NI Global Issues for Learners of English > Country profiles > Burkina Faso



Country profile




Area of country: 274,200 square kilometers

Information at a Glance


Population: 11.3 million
Mosi: around 50%; Peulh nomads: around 20%; other groups include: Bobo-Fing, Bisa, Gourma.
Religions: Animist: 55%; Muslim: 40%; Catholic:5%


Currency: CFA franc
GDP per capita: $250
Main exports: cotton (24%); gold (13%); animal hides (10%)
Very little industry; very little foreign investment (as opposed to aid & loans)
External debt per capita: $111



Life expectancy: 45 years (down from 47 years, 10 years ago)
Infant mortality: 109 per 1000 - high, but lower than 10 years ago
Average calories consumed: 91% of calories needed
Safe water:42% of population has access


Heavily dependent on foreign aid: (16% of GNP);
11% of the money from exports is used to service external debts.


Literacy rate: 19% (29% of males & 10% of females are literate.) This is the second worst literacy rate in the world (after Niger)
Languages: French (official); also More (the Mosi language), Dioula, Gourmantch, Peulh.

Income Distribution

There is very little income, but a wealthy elite gets most of it.


Burkina Faso is at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert
Farming: although farming is the main occupation, the soil is very poor, and only 10% of land is cultivated. Tse tse fly (can cause fatal disease) is common in the most fertile areas.
Most farmers are subsistence farmers, but cotton & peanuts are grown as cash crops.
Desertification is a major problem:
i) the Sahara Desert continues to move south;
ii) irrigation needed for growing cotton & peanuts adds to the problem.
Loss of trees: Wood is the main source of fuel; because so many tress are cut down, they are becoming rare.


In theory, Burkina Faso is a multi-party democracy. In reality it is pretty much a one-party state, under the leadership of Blaise Compaore: he was made president for life.
There are increasing signs of political opposition.

Freedom & human rights

Important political opposition figures have "died" or "disappeared". Amnesty International is critical that nobody is held accountable for this.

Position of women: Women have even lower literacy rates than men.
The position of women shows some improvement in the cities, but 83% of the population live in rural areas. However, many household are headed by women because the men work in the neighbouring country of Cote D'Ivoire.

Sources: World Guide 1999-2000; State of the World's Children 2000; Le Monde Diplomatique; Africa Review 1999; NI issue 323

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Last modified 18 June 2000

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