New Internationalist

Burkina Faso – the facts

Issue 389

Two decades at a glance

Burkina Faso – which means ‘land of the incorruptible’ and replaced the colonial name of Upper Volta – is part of the Sahel belt in West Africa. Its northern provinces are threatened by the relentless march south of the Sahara, while its fertile southwest grows cash crops such as cotton for the world market. Sabtenga lies in the southeast, in marginal country between the two extremes of fertility. The minority Bissa people who live here straddle the border with Ghana. Over the last two decades the population has almost doubled, as has girls’ enrolment in primary school. But child mortality and life expectancy have only marginally improved and Burkina remains one of the poorest countries in the world.

Difference in income per person, France & Burkina Faso

The whole square broadly represents the per capita national income of a French person in 2004 ($30,090) and the tiny square in the corner that of a Burkinabè ($360). Over the 20-year period since 1984, Burkina Faso’s per capita national income increased by 125%, compared with its neighbours Mali (157%), Côte d’Ivoire (26%) and Ghana (9%). But over the same period the growth of France was stratospheric, at 208%, vastly widening the gap between rich and poor worlds.

The world's third-poorest country Burkina Faso has the third-lowest rating in the world on the UN Human Development Index – 0.317. Only Sierra Leone and Niger score lower. The former colonial power, France, is 16th highest, with 0.938.

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