97.55 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 81.8 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 49.21 years
male: 47.68 years
female: 50.8 years (2007 est.)

Total fertility rate:

6.41 children born/woman (2007 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

4.2% (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:

300,000 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

29,000 (2003 est.)

Major infectious diseases:

degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: malaria is a high risk in some locations
water contact disease: schistosomiasis
respiratory disease: meningococcal meningitis
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified among birds in this country or surrounding region; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2007)


noun: Burkinabe (singular and plural)
adjective: Burkinabe

Ethnic groups:

Mossi over 40%, other approximately 60% (includes Gurunsi, Senufo, Lobi, Bobo, Mande, and Fulani)


Muslim 50%, indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian (mainly Roman Catholic) 10%


French (official), native African languages belonging to Sudanic family spoken by 90% of the population


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 21.8%
male: 29.4%
female: 15.2% (2003 est.)



Until the end of the 19th century, the history of Burkina Faso was dominated by the empire-building Mossi. The French arrived and claimed the area in 1896, but Mossi resistance ended only with the capture of their capital Ouagadougou in 1901. The colony of Upper Volta was established in 1919, but it was dismembered and reconstituted several times until the present borders were recognized in 1947.

The French administered the area indirectly through Mossi authorities until independence was achieved on August 5, 1960. The first President, Maurice Yameogo, amended the constitution soon after taking office to ban opposition political parties. His government lasted until 1966, when the first of several military coups placed Lt. Col. Sangoule Lamizana at the head of a government of senior army officers. Lamizana remained in power throughout the 1970s, as President of military and then elected governments.

With the support of unions and civil groups, Col. Saye Zerbo overthrew President Lamizana in 1980. Colonel Zerbo also encountered resistance from trade unions and was overthrown 2 years later by Maj. Dr. Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo and the Council of Popular Salvation (CSP). Factional infighting developed between moderates in the CSP and radicals led by Capt. Thomas Sankara, who was appointed Prime Minister in January 1983, but was subsequently arrested. Efforts to bring about his release, directed by Capt. Blaise Compaore, resulted in yet another military coup d'etat, led by Sankara and Compaore on August 4, 1983.

Sankara established the National Revolutionary Committee with himself as President and vowed to 'mobilize the masses.' But the committee's membership remained secret and was dominated by Marxist-Leninist military officers. In 1984, Upper Volta changed its name to Burkina Faso, meaning 'the country of honorable people.' But many of the strict security and austerity measures taken by Sankara provoked resistance. Despite his initial popularity and personal charisma, Sankara was assassinated in a coup which brought Capt. Blaise Compaore to power in October 1987.

Compaore pledged to pursue the goals of the revolution but to 'rectify' Sankara's 'deviations' from the original aims. In fact, Compaore reversed most of Sankara's policies and combined the leftist party he headed with more centrist parties after the 1989 arrest and execution of two colonels who had supported Compaore and governed with him up to that point.


With Compaore alone at the helm, a democratic constitution was approved by referendum in 1991. In December 1991, Compaore was elected President, running unopposed after the opposition boycotted the election. The opposition did participate in the following year's legislative elections, in which the ruling party won a majority of seats.

The government of the Fourth Republic includes a strong presidency, a prime minister, a Council of Ministers presided over by the president, a unicameral National Assembly, and the judiciary. The legislature and judiciary are nominally independent but remain susceptible to executive influence.

Burkina held multiparty municipal elections in 1995 and 2000 and legislative elections in 1997 and 2002. Balloting was considered largely free and fair in all elections. The Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), the governing party, won overwhelming majorities in all the elections until the 2002 legislative election, where the CDP won with a small majority of the 111 seats. The opposition made large gains in the 2002 elections. Elections were held again in May 2007.

Compaore won the November 1998 presidential election for a second 7-year term against two minor-party candidates. But within weeks of Compaore's victory the domestic opposition took to the streets to protest the December 13, 1998 murder of leading independent journalist Norbert Zongo, whose investigations of the death of the President's brother's chauffeur suggested involvement of the Compaore family.

The opposition Collective Against Impunity--led by human rights activist Halidou Ouedraogo and including opposition political parties of Prof. Joseph Ki-Zerbo and (for a while) Hermann Yameogo, son of the first President--challenged Compaore and his government to bring Zongo's murderers to justice and make political reforms. The Zongo killings still resonate in Burkina politics, though not as strongly as in the past. There has been no significant progress on the investigation of the case.

Compaore was re-elected to the presidency for a 5-year term in November 2005. The current cabinet is dominated by Compaore and the CDP. Given the fragile roots of democratic institutions, constitutional checks and balances are seldom effective in practice. The constitution was amended in 2000 to limit the president to a 5-year term, renewable once, beginning with the November 2005 election. The amendment is controversial because it did not make any mention of retroactivity, meaning that President Compaore's eligibility to present himself for the 2005 presidential election is a matter of debate. The Constitutional Court ruled in October 2005 that the amendment was not retroactive, and Compaore went on to win the November 2005 presidential election with over 80% of the vote. International and national electoral observers mostly believed that the election was fair.

Principal Government Officials
President--Blaise Compaore
Prime Minister--Tertius Zongo

Economy and Development--Seydou Bouda
Foreign Affairs--Youssouf Ouedraogo
Justice--Boureima Badini
Defense--Yero Boly
Security--Djibril Yipene Bassole
Territorial Administration and Decentralization--Moumouni Fabre
Commerce, Enterprise Promotion and Handicrafts--Benoit Outtara
Mines and Energy--Abdoulaye Abdoulkader Cisse
Higher Education and Scientific Research--Laya Sawadogo
Information--Joseph Kahoun
Basic Education and Mass Literacy--Mathieu Ouedraogo
Infrastructure, Housing and Transport--Hippolyte Lingani
Civil Service and Institutional Development--Lassane Sawadogo
Employment, Labor, and Social Security--Alain Ludovic Tou
Agriculture, Water, and Water Resources--Salif Diallo
Environment and Standard of Living--Laurent Sedogo
Regional Cooperation--Jean de Dieu Somda
Parliamentary Relations--Adama Fofana
Communications and Culture--Kilimite Theodore Hien
Health--Bedouma Alain Yoda
Sports and Leisure--Tioundoun Sessouma
Transport and Tourism--Salvador Yameogo
Telecommunications and Post--Justin Tieba Thiombiano
Arts, Culture, and Tourism--Mahamoudou Ouedraogo
Social and Family Affairs--Mariam Lamizana
Animal Resources--Alphonse Bonou
Human Rights Promotion--Monique Ilboudo
Women's Affairs--Gisele Guigma


Country name:

conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Burkina Faso
local long form: none
local short form: Burkina Faso
former: Upper Volta, Republic of Upper Volta

Government type:

parliamentary republic


name: Ouagadougou
geographic coordinates: 12 22 N, 1 31 W
time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions:

45 provinces; Bale, Bam, Banwa, Bazega, Bougouriba, Boulgou, Boulkiemde, Comoe, Ganzourgou, Gnagna, Gourma, Houet, Ioba, Kadiogo, Kenedougou, Komondjari, Kompienga, Kossi, Koulpelogo, Kouritenga, Kourweogo, Leraba, Loroum, Mouhoun, Nahouri, Namentenga, Nayala, Noumbiel, Oubritenga, Oudalan, Passore, Poni, Sanguie, Sanmatenga, Seno, Sissili, Soum, Sourou, Tapoa, Tuy, Yagha, Yatenga, Ziro, Zondoma, Zoundweogo


5 August 1960 (from France)

National holiday:

Republic Day, 11 December (1958)


2 June 1991 approved by referendum, 11 June 1991 formally adopted; last amended January 2002

Legal system:

based on French civil law system and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction



Executive branch:

chief of state: President Blaise COMPAORE (since 15 October 1987)
head of government: Prime Minister Tertius ZONGO (since 4 June 2007)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 13 November 2005 (next to be held in 2010); in April 2000, the constitution was amended reducing the presidential term from seven to five years, enforceable as of 2005; prime minister appointed by the president with the consent of the legislature
election results: Blaise COMPAORE reelected president; percent of popular vote - Blaise COMPAORE 80.3%, Benewende Stanislas SANKARA 4.9%

Legislative branch:

unicameral National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (111 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: National Assembly election last held 6 May 2007 (next to be held in May 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CDP 73, RDA-ADF 14, UPR 5, UNIR-MS 4, CFD-B 3, UPS 2, PDP-PS 2, RDB 2, PDS 2, PAREN 1, PAI 1, RPC 1, UDPS 1

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court; Appeals Court

Political parties and leaders:

African Democratic Rally-Alliance for Democracy and Federation or ADF-RDA [Gilbert OUEDRAOGO]; Citizen's Popular Rally or RPC; Confederation for Federation and Democracy or CFD [Amadou Diemdioda DICKO]; Congress for Democracy and Progress or CDP [Roch Marc-Christian KABORE]; Convention of the Democratic Forces of Burkina or CFD-B; Movement for Tolerance and Progress or MTP [Nayabtigungou Congo KABORE]; Party for African Independence or PAI [Philippe OUEDRAOGO]; Party for Democracy and Progress/Socialist Party or PDP/PS [Ali LANKOANDE]; Party for Democracy and Socialism or PDS; Party for National Rebirth or PAREN; Rally for the Development of Burkina or RDB; Rally of Ecologists of Burkina Faso or RDEB [Ram OUEDRAGO]; Republican Party for Integration and Solidarity or PARIS [Cyril GOUNGOUNGA]; Union for Democracy and Social Progress or UDPS; Union for Rebirth - Sankarist Movement or UNIR-MS; Union for the Republic or UPR [Toussaint Abel COULIBALY]; Union of Sankarist Parties or UPS

Political pressure groups and leaders:

Burkinabe General Confederation of Labor or CGTB; Burkinabe Movement for Human Rights or MBDHP; Group of 14 February; National Confederation of Burkinabe Workers or CNTB; National Organization of Free Unions or ONSL; watchdog/political action groups throughout the country in both organizations and communities

International organization participation:


Flag description:

two equal horizontal bands of red (top) and green with a yellow five-pointed star in the center; uses the popular pan-African colors of Ethiopia


Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of $424. More than 80% of the population relies on subsistence agriculture, with only a small fraction directly involved in industry and services. Drought, poor soil, lack of adequate communications and other infrastructure, a low literacy rate, and an economy vulnerable to external shocks are all longstanding problems. The export economy also remains subject to fluctuations in world prices.

Burkina remains committed to the structural adjustment program it launched in 1991, and it has been one of the first beneficiaries of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) debt-relief and poverty reduction programs for highly indebted poor countries. At least 20% of the government budget is financed from international aid, and the majority of infrastructure investments are externally financed. Growth rates had been more than 5% from the late 1990s through 2003.

Many Burkinabe migrate to neighboring countries for work, and their remittances provide a contribution to the economy's balance of payments that is second only to cotton as a source of foreign exchange earnings. Political and economic problems in Cote d'Ivoire have had a direct impact on this source of revenue for millions of Burkina households. The military crisis in neighboring Cote d'Ivoire negatively affected trade between the two countries, due to the year-long closure of the border between Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire from September 2002 to September 2003. Goods and services, as well as remittances, continue to flow from Burkinabe living in Cote d'Ivoire, but they have been rerouted through other countries in the region, such as Togo, Ghana, and Benin. Commercial and personal traffic across the border is slowly rebuilding steam.

Burkina is attempting to improve the economy by developing its mineral resources, improving its infrastructure, making its agricultural and livestock sectors more productive and competitive, and stabilizing the supplies and prices of food grains. Staple crops are millet, sorghum, maize, and rice. The cash crops are cotton, groundnuts, karite (shea nuts), and sesame. Livestock, once a major export, has declined.

Manufacturing is limited to cotton and food processing (mainly in Bobo-Dioulasso) and import substitution heavily protected by tariffs. Some factories are privately owned, and others are set to be privatized. Burkina's exploitable natural resources are limited, although deposits of manganese, zinc, and gold have attracted the interest of international mining firms.

A railway connects Burkina with the port of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, 1,150 kilometers (712 mi.) away. Due to the closure of the border with Cote d'Ivoire, this railway was not operational between September 2002 and September 2003, but cargo and limited passenger service are now offered. Primary roads between main towns in Burkina Faso are paved. Domestic air service and flights within Africa are limited. Phones and Internet service providers are relatively reliable, but the cost of utilities is very high.


Economy - overview:

One of the poorest countries in the world, landlocked Burkina Faso has few natural resources and a weak industrial base. About 90% of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture, which is vulnerable to periodic drought. Cotton is the main cash crop and the government has joined with three other cotton producing countries in the region - Mali, Niger, and Chad - to lobby for improved access to Western markets. GDP growth has largely been driven by increases in world cotton prices. Industry remains dominated by unprofitable government-controlled corporations. Following the CFA franc currency devaluation in January 1994, the government updated its development program in conjunction with international agencies; exports and economic growth have increased. The government devolved macroeconomic policy and inflation targeting to the West African regional central bank (BCEAO), but maintains control over fiscal and microeconomic policies, including implementing reforms to encourage private investment. The bitter internal crisis in neighboring Cote d'Ivoire continues to hurt trade and industrial prospects and deepens the need for international assistance. Burkina Faso is eligible for a Millennium Challenge Account grant, which would increase investment in the country's human capital.

GDP - real growth rate:

6.5% (2006 est.)

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$18.76 billion (2006 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$5.832 billion (2006 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$1,300 (2006 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 32.6%
industry: 19.7%
services: 47.7% (2006 est.)

Population below poverty line:

45% (2003 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 2%
highest 10%: 46.8% (1994)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

4% (2006 est.)

Labor force:

5 million
note: a large part of the male labor force migrates annually to neighboring countries for seasonal employment (2003)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 90%
industry and services: 10% (2000 est.)

Unemployment rate:



revenues: $1.158 billion
expenditures: $1.714 billion; including capital expenditures of NA (2006 est.)


cotton lint, beverages, agricultural processing, soap, cigarettes, textiles, gold

Industrial production growth rate:

14% (2001 est.)

Electricity - production:

400 million kWh (2004)

Electricity - consumption:

372 million kWh (2004)

Electricity - exports:

0 kWh (2004)

Electricity - imports:

0 kWh (2004)

Oil - production:

0 bbl/day (2004)

Oil - consumption:

8,200 bbl/day (2004 est.)

Oil - exports:

NA bbl/day

Oil - imports:

NA bbl/day

Oil - proved reserves:

0 bbl

Natural gas - production:

0 cu m (2004 est.)

Agriculture - products:

cotton, peanuts, shea nuts, sesame, sorghum, millet, corn, rice; livestock


$543.5 million f.o.b. (2006 est.)

Exports - commodities:

cotton, livestock, gold

Exports - partners:

China 40.4%, Singapore 13.9%, Ghana 5.7%, Taiwan 4.9%, Thailand 4.7%, Niger 4.2% (2006)


$1.016 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)

Imports - commodities:

capital goods, foodstuffs, petroleum

Imports - partners:

Cote d'Ivoire 25.4%, France 22.3%, Togo 7% (2006)

Debt - external:

$1.85 billion (2003)

Economic aid - recipient:

$468.4 million (2003)




Currency code:


Exchange rates:

Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (XOF) per US dollar - 522.59 (2006), 527.47 (2005), 528.29 (2004), 581.2 (2003), 696.99 (2002)

Fiscal year:

calendar year




Military branches:

Army, Air Force of Burkina Faso (Force Aerienne de Burkina Faso, FABF), National Gendarmerie (2006)

Military service age and obligation:

18 years of age for compulsory military service; 20 years of age for voluntary military service (2001)

Manpower available for military service:

males age 18-49: 2,651,687 (2005 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:

males age 18-49: 1,530,324 (2005 est.)










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