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Country Profile

Area: 274,190 sq km
Population: 16,286,706 (2010, World Bank)
Capital City: Ouagadougou
People: Mossi (50%), and about 60 other ethnic groups
Languages: French is the official language, a large number of local languages are spoken.
Religion: Animist, Islam and Christian
Major political parties: the ruling party is Congres pour las democratie et le Progres (CDP); others are – Parti pour las democratie et le progres Parti socialiste (PDP-PS), Union nationale pour la democratie et le developpement (UNDD), Alliance pour la democratie et la federation-Rassemblement democratique africain (ADF-RDA), Coalition des forces democratiques(CFD), Parti africain de l'independence (PAI), Parti pour las renaissance – Mouvement sankariste (UNIR-MS), Parti pour la democratie et la socialisme (PDS), Convention national des democrates progressistes(CNPD) plus Alternance 2005 (an opposition coalition)
Head of State: President Blaise Compaore
Prime Minister: Tertius Zongo
Membership of main organisations: UN, African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the overlapping Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA), Organisation de la Francophonie (OIF), Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), Community of Sahel and Saharan States (COMESSA, or CENSAD).

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GDP (per capita): US$598 (2010 est).
Annual growth: 5.8% (2010 est).
Inflation: 0.4% (2010 est).
Major industries: Cotton, livestock, gold.
Major trading partners: Singapore, Belgium, China, Ghana, India, Denmark, Niger, Thailand.
Exchange rate: Euro 1 = 655.96 FCFA; £1 = 734.92
The economy depends overwhelmingly on agriculture, whose performance depends on the vagaries of the weather and world prices. Over 90% of the population live off agriculture and animal husbandry. Large numbers of Burkinabe have traditionally migrated to work on cocoa farms in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. Their remittances have been critical to rural families. The return of many thousands of Burkinabe from Cote d'Ivoire since the outbreak of civil war there has put intense pressure on an already weak economy, pushing up unemployment.

Burkina Faso's main export is cotton, contributing 69% of all export earnings in 2004, but its value is subject to fluctuations in world prices. World price fell in 2004-2006, although increased production partly made up for that. Prices have recently picked up. Burkina Faso it remains the world's third cotton producer after Egypt and Mali. The cotton-producing companies have the reputation of being the best-managed in francophone West Africa. Its other mainstay is livestock, which contributes an estimated 12% of export earnings. But damage to pasture from the locust invasion in 2004 has affected the health of the herds. The outbreak of conflict in Cote d'Ivoire has adversely affected transport costs as alternative trade routes have had to be sought.

Burkina is also endowed with a range of minerals. The Canadian company Goldrush Resources was awarded extensive exploration permits in January 2006, and another Canadian company Goldbelt Resources was awarded nine exploration permits in July. Gold production continues to rise and it is expected that gold may displace livestock as the second largest export earner.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) (

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Burkina Faso, originally known as Upper Volta until its name change in 1983, was a French colony, part of French West Africa. It gained its independence from France in August 1960. The post-independence civilian government was authoritarian, and opposition parties were banned. This eventually led to the country's first military coup in 1966. For the following 24 years, there was a succession of military regimes, mostly conservative, but including the shortlived revolutionary regime of Captain Thomas Sankara (August 1983 – October 1987). Assassinated in October 1987, Sankara was succeeded by a fellow junior officer, Captain Blaise Compaore. His takeover was widely condemned at home and abroad.

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Burkina Faso hosts the headquarters of UEMOA (the eight francophone member Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa), and of CILSS (The Interstate Committee for Drought in the Sahel). Burkina Faso has strong links with Libya. There is evidence that Burkina Faso was involved in supporting the RUF rebellion in Sierra Leone (according to Sierra Leone's Truth and Reconciliation Report) and in supplying arms to Charles Taylor in Liberia in contravention of UN sanctions (as documented in various UN reports).

Since 2000, Burkina Faso has been preoccupied with the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire. Relations between the 2 countries have been troubled amidst claims that Compaore has supported the rebels. However, more recently President Compaore acted as mediator in talks between Ivorian President Gbagbo and rebel leader Guillaume Soro, which resulted in the Ouagadougou Accords of March 2007. These accords were followed up with an agreement in November 2007 to move the process forward, again signed under the sponsorship of President Compaore.

Up to 2 million Burkinabe nationals have traditionally worked seasonally or have taken up residence in Cote d'Ivoire. Since 2002, a very large number have left Cote d'Ivoire, adding to high unemployment in Burkina Faso. The loss of remittances has had devastating effect on rural areas.

In the international arena, France remains the country's chief ally, aid provider and trading partner.

Burkina Faso's Relations with the UK

UK interests in Burkina Faso are minimal. There is no bilateral assistance programme. British assistance reaches Burkina Faso though multilateral channels, mainly the EU.

British commercial interests are small. Trade flows are modest – in 2006, UK exports in goods to that country amounted to £2.7m down from £4.2m the previous year; while UK imports from Burkina were valued at £0.55m, an almost identical value to the previous year.

Diplomatic Representation

UK has a Political Counsellor based in Abidjan who provides reporting on Burkina Faso for the British High Commission in Accra.

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Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa. It shares borders with 6 countries – Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali and Niger. Located partly in the Sahel belt, most of the country is arid, the soil is infertile and rivers are seasonal. The climate ranges from dry Sahel in the north to tropical savannah in the south.

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Burkina Faso suffers from very widespread and severe poverty. Although modest improvements have been recorded in the socio-economic indicators, they remain low. Overall enrolment in education (incorporating primary and secondary education) improved from 17% in 2001/02 to 33% in 2009/10 this compares with the average for sub-Saharan Africa of 59%). . Health indicators are also poor, but have steadily improved. Life expectancy in 2011 is 53.7 years.

From independence, Burkina had followed highly centralised statist economic policies. But reforms in the 1990s, including large-scale privatisation of parasatals, have brought sustained IMF support. Burkina Faso's 3-year IMF-sponsored Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility was successfully completed in September 2006. A further IMF PRGF was signed in April 2007. Burkina also receives substantial aid flows from other donors. France is the largest bilateral donor. In April 2002, Burkina Faso was the fourth African country to qualify for HIPC status, under the IMF-World Bank heavily indebted initiative. It received some US$930 million debt relief as a result. Since 2007, the Cotton Sector has experienced 2 crises caused by climate shocks, continued structural inadequacies and lack of competition in the sector. These crises have had an important effect, not only on the country’s macroeconomic stability, but on the wellbeing of the Burkinabe people. The crises have highlighted the need for Burkina Faso to broaden and diversify its economic resource base. The shift to a market based economy was accompanied by efforts to strengthen the management of public funds, with gradual progress, from 1990 onwards, in enforcing fiscal discipline and modernising budget systems. Planning tools were introduced, including programme budgeting and medium-term expenditure frameworks. The government eliminated debt service arrears and later became one of the first countries to reach its completion point under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt reduction plan. Burkina Faso is one of the highest-ranking African countries on the HIPC public expenditure management index. However, the country’s risk of debt distress remains high due to its excessive dependence on commodity exports and reliance on external financing for most of its public investment program.

Development Strategy

Burkina Faso’s development strategy is detailed in its Second Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) and the 4 main pillars are: (1) raising growth and equity in a stable macroeconomic environment to reduce poverty; (2) increasing access to and quality of basic social services; (3) improving employment and income opportunities for the poor; and (4) improving governance with a particular emphasis on public sector management and budget management reforms. The government is currently reviewing its development strategy through its expected Strategy for Accelerated Growth and Sustainable Development for 2011 - 2015.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2010 statistics (
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) (,,menuPK:3046081~pagePK:64168427~piPK:64168435~theSitePK:3046012,00.html)


UK trade and commercial interests in Burkina Faso are small (see figures below) and the trade flows are modest.

UK Exports: 2010 (all figures in £ millions): 10.165 2009: 13; 2008: 18.
UK Imports: 2009 (all figures in £ millions): 1; 2008: 2; 2007: 2. (Source: UKTI).


Mining is poised to replace cotton as Burkina Faso’s biggest export, increasing total export earnings by around 25%, an injection of US$450 million in fiscal revenue between 2010 and 2015. By 2015 Burkina Faso is likely to be situated between the 15th and the 20th largest gold producing nations in the world. The expansion of the Mining Sector and the flow-on tax benefits are expected to have a positive impact on growth and equity by increasing poor people’s access to basic services and employment (the Sector provided 3,350 jobs in 2008.

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Following domestic and international pressure, Compaore, now retired from the Army, instituted a highly controlled process of democratisation in 1990/91. Under a new multi-party constitution, an Executive Presidential system was introduced, with a 107–member (since increased to 111) National Assembly, elected for five years. Initially, Presidential tenure was limited to two terms of seven years. The tenure limitation was later abolished in 1997, but restored again in 2000 although each term was reduced to five years - this provision took effect in 2005 at the start of Compaore's current term.

Under the new constitution, the first Presidential elections were held in December 1991, but the opposition boycotted. Compaore won unopposed on a 25% turnout. His party, the CDP, and its allies won the majority of seats to the National Assembly in legislative elections in May 1992, and again in May 1997, but lost their overall majority in the May 2002 legislative elections.

The opposition largely boycotted the Presidential election of December 1998, which Compaore won with 87% of the votes on a 56% turnout. As expected, and in spite of opposition protests, Compaore stood for a third term in Presidential elections held on 13 November 2005. He won with 80.3% of the vote against 11 other candidates. In the legislative elections of May 2007 the ruling CDP won a comfortable majority of 73/111 seats, regaining their grip on the parliament. 2007 saw the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Thomas Sankara and the coming to power of President Compaore. Supporters of the late Sankara, a revered figure for many in West Africa, used the occasion to express discontent with the current regime. A Presidential election was held on 21 November 2010. President Compaore ran for re-election and was expected to win comfortably, which he did. The election was marred by claims of wide-spread fraud. President Compaore (Congress for Democracy and Progress Party) won 80.2% of the votes cast, the equivalent of 1,358,941 votes. The President’s closest rival, Hama Arba Diallo, won 8.2% of the votes cast, the equivalent of 138,666 votes. Voter turnout was 54.9%; 4.7% of the total votes cast were invalid.

BBC News Country Profile: Burkina Faso (

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There is a vocal human rights movement, and the Government set up a National Human Rights Commission in 2001. But there are several high level cases which have not been investigated, including the death of Sankara in October 1987 and the murder of Norbert Zongo, an independent journalist, in December 1998. The Trades Unions, the students and other civil society groups play a significant political role, at least in the capital. Strikes and demonstrations are common as a means of putting pressure on the government. These activities are largely tolerated.

2009 Human Rights Report (

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Last Updated: October 2011

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