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World of Wonders Project:
The West Africa Expedition



Burkina Faso




Click on map to see it in detail


Origin of the name Burkina Faso Official name is  Burkina Faso.  Burkina" may be translated, "men of integrity," from the Moré language, and "Faso" means "father's house" in Dioula.  



Click on each link below to learn more about the symbols.
  • Capital - Ouagadougou
  • National Flag -
  • National Anthem - Une Seule Nuit (French)
    One Single Night - Thomas Sankara
  • Motto - Unity, Progress, Justice
  • Important Holidays - from France
    August 5, 1960



(Click on any map to see it in detail)
Burkina Faso is divided into 13 administrative regions and 45 administrative provinces.
The Regions are (with their Capitals):

Boucle du Mouhoun (Dédougou)
Cascades (Banfora)
Centre (Ouagadougou)
Centre-Est (Tenkodogo)
Centre-Nord (Kaya)
Centre-Ouest (Koudougou)

Centre-Sud (Manga)
Est (Fada N'gourma)
Hauts-Bassins (Bobo Dioulasso)
Nord (Ouahigouya)
Plateau-Central (Ziniaré)
Sahel (Dori)
Sud-Ouest (Gaoua)
Language Official language is French, with recognised regional languages Mòoré, Dioula




After the fourth century present-day Mali becomes the centre of Ghana. Ghana, dominated by the Soninke or Saracolé people and centered in the area along the Malian-Mauritanian frontier, is a powerful trading state from about 700 to 1075. The Malinke Kingdom of Mali has its origins on the upper Niger River in the 11th century. Expanding rapidly in the 13th century under the leadership of Soundiata Keita, it reaches its height about 1325, when it conquers Timbuktu and Gao. Thereafter the kingdom declines and by the 15th century, it controls only a small fraction of its former domain. The Songhai Empire expands its power from its center in Gao during the period 1465-1530. At its peak under Askia Mohammad I, it encompasses the Hausa states as far as Kano (in present-day Nigeria) and much of the territory that had belonged to the Mali Empire in the west. It is destroyed by a Moroccan invasion in 1591. In the eighteenth century the area is divided in kingdoms linke the Bambara, Fulbe and Tuareg.

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 widely supported coup which brought Capt. Blaise Compaore to power in October 1987.

Compaoré, unlike his predecessor, began to attract foreign investment and expanded the private sector. In 1991 a new constitution was approved, and in the subsequent presidential election Campaoré (the only candidate) was elected. In 1992 the country held its first multiparty parliamentary elections since 1978; Compaoré's party won over two thirds of the seats amid widespread charges of fraud. The party made even bigger gains in the 1997 elections, and Campaoré was reelected in 1998. In May, 2002, the ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) retained control of the national assembly, winning 57 seats. The president was again reelected in 2005, enormously outspending an opposition splintered among 12 candidates.

In Dec., 2006, several days of armed clashes between soldiers and police disrupted life in Ouagadougou; the violence began when police stopped a group of soldiers in civilian clothes and a fight broke out. In recent years relations have been strained with Côte d'Ivoire, which has been accused by the government of mistreating Burkinabe there. Burkina's southern neighbor, meanwhile, has accused it of aiding N Ivorian rebels. The governing party increased its majority in the national assembly after the May, 2007, elections.

abbaci.com, infoplease.com

Government Government

The constitution of 2 June 1991 established a semi-presidential government with a parliament which can be dissolved by the President of the Republic, who is elected for a term of seven years. In 2000, however, the constitution was amended to reduce the presidential term to five years. The amendment took effect during the 2005 elections. The amendment also would have prevented the sitting president, Blaise Compaoré, from being reelected; however, notwithstanding a challenge by other presidential candidates, the constitutional council ruled in October 2005 that because Compaoré was the 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 13 November, Compaoré was reelected in a landslide due to a divided political opposition.

The parliament consists of two chambers: the lower house, known as the National Assembly, and the upper house, the House of Representatives. There is also a constitutional chamber, composed of ten members, and an economic and social council whose roles are purely consultative.





Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world with an average income per capita of €250 (US$300). More than 80% of the population relies on subsistence agriculture, with only a small fraction directly involved in industry and services. Low rainfall, poor soils, lack of adequate communications and other infrastructure, a low literacy rate, and a stagnant economy are all longstanding problems. The export economy also remains subject to fluctuations in world prices.


Unemployment causes a high rate of emigration. For example, three million citizens of Burkina Faso live in Côte d'Ivoire. According to the Central Bank of West African States, these migrants send substantial amounts of money back to Burkina Faso each year. Since the 1967 expulsions from Ghana, this situation has provoked tensions in the recipient 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 monetary unit is the CFA franc, consisting of 100 centimes (500 francs equal U.S.$1; 2008 average.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: Metric weights and measures are used.

Geography and Climate



Burkina Faso is a landlocked Sahel country that shares borders with six nations. It lies between the Sahara Desert and the Gulf of Guinea, south of the loop of the Niger River. The land is green in the south, with forests and fruit trees, and desert in the north. Most of central Burkina Faso lies on a savanna plateau, 198-305 meters (650-1,000 ft.) above sea level, with fields, brush, and scattered trees. Burkina Faso's game preserves--the most important of which are Arly, Nazinga, and W National Park--contain lions, elephants, hippopotamus, monkeys, warthogs, and antelopes. Tourism is not well developed.

Annual rainfall varies from about 100 centimeters (40 in.) in the south to less than 25 centimeters (10 in.) in the extreme north and northeast, where hot desert winds accentuate the dryness of the region. Burkina Faso has three distinct seasons: warm and dry (November-March), hot and dry (March-May), and hot and wet (June-October). Rivers are not navigable.


There are no areas in Burkina Faso on the World Heritage List.




Culture and Religion



Burkina Faso's 15.3 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.

Ethnic Groups, Culture and Religion
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.). Hundreds of thousands of Burkinabe migrate 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.


While exact statistics on religion in Burkina Faso are not available and vary widely, the Government of Burkina Faso estimated in its most recent census (1996) that approximately 60 percent of the population practice Islam, and that the majority of this group belong to the Sunni branch, while remaining minorities adhere to the Shi'a branch, and significant numbers of Sunni Muslims identify with the Tijaniyah Sufi, or Salafi traditions.  The Government also estimated that 24 percent of the population maintains traditional indigenous beliefs, 17 percent practices Roman Catholicism, and 3 percent are members of various Protestant denominations.

A common proverb in Burkina Faso claims that "50% are Muslim, 50% are Christian, and 100% are Animist". This shows the large level of acceptance of the various religions amongst each other. Even for Muslims and Christians, ancient Animist rites are still highly valued. The Great Mosque of Bobo-Dioulasso was built by people of all faiths working together.


Literature in Burkina Faso is based on the oral tradition, which remains important.  In 1934, during French occupation, Dim-Dolobsom Ouedraogo published his Maximes, pensées et devinettes mossi (Maximes, Thoughts and Riddles of the Mossi), a record of the oral history of the Mossi people.  The oral tradition continued to have an influence on Burkinabè writers in the post-independence Burkina Faso of the 1960s, such as Nazi Boni and Roger Nikiema. The 1960s saw a growth in the number of playwrights being published.  Since the 1970s, literature has developed in Burkina Faso with many more writers being published.

The theatre of Burkina Faso combines traditional Burkinabè performance with the colonial influences and post-colonial efforts to educate rural people to produce a distinctive national theatre. Traditional ritual ceremonies of the many ethnic groups in Burkina Faso have long involved dancing with masks. Western-style theatre became common during colonial times, heavily influenced by French theatre. With independence came a new style of theatre inspired by forum theatre aimed at educating and entertaining Burkina Faso's rural people.

The cuisine of Burkina Faso, typically of west African cuisine, is based around staple foods of sorghum, millet, rice, maize, peanuts, potatoes, beans, yams and okra. The most common sources of protein are chicken, chicken eggs and fresh water fish. A typical Burkinabè beverage is Banji or Palm Wine, which is fermented palm sap. Especially the town of Banfora is known for its good quality Banji, though you should be wary of the Banji sold by hawkers as it is often not very fresh may contain added water.

The cinema of Burkina Faso is an important part of West African and African film industry.



Fauna and Flora

Fauna and Flora

The area is largely wild bush country with a mixture of grass and small trees in varying proportions. The savanna region is mainly grassland in the rainy season and semidesert during the harmattan period. Fauna, possibly the widest variety in West Africa, includes the elephant, hippopotamus, buffalo, monkey, crocodile, giraffe, various types of antelope, and a vast variety of bird and insect life.  The are four National parks.

Encyclopedia of the Nations



Millions of trees are planted every year to reverse desertification. However the growing socio-economic needs of local populations pose a constant threat to these efforts.

The major environmental problems facing Burkina Faso are recurrent drought and the advance of the northern desert into the savanna. This trend toward desertification has been increased by overgrazing of pasture, slash-and-burn agriculture, and overcutting of wood for fuel. Almost all the trees within 40 km (25 mi) of the capital have been felled. The frequency of droughts in Burkina Faso and its location in the Sahara desert contribute to the nation's water supply problems. The country has 17.5 cu km of renewable water resources, but only 66% percent of the city population and 37% of rural dwellers have access to safe water. According to the World Health Organization, about 80% of all disease in Burkina Faso is caused by unsafe water. Pollution problems result from uncontrolled disposal of sewage and industrial wastes. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism is the principal government agency concerned with the environment. Burkina Faso has 12 national parks and wildlife reserves totaling 2,855,000 hectares. Altogether, 10.4% of its total land area is protected. The country has three Wetlands of International Importance. Of 147 species of mammals, 6 are considered endangered, including the African hunting dog, the chimpanzee, and the African elephant. The Sahara oryx, or white oryx, has become extinct in the wild. One bird species in a total of 335 and one reptile are also threatened.

Encyclopedia of the Nations

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