Facts about Burkina Faso

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Burkina FasoBurkina 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. 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.

Geography of Burkina Faso

Western Africa, north of Ghana
13 00 N, 2 00 W
total: 274,200 sq km
water: 400 sq km
land: 273,800 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)
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, antimony, copper, nickel, bauxite, lead, phosphates, zinc, silver
Natural hazards:
recurring droughts
Environment - current issues:
recent droughts and desertification severely affecting agricultural activities, population distribution, and the economy; overgrazing; soil degradation; deforestation
Geography - note:
landlocked savanna cut by the three principal rivers of the Black, Red, and White Voltas

Population of Burkina Faso

15,264,735 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 46.8% (male 3,267,202/female 3,235,190)
15-64 years: 50.7% (male 3,513,559/female 3,538,623)
65 years and over: 2.5% (male 140,083/female 208,315)
Median age:
16.5 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
91.35 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 48.85 years
male: 47.33 years
female: 50.42 years
Total fertility rate:
6.47 children born/woman
noun: Burkinabe (singular and plural)
adjective: Burkinabe
Ethnic groups:
Mossi over 40%, Gurunsi, Senufo, Lobi, Bobo, Mande, 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: 26.6%
male: 36.9%
female: 16.6%


Government type:
parliamentary republic
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, Namentenga, Nahouri, 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; ammended April 2000
Legal system:
based on French civil law system and customary law
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
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (111 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court; Appeals Court


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 in the World Trade Organization for fewer subsidies to producers in other competing countries. Since 1998, Burkina Faso has embarked upon a gradual but successful privatization of state-owned enterprises. Having revised its investment code in 2004, Burkina Faso hopes to attract foreign investors. Thanks to this new code and other legislation favoring the mining sector, the country has seen an upswing in gold exploration and production. While the bitter internal crisis in neighboring Cote d'Ivoire is beginning to be resolved, it is still having a negative effect on Burkina Faso's trade and employment. In 2007 higher costs for energy and imported foodstuffs, as well as low cotton prices, dampened a GDP growth rate that had averaged 6% in the last 10 years. Burkina Faso received a Millennium Challenge Account threshold grant to improve girls' education at the primary school level, and appears likely to receive a grant in the areas of infrastructure, agriculture, and land reform.

$17.41 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 32.2%
industry: 19.6%
services: 48.2%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
5 million
note: a large part of the male labor force migrates annually to neighboring countries for seasonal employment
Labor force by occupation:
agriculture: 90%
industry and services: 10%
revenues: $1.033 billion
expenditures: $1.382 billion
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 69.9%
hydro: 30.1%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0%
cotton lint, beverages, agricultural processing, soap, cigarettes, textiles, gold
cotton, peanuts, shea nuts, sesame, sorghum, millet, corn, rice; livestock
cotton, livestock, gold
Export partners:
China 35.4%, Singapore 12.2%, Thailand 5.3%, Ghana 5%
capital goods, foodstuffs, petroleum
Import partners:
France 23.1%, Cote d'Ivoire 22.6%, Togo 10.6%
Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF); note - responsible authority is the Central Bank of the West African States

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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