Citation courtesy of the U.S. State Department (May 5, 2011)
Burkina Faso’s 16.3 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. With a continued high average fertility rate of 6.2 children per woman of reproductive age, total national population is projected to grow to 21.5 million in 2020. While the average annual national population growth rate is 3.1%, urban areas are growing by over 10% per year. Nearly 65% of population is less than 25 years old.
Burkina Faso is an ethnically integrated, secular state. The average population density is 51.4 people per square kilometer (128/sq. mi), but in the center of the country it is about 80 people per square kilometer. Millions of Burkinabe reside in other countries, especially Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. A plurality (60.5%) of Burkinabe are Muslim, but most also adhere to traditional African religions. Christians, both Roman Catholics and Protestants, comprise about 24% of the population, with their largest concentration in urban areas.
Few Burkinabe have had formal education. Schooling is in theory, free and compulsory until the age of 16, but only about 80.3% of Burkina’s primary school-age children are enrolled in primary school. Of those enrolled, only about 41.7% complete primary 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. The University of Koudougou was founded in 2005 to substitute for the former teachers’ training school, Ecole Normale Superieure de Koudougou.
Burkina Faso is a landlocked country located in the middle of West Africa’s “hump.” It is geographically in the Sahel–the agricultural region between the Sahara Desert and the coastal rain forests. Most of central Burkina Faso lies on a savanna plateau, 200 meters-300 meters (650 ft.-1,000 ft.) above sea level, with fields, brush, and scattered trees. The largest river is the Mouhoun (Black Volta), which is partially navigable by small craft. Burkina Faso has West Africa’s largest elephant population. Game preserves also are home to lions, hippos, monkeys, warthogs, and antelope. Infrastructure and tourism are, however, not well developed. Annual average rainfall varies from about 100 centimeters (40 in.) in the south to less than 25 centimeters (10 in.) in the north and northeast, where hot desert winds accentuate the dryness of the region. The cooler season, November to February, is pleasantly warm and dry (but dusty), with cool evenings. March-June can be very hot. In July-September, the rains bring a 3-month cooler and greener humid season.
Independence: August 5, 1960.
Constitution: June 11, 1991.
Branches: Executive–president (head of state and Council of Ministers) prime minister (head of government). Legislative–one chamber. Judiciary–independent.
Subdivisions: 13 regions, 45 provinces, 351 communes.
Political parties: Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), Alliance for Democracy Federation/ African Democratic Assembly (ADF/RDA), Unity for the Renaissance/Sankarist Party (UNIR/PS), Unity for the Republic (UPR), Convention of Democratic Forces of Burkina (CFD/B), and numerous other small opposition parties.
Suffrage: Direct universal.
Government budget (2010): USD1.53 billion (15.7% of GDP).
Defense (2005): 1.2% of budget.
GDP (2010): USD9.3 billion.
Annual growth rate (2010): 5.2%.
Per capita GDP (2009): USD580.
Avg. inflation rate (2010): –0.8%.
Natural resources: Manganese, gold, limestone, marble, phosphate, zinc, uranium.
Agriculture (34% of 2009 GDP): Products–cotton, millet, sorghum, rice, livestock, peanuts, shea nuts, maize.
Industry (26.5% of GDP): Type–mining, agricultural processing plants, brewing and bottling, light industry.
Trade (2010): Exports–USD1.034 billion. Main exports (2009)–gold (USD380.8 million), cotton (USD210.3 million); shea butter (USD37.5 million); livestock; peanuts. Major markets–Singapore (9.3%); Belgium (7%); China (4.2%); Ghana (3.8%); India (2.8%). Imports–USD1.544 billion. Main imports (2009)–capital goods (USD396.2 million); petroleum products (USD380.6 million); food (USD143.8 million). Major markets–Cote d’Ivoire (22.3%); France (17.9%); Togo (5.9%); South Africa (3.2%); Belgium (3.1%).
Official exchange rate: Fixed to the euro. Communaute Financiere Africaine (CFA) francs 656=1 euro; 474 CFA=USD1.