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Burkina Faso Country Information

Travel Advice with Country Information from the CIA.

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Burkina Faso Map

Introduction

Background

Many of Burkina Faso’s ethnic groups arrived in the region between the 12th and 15th centuries. The Gurma and Mossi peoples established several of the largest kingdoms in the area and used horse-mounted warriors in military campaigns. Of the various Mossi kingdoms, the most powerful were Ouagadougou and Yatenga. In the late 19th century, European states competed for control of the region. France eventually conquered the area and established it as a French protectorate.

The area achieved independence from France in 1960 and changed its name to Burkina Faso in 1984. Repeated military coups were common in the country’s first few decades. The last successful coup occurred in 1987 when Blaise COMPAORE deposed the former president, established a government, and ruled for 27 years. In October 2014, COMPAORE resigned following protests against his repeated efforts to amend the constitution's two-term presidential limit. An interim administration led a year-long transition period organizing presidential and legislative elections. In November 2015, Roch Marc Christian KABORE was elected president; he was reelected in November 2020.

Terrorist groups - including groups affiliated with Al-Qa’ida and the Islamic State - began attacks in the country in 2016 and conducted attacks in the capital in 2016, 2017, and 2018. By late 2020, terrorist attacks had resulted in approximately 4,000 deaths and over 1 million internally displaced persons. In addition to terrorism, the country faces a myriad of problems including high population growth, recurring drought, pervasive and perennial food insecurity, and limited natural resources. It is one of the world’s poorest countries.

Geography

Location

Western Africa, north of Ghana

Geographic coordinates

13 00 N, 2 00 W

Map references

Africa

Area

total: 274,200 sq km

land:273,800 sq km

water:400 sq km

country comparison to the world: 76

Area - comparative

slightly larger than Colorado

Land boundaries

total: 3,611 km

border countries (6):Benin 386 km, Cote d'Ivoire 545 km, Ghana 602 km, Mali 1325 km, Niger 622 km, Togo 131 km

Coastline

0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims

none (landlocked)

Climate

three climate zones including a hot tropical savanna with a short rainy season in the southern half, a tropical hot semi-arid steppe climate typical of the Sahel region in the northern half, and small area of hot desert in the very north of the country bordering the Sahara Desert

Terrain

Mostly flat to dissected, undulating plains; hills in the west and southeast.  Occupies an extensive plateau with savanna that is grassy in the north and gradually gives way to sparse forests in the south. (2019)

Elevation

highest point: Tena Kourou 749 m

lowest point:Mouhoun (Black Volta) River 200 m

mean elevation:297 m

Natural resources

gold, manganese, zinc, limestone, marble, phosphates, pumice, salt

Land use

agricultural land: 44.2% (2018 est.)

arable land: 22% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 37% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 21.93% (2018 est.)

forest:19.3% (2018 est.)

other:36.5% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

550 sq km (2016)

Total renewable water resources

13.5 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Population distribution

Most of the population is located in the center and south. Nearly one-third of the population lives in cities. The capital and largest city is Ouagadougou (Ouaga), with a population of 1.8 million as shown in this population distribution map

(2019)

Natural hazards

recurring droughts

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified:Nuclear Test Ban

Geography - note

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

People and Society

Population

21,382,659 (July 2021 est.)

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, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected

country comparison to the world: 59

Nationality

noun: Burkinabe (singular and plural)

adjective:Burkinabe

Ethnic groups

Mossi 52%, Fulani 8.4%, Gurma 7%, Bobo 4.9%, Gurunsi 4.6%, Senufo 4.5%, Bissa 3.7%, Lobi 2.4%, Dagara 2.4%, Tuareg/Bella 1.9%, Dioula 0.8%, unspecified/no answer 0.3%, other 7.2% (2010 est.)

Languages

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

Religions

Muslim 61.5%, Roman Catholic 23.3%, traditional/animist 7.8%, Protestant 6.5%, other/no answer 0.2%, none 0.7% (2010 est.)

Demographic profile

Burkina Faso has a young age structure – the result of declining mortality combined with steady high fertility – and continues to experience rapid population growth, which is putting increasing pressure on the country’s limited arable land. More than 65% of the population is under the age of 25, and the population is growing at 3% annually. Mortality rates, especially those of infants and children, have decreased because of improved health care, hygiene, and sanitation, but women continue to have an average of almost 6 children. Even if fertility were substantially reduced, today’s large cohort entering their reproductive years would sustain high population growth for the foreseeable future. Only about a third of the population is literate and unemployment is widespread, dampening the economic prospects of Burkina Faso’s large working-age population.

Migration has traditionally been a way of life for Burkinabe, with seasonal migration being replaced by stints of up to two years abroad. Cote d’Ivoire remains the top destination, although it has experienced periods of internal conflict. Under French colonization, Burkina Faso became a main labor source for agricultural and factory work in Cote d’Ivoire. Burkinabe also migrated to Ghana, Mali, and Senegal for work between the world wars. Burkina Faso attracts migrants from Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Mali, who often share common ethnic backgrounds with the Burkinabe. Despite its food shortages and high poverty rate, Burkina Faso has become a destination for refugees in recent years and hosts about 33,500 Malians as of May 2017.

(2018)

Government

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

etymology:name translates as "Land of the Honest (Incorruptible) Men"

Government type

presidential republic

Capital

name: Ouagadougou

geographic coordinates:12 22 N, 1 31 W

time difference:UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: Ouagadougou is a Francophone spelling of the native name "Wogodogo," meaning "where people get honor and respect"

Administrative divisions

13 regions; Boucle du Mouhoun, Cascades, Centre, Centre-Est, Centre-Nord, Centre-Ouest, Centre-Sud, Est, Hauts-Bassins, Nord, Plateau-Central, Sahel, Sud-Ouest

Independence

5 August 1960 (from France)

National holiday

Republic Day, 11 December (1958); note - commemorates the day that Upper Volta became an autonomous republic in the French Community

Constitution

history: several previous; latest approved by referendum 2 June 1991, adopted 11 June 1991, temporarily suspended late October to mid-November 2014; initial draft of a new constitution to usher in the new republic was completed in January 2017 and a final draft was submitted to the government in December 2017; a constitutional referendum originally scheduled for adoption in March 2019 has been postponed

amendments:proposed by the president, by a majority of National Assembly membership, or by petition of at least 30,000 eligible voters submitted to the Assembly; passage requires at least three-fourths majority vote in the Assembly; failure to meet that threshold requires majority voter approval in a referendum; constitutional provisions on the form of government, the multiparty system, and national sovereignty cannot be amended; amended several times, last in 2012

Legal system

civil law based on the French model and customary law; in mid-2019, the National Assembly amended the penal code

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only:at least one parent must be a citizen of Burkina Faso

dual citizenship recognized:yes

residency requirement for naturalization:10 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Roch Marc Christian KABORE (since 29 December 2015; re-elected 22 November 2020)

head of government:Prime Minister Christophe DABIRE (since 24 January 2019)

cabinet:Council of Ministers appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister

elections/appointments:president elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second); last held on 22 November 2020 (next to be held in November 2025); prime minister appointed by the president with consent of the National Assembly

election results:Roch Marc Christian KABORE reelected president in first round; percent of vote - Roch Marc Christian KABORE (MPP) 57.9%, Eddie KOMBOIGO (CDP) 15.5%, Zephirin DIABRE (UPC)12.5%, other 14.1%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Assembly (127 seats; 111 members directly elected in 13 multi-seat constituencies by party-list proportional representation vote and 26 members elected in a nationwide constituency by proportional representation vote; all member serve 5-year terms)

elections:last held on 22 November 2020 (next to be held in November 2025)

election results:percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party (preliminary results) - MPP 56, CDP 20, NTD 13, UPC 12

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court of Appeals or Cour de Cassation (consists of NA judges); Council of State (consists of NA judges); Constitutional Council or Conseil Constitutionnel (consists of the council president and 9 members)

judge selection and term of office:Supreme Court judge appointments mostly controlled by the president of Burkina Faso; judges have no term limits; Council of State judge appointment and tenure NA; Constitutional Council judges appointed by the president of Burkina Faso upon the proposal of the minister of justice and the president of the National Assembly; judges appointed for 9-year terms with one-third of membership renewed every 3 years

subordinate courts:Appeals Court; High Court; first instance tribunals; district courts; specialized courts relating to issues of labor, children, and juveniles; village (customary) courts

Political parties and leaders

African Democratic Rally/Alliance for Democracy and Federation or ADF/RDA [Gilbert Noel OUEDRAOGO]
African People’s Movement or MAP [Victorien TOUGOUMA]
Congress for Democracy and Progress or CDP [Eddie KOMBOIGO]
Le Faso Autrement [Ablasse OUEDRAOGO]
New Alliance of the Faso or NAFA [Mahamoudou DICKO]
New Time for Democracy or NTD [Vincent DABILGOU]
Organization for Democracy and Work or ODT [Anatole BONKOUNGOU]
Party for Development and Change or PDC [Aziz SEREME]
Party for Democracy and Progress-Socialist Party or PDP-PS [Drabo TORO]
Party for Democracy and Socialism/Metba or PDS/Metba [Philippe OUEDRAOGO]
Party for National Renaissance or PAREN [Michel BERE]
People's Movement for Progress or MPP [Simon COMPAORE]
Rally for Democracy and Socialism or RDS [Francois OUEDRAOGO]
Rally for the Development of Burkina or RDB [Celestin Saidou COMPAORE]
Rally of Ecologists of Burkina Faso or RDEB [Adama SERE]
Soleil d’Avenir [Abdoulaye SOMA]
Union for a New Burkina or UBN [Diemdioda DICKO]
Union for Progress and Change or UPC [Zephirin DIABRE]
Union for Rebirth - Sankarist Party or UNIR-MS [Benewende Stanislas SANKARA]
Union for the Republic or UPR [Toussaint Abel COULIBALY]
Youth Alliance for the Republic and Independence or AJIR [Adama KANAZOE]

International organization participation

ACP, AfDB, AU, CD, ECOWAS, EITI (compliant country), Entente, FAO, FZ, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (NGOs), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, MINUSMA, MONUSCO, NAM, OIC, OIF, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNISFA, UNITAR, UNWTO, UPU, WADB (regional), WAEMU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Seydou KABORE (since 18 January 2017)

chancery:2340 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone:[1] (202) 332-5577

FAX:[1] (202) 667-1882

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Sandra CLARK (since 25 September 2020)

telephone:[226] 25-49-53-00

embassy:Rue 15.873, Avenue Sembene Ousmane, Ouaga 2000, Secteur 15

mailing address:01 B. P. 35, Ouagadougou 01; pouch mail - US Department of State, 2440 Ouagadougou Place, Washington, DC 20521-2440

FAX:[226] 25-49-56-28

Flag description

two equal horizontal bands of red (top) and green with a yellow five-pointed star in the center; red recalls the country's struggle for independence, green is for hope and abundance, and yellow represents the country's mineral wealth

note: uses the popular Pan-African colors of Ethiopia

National symbol(s)

white stallion; national colors: red, yellow, green

National anthem

name: "Le Ditanye" (Anthem of Victory)

lyrics/music:Thomas SANKARA

note: adopted 1974; also known as "Une Seule Nuit" (One Single Night); written by the country's former president, an avid guitar player

Economy

Economic overview

Burkina Faso is a poor, landlocked country that depends on adequate rainfall. Irregular patterns of rainfall, poor soil, and the lack of adequate communications and other infrastructure contribute to the economy’s vulnerability to external shocks. About 80% of the population is engaged in subsistence farming and cotton is the main cash crop. The country has few natural resources and a weak industrial base.

Cotton and gold are Burkina Faso’s key exports - gold has accounted for about three-quarters of the country’s total export revenues. Burkina Faso’s economic growth and revenue depends largely on production levels and global prices for the two commodities. The country has seen an upswing in gold exploration, production, and exports.

In 2016, the government adopted a new development strategy, set forth in the 2016-2020 National Plan for Economic and Social Development, that aims to reduce poverty, build human capital, and to satisfy basic needs. A new three-year IMF program (2018-2020), approved in 2018, will allow the government to reduce the budget deficit and preserve critical spending on social services and priority public investments.

While the end of the political crisis has allowed Burkina Faso’s economy to resume positive growth, the country’s fragile security situation could put these gains at risk. Political insecurity in neighboring Mali, unreliable energy supplies, and poor transportation links pose long-term challenges.

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 75,066

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:less than 1 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 146

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 20,330,657

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:100.21 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 60

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: system includes microwave radio relay, open-wire, and radiotelephone communication stations; insufficient mobile spectrum, and poor condition of fixed-line networks hinders the development of fixed-line Internet services and leaves Burkina Faso with some of the most expensive telecommunications globally; mobile telephony has experienced growth, but below the African average; govt. proposes technology-neutral licenses to boost mobile broadband connectivity and amend legislation to improve regulators and legalize the framework governing the telecom sector (2020)

domestic:fixed-line connections stand at less than 1 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular usage 100 per 100, with multiple providers there is competition and the hope for growth from a low base; Internet penetration is 11% countrywide, but higher in urban areas (2019)

international:country code - 226; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

since the official inauguration of Terrestrial Digital Television (TNT) in December 2017, Burkina Faso now has 14 digital TV channels among which 2 are state-owned; there are more than 140 radio stations (commercial, religious, community) available throughout the country including a national and regional state-owned network; the state-owned Radio Burkina and the private Radio Omega are among the most widespread stations and both include broadcasts in French and local languages (2019)

Internet country code

.bf

Internet users

total: 3,158,834

percent of population:16% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 96

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 13,818

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:less than 1 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 162

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers:3

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers:151,531 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers:100,000 mt-km (2018)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

XT

Airports

total: 23 (2013)

country comparison to the world: 133

Airports - with paved runways

total: 2 (2019)

over 3,047 m:1

2,438 to 3,047 m:1

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 21 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m:3 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m:13 (2013)

under 914 m:5 (2013)

Railways

total: 622 km (2014)

narrow gauge:622 km 1.000-m gauge (2014)

note: another 660 km of this railway extends into Cote d'Ivoire

country comparison to the world: 108

Roadways

total: 15,304 km (2014)

paved:3,642 km (2014)

unpaved:11,662 km (2014)

country comparison to the world: 124

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Armed Forces of Burkina Faso (FABF): Army of Burkina Faso (L’Armee de Terre, LAT), Air Force of Burkina Faso (Force Aerienne de Burkina Faso, FABF), National Gendarmerie (2021)

note: the National Gendarmerie officially reports to the Ministry of Defense, but usually operates in support of the Ministry of Security and the Ministry of Justice; Gendarmerie troops are typically integrated with Army forces in anti-terrorism operations; for example, Gendarmerie, Army, and police forces were combined to form a task force known as the Groupement des Forces Anti-Terroristes (GFAT) to address terrorist activities along the country's northern border in 2013

Military expenditures

2.4% of GDP (2019)

2.1% of GDP (2018)

1.4% of GDP (2017)

1.2% of GDP (2016)

1.3% of GDP (2015)

country comparison to the world: 38

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Armed Forces of Burkina Faso (FABF) have approximately 12,000 personnel (7,000 Army; 500 Air Force; 4,500 National Gendarmerie) (2020)

note - in 2018, the Groupement des Forces Anti-Terroristes(GFAT) numbered about 1,500 personnel

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the FABF has a mix of foreign-supplied weapons; since 2010, it has received limited amounts of mostly donated second-hand equipment from more than 10 countries (2020)

Military deployments

1,075 Mali (MINUSMA) (Jan 2021)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for voluntary military service; no conscription; women may serve in supporting roles (2019)

Military - note

since at least 2016, the Armed Forces of Burkina Faso have been actively engaged in combat operations with terrorist groups linked to al-Qa'ida and ISIS; military operations have occurred in the Centre‐Est, Centre‐Nord, Est, Nord, and Sahel administrative regions

Burkina Faso is part of a five-nation anti-jihadist task force known as the G5 Sahel Group, set up in 2014 with Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger; it has committed 550 troops and 100 gendarmes to the force; the G5 force is backed by the UN, US, and France; G5 troops periodically conduct joint operations with French forces deployed to the Sahel under Operation Barkhane; in early 2020, G5 Sahel military chiefs of staff agreed to allow defense forces from each of the states to pursue terrorist fighters up to 100 km into neighboring countries (2021)

Terrorism

Terrorist group(s)

Ansarul Islam; Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham in the Greater Sahara; al-Mulathamun Battalion (al-Mourabitoun); Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (2020)

note: details about the history, aims, leadership, organization, areas of operation, tactics, targets, weapons, size, and sources of support of the group(s) appear(s) in Appendix-T

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

adding to illicit cross-border activities, Burkina Faso has issues concerning unresolved boundary alignments with its neighbors; demarcation is currently underway with Mali; the dispute with Niger was referred to the ICJ in 2010, and a dispute over several villages with Benin persists; Benin retains a border dispute with Burkina Faso around the town of Koualou

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 20,951 (Mali) (2020)

IDPs:

1,147,699 (2021)

Trafficking in persons

current situation: Burkina Faso is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; Burkinabe children are forced to work as farm hands, gold panners and washers, street vendors, domestic servants, and beggars or in the commercial sex trade, with some transported to nearby countries; to a lesser extent, Burkinabe women are recruited for legitimate jobs in the Middle East or Europe and subsequently forced into prostitution; women from other West African countries are also lured to Burkina Faso for work and subjected to forced prostitution, forced labor in restaurants, or domestic servitude

tier rating:Tier 2 Watch List – Burkina Faso does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; law enforcement efforts decreased in 2014, with a significant decline in trafficking prosecutions (none for forced begging involving Koranic school teachers – a prevalent form of trafficking) and no convictions, a 2014 law criminalizing the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography is undermined by a provision allowing offenders to pay a fine in lieu of serving prison time proportionate to the crime; the government sustained efforts to identify and protect a large number of child victims, relying on support from NGOs and international organizations; nationwide awareness-raising activities were sustained, but little was done to stop forced begging (2015)

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