Burkina Faso

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: African Countries; Countries

Burkina Faso
Flag of Burkina Faso Coat of arms of Burkina Faso
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Unité, Progrès, Justice"  (French)
"Unity, Progress, Justice")
Anthem: Une Seule Nuit  (French)
"One Single Night"
Location of Burkina Faso
(and largest city)
12°20′N 1°40′W
Official languages French
Government Parliamentary system
 - President Blaise Compaoré
 - Prime Minister Paramanga Ernest Yonli
Independence from France 
 - Date August 5, 1960 
 - Total 274,000 km² ( 74th)
105,792 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 0.1%
 - 2005 estimate 13,228,000 ( 66th)
 - 1996 census 10,312,669
 - Density 48/km² ( 145th)
124/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $16.845 billion1 ( 117th)
 - Per capita $1,284 ( 163rd)
HDI  (2004) 0.342 (low) ( 174th)
Currency CFA franc ( XOF)
Time zone GMT ( UTC)
Internet TLD .bf
Calling code +226
1 The data here is an estimation for the year 2005 produced by the International Monetary Fund in April 2005.

Burkina Faso is a landlocked nation in West Africa. It is surrounded by six countries: Mali to the north, Niger to the east, Benin to the south east, Togo and Ghana to the south, and Côte d'Ivoire to the south west. Formerly the Republic of Upper Volta, it was renamed on August 4, 1984 by President Thomas Sankara to mean "the land of upright people" (or "upright land") in Mossi and Dioula, the major native languages of the country. Independence from France came in 1960. Governmental instability during the 1970s and 1980s was followed by multiparty elections in the early 1990s. Several hundred thousand farm workers migrate south every year to Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana in search of paid labour. The inhabitants of Burkina Faso are known as Burkinabè or Burkinabé ( pronounced [burkiːnəˈbeː]).



Like all of the west of Africa, Burkina Faso was populated early, notably by hunter-gatherers in the northwestern part of the country (12,000 to 5000 BC), and whose tools (scrapers, chisels and arrowheads) were discovered in 1973. Settlements appeared between 3600 and 2600 BC with farmers, the traces of whose structures leave the impression of relatively permanent buildings. The use of iron, ceramics and polished stone developed between 1500 and 1000 BC, as well as a preoccupation with spiritual matters, as shown by the burial remains which have been discovered.

Relics of the Dogon are found in the centre-north, north and north west region. They left the area between the 15th and 16th centuries BC to settle in the cliffs of Bandiagara. Elsewhere, the remains of high walls are localised in the southwest of Burkina Faso (as well as in the Côte d'Ivoire), but the people who built them have not yet been definitely identified.

Burkina Faso was a very important economic region for the Songhai Empire during the 15th and 16th centuries.

From colony to independence

In 1896, the Mossi kingdom of Ouagadougou became a French protectorate after being defeated by French forces. In 1898, the majority of the region corresponding to Burkina Faso today was conquered. In 1904, these territories were integrated into French West Africa in the heart of the Upper-Senegal-Niger (Haut-Sénégal-Niger) colony.

Its inhabitants participated in the First World War in the heart of the battalions of the Senegalese Infantry (Tirailleurs sénégalais). It was originally administered as part of Côte d'Ivoire colony, but became a separate colony in 1919. On March 1, 1919, François Charles Alexis Édouard Hesling became the first governor of the new colony of Upper-Volta, which was broken up September 5, 1932, being shared between the Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Niger.

On September 4, 1947 Upper Volta was recreated with its 1932 boundaries. On December 11, 1958, it achieved self-government, and became a republic and member of the Franco-African Community (La Communauté Franco-Africaine). Full independence was attained in 1960. The country's first military coup occurred in 1966; it returned to civilian rule in 1978. There was another coup, led by Saye Zerbo in 1980, which in turn was overthrown in 1982. A counter-coup was launched in 1983, which left Captain Thomas Sankara in charge. The current president is Blaise Compaoré, who came to power in 1987 after a coup d'état that killed Thomas Sankara.


President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, Source: Antônio Cruz
President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, Source: Antônio Cruz

The constitution of June 2, 1991, established a semi-presidential government with a parliament (Assemblée) which can be dissolved by the President of the Republic, who is elected for a term of 5 years. The year 2000 saw a constitutional amendment reducing the presidential term from 7 to 5 years, which was enforced during the 2005 elections. Another change according to the amendment would have prevented sitting president Blaise Compaoré from being re-elected. However, notwithstanding a challenge by other presidential candidates, in October 2005 the constitutional council ruled that because Compaoré was already a sitting president in 2000, the amendment would not apply to him until the end of his second term in office. This cleared the way for his candidacy in the 2005 election. On November 13 Compaoré was reelected in a landslide due to a divided political opposition.

The parliament consists of two chambers: the lower house (l'Assemblée Nationale) and the upper house (la Chambre des Représentants). There is also a constitutional chamber, composed of ten members, and an economic and social council whose roles are purely consultative.

Administrative divisions

Burkina Faso is divided into 13 regions, 45 provinces, and 301 departments:

Regions: Boucle du Mouhoun, Cascades, Centre, Centre-Est, Centre-Nord, Centre-Ouest, Centre-Sud, Est, Hauts-Bassins, Nord, Plateau-Central, Sahel, Sud-Ouest. Provinces: Balé, Bam, Banwa, Bazega, Bougouriba, Boulgou, Boulkiemde, Comoe, Ganzourgou, Gnagna, Gourma, Houet, Ioba, Kadiogo, Kenedougou, Komondjari, Kompienga, Kossi, Koulpelogo, Kouritenga, Kourweogo, Leraba, Loroum, Mouhoun, Namentenga, Nahouri, Nayala, Noumbiel, Oubritenga, Oudalan, Passore, Poni, Sanguie, Sanmatenga, Seno, Sissili, Soum, Sourou, Tapoa, Tuy, Yagha, Yatenga, Ziro, Zondoma, Zoundweogo

Departments: See Departments of Burkina Faso


Map of Burkina Faso
Map of Burkina Faso
Satellite image of Burkina Faso, generated from raster graphics data supplied by The Map Library
Satellite image of Burkina Faso, generated from raster graphics data supplied by The Map Library
Tolotama Reforestation, Burkina Faso
Tolotama Reforestation, Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is made up of two major types of countryside:

  • The larger part of the country is covered by a peneplain which forms a gently undulating landscape with, in some areas, a few isolated hills, the last vestiges of a precambrian massif.
  • The south-west of the country forms a sandstone massif, where the highest peak is found: Ténakourou (749 m, 2,450 ft). The massif is bordered by sheer cliffs up to 150 metres (490  ft) high.

The average altitude is 400 metres (1,300 ft) and the difference between the highest and lowest terrain is no greater than 600 metres (2,000 ft). Burkina Faso is therefore a relatively flat country, with a very few localised exceptions.


The country owed its former name of Upper Volta to three rivers which cross it: le Mouhoun (formerly called the Black Volta), le Nakambé (the White Volta) and le Nazinon (the Red Volta). Le Mouhoun, along with la Comoé which flows to the south west, is the country's only river which flows year-round

The basin of the Niger River also drains 27% of the country's surface. Its tributaries (le Béli, le Gorouol, le Goudébo and le Dargol) are seasonal streams, and only flow for 4 to 6 months a year but can cause large floods.

The country also contains numerous lakes. The principal lakes are Tingrela, Bam and Dem, and the large ponds of Oursi, Béli, Yomboli and Markoye.

Water shortages are often a problem, especially in the north of the country.


Burkina Faso has a primarily tropical climate with two very distinct seasons: the rainy season with between 24-35 inches (600 and 900 mm) of rainfall, and the dry season during which the harmattan blows, a hot dry wind from the Sahara. The rainy season lasts approximately 4 months, May/June to September, and is shorter in the north of the country.

Three large climatic zones can be defined:

The Sahel Zone

( cut-and-paste ) The Sahel in the north typically receives less than 24 inches (600 mm) rainfall a year and high temperatures 15–50 ° C (60–120 ° F). A relatively dry tropical savanna, the Sahel extends beyond the borders of Burkina Faso, from the Horn of Africa to the Atlantic Ocean, and borders the Sahara to its north, and the fertile region of the Sudan to the South.

The Sudan-Sahel zone

Situated between 11°3' and 13°5' north latitude, the Sudan-Sahel region is a transitional zone with regards to rainfall and temperature.

The Sudan-Guinea zone

Further to the south, the Sudan-Guinea zone receives more than 35 inches (900 mm) rain a year and cooler average temperatures.


Tarfila Farming Group
Tarfila Farming Group
shop in Burkina Faso
shop in Burkina Faso
vendors in Burkina Faso
vendors in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world. This is represented numerically in its low GDP per capita income, $1,300. This ranks it as the 28th poorest nation, among other nations such as the Republic of the Congo and Tajikistan. This can be explained by its population growth and its arid soil. Agriculture represents 32% of its gross domestic product and occupies 80% of the working population. It consists mostly of livestock but also, especially in the south and southwest, of growing sorghum, millet, maize (corn), peanuts, rice and cotton.

Lack of work causes a high rate of emigration: for example, three million people from Burkina Faso live in Côte d'Ivoire. According to the Central Bank of Western African States (La Banque Centrale des États de l'Afrique de l'Ouest), these migrants send tens of billions of CFA francs back to Burkina Faso each year. Since the 1967 expulsions from Ghana, this situation has provoked tensions in the destination countries. The most recent crisis occurred owing to the events of 2003 in Côte d'Ivoire, which led to the return of 300,000 migrants.

A large part of the economic activity of the country is funded by international aid.

The currency of Burkina Faso is the CFA franc.

There is mineral exploitation of copper, iron, manganese and, above all, gold.

Burkina Faso also hosts the International Art and Craft Fair, Ouagadougou, better known by its French name as SIAO, Le Salon International de L Artisanat de Ouagadougou, one of the most important African handicraft fairs.


United Nations Square in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
United Nations Square in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Sala Well
Sala Well

Burkina Faso has an estimated life expectancy at birth of slightly under 50 years of age. The median age of its inhabitants is under 17.

Population growth rate: 2.71% (2000 est.)

Population estimates 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 2000 est.): the 11,946,065 Burkinabè belong to two major West African cultural groups--the Voltaic and the Mande. The Voltaic are far more numerous and include the Mossi, who make up about one-half of the population. Additionally, about 5,000 Europeans live in Burkina Faso.

The population is concentrated in the south and centre of the country, sometimes exceeding 48 per square kilometer (125/ sq. mi.). This high population density, causes annual migrations of hundreds of thousands, for seasonal employment.

Approximately 50% of the population is Muslim; Christians account for about 30%, and followers of traditional African religions (typically animism of various forms) make up about 20%. Many Christians and Muslims incorporate elements of animism into their religious practices.


Education in Burkina Faso is structured primary, secondary, and higher education. Education is technically free and officially mandatory until the age of 16, however few Burkinabè have had formal education. Though schooling is free, attendance is not enforced, and only about 35% of Burkina's primary school-age children receive a basic education. Institutions of higher education include the University of Ouagadougou, and The Polytechnical University in Bobo-Dioulasso.

There is also an International School of Ouagadougou, which is an American based private school, which is situated in the capital city, Ouagadougou.

The United Nations Development Program Report places Burkina Faso as the most illiterate country in the world, with only a 12.8% literacy rate. (See List of countries by literacy rate.)

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