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Burkina Faso

𞤄𞤵𞤪𞤳𞤭𞤲𞤢 𞤊𞤢𞤧𞤮 (Fula)
Burkĩna Faso (Mossi)
ߓߎߙߞߌߣߊ ߝߊߛߏ (Dyula)
Coat of arms of Burkina Faso
Coat of arms
Motto: "Unité–Progrès–Justice" (French)
Anthem: "Une Seule Nuit" / "Ditanyè" (French)
("One Single Night" / "Hymn of Victory")
Burkina Faso (orthographic projection).svg

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Location Burkina Faso AU Africa.svg

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and largest city
12°22′N 1°32′W / 12.367°N 1.533°W / 12.367; -1.533
Official languages French
Recognised national languages
  • Mossi
  • Bissa
  • Dyula
  • Fula
Ethnic groups
(2010 est.)
  • 52% Mossi
  • 8.4% Fula
  • 7% Gurma
  • 4.9% Bobo
  • 4.6% Gurunsi
  • 4.5% Senufo
  • 2.4% Lobi
  • 1.9% Tuareg
  • 0.8% Dyula
(2019 Census)
Demonym(s) Burkinabè
Government Unitary republic under a military junta
• Interim President and MPSR President
Ibrahim Traoré
• Prime Minister
Apollinaire Joachim Kyélem de Tambèla
Legislature Transitional Legislative Assembly
• Republic of Upper Volta proclaimed
11 December 1958
• Independence from France
5 August 1960
• 1966 Upper Voltan coup d'état
3 January 1966
• 2014 Burkina Faso uprising
28 October – 3 November 2014
• Jan. 2022 Burkinabè coup d'état
23–24 January 2022
• Sep. 2022 Burkinabè coup d'état
30 September 2022
• Total
274,200 km2 (105,900 sq mi) (74th)
• Water (%)
• 2023 estimate
22,489,126 (60th)
• Density
64/km2 (165.8/sq mi)
GDP (PPP) 2022 estimate
• Total
$58.8  billion (114th)
• Per capita
$2,656 (171st)
GDP (nominal) 2022 estimate
• Total
$18.2  billion (124th)
• Per capita
$825 (180th)
Gini (2020) Steady 38.9
HDI (2021) Decrease 0.449
low · 184th
Currency West African CFA franc (XOF)
Time zone UTC+00:00
Date format dd/mm/yyyy
Driving side right
Calling code +226
ISO 3166 code BF
Internet TLD .bf

Burkina Faso ( BƏR-kee-NƏ-_-FASS-oh --FAH-soh; Fula: 𞤄𞤵𞤪𞤳𞤭𞤲𞤢 𞤊𞤢𞤧𞤮) is a landlocked country in West Africa with an area of 274,200 km2 (105,900 sq mi), bordered by Mali to the northwest, Niger to the northeast, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and the Ivory Coast to the southwest. As of 2021, the country had an estimated population of 20,321,378. Previously called Republic of Upper Volta (1958–1984), it was renamed Burkina Faso by President Thomas Sankara. Its citizens are known as Burkinabè ( BUR-kee-NƏ-bay), and its capital and largest city is Ouagadougou. Its name is often translated into English as the "Land of Honest Men".

The largest ethnic group in Burkina Faso is the Mossi people, who settled the area in the 11th and 13th centuries. They established powerful kingdoms such as the Ouagadougou, Tenkodogo, and Yatenga. In 1896, it was colonized by the French as part of French West Africa; in 1958, Upper Volta became a self-governing colony within the French Community. In 1960, it gained full independence with Maurice Yaméogo as president. Since it gained its independence, the country was subject to instability, droughts, famines and corruption. Various coups have also taken place in the country, in 1966, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1987, and twice in 2022, in January and in September, as well as an attempt in 1989 and another in 2015.

Thomas Sankara served as the country's president from 1982 until he was assassinated in the 1987 coup led by Blaise Compaoré, who became president and ruled the country until his removal on 31 October 2014. Sankara had conducted an ambitious socioeconomic programme which included a nationwide literacy campaign, land redistribution to peasants, railway and road construction, and the outlawing of polygamy.

Burkina Faso has been severely affected by the rise of Islamist terrorism in the Sahel since the mid-2010s. Several militias, partly allied with the Islamic State (IS) or al-Qaeda, operate in Burkina Faso and across the border in Mali and Niger. More than one million of the country's 21 million inhabitants are internally displaced persons. Burkina Faso's military seized power in a coup d'état on 23–24 January 2022, overthrowing President Roch Marc Kaboré. On 31 January, the military junta restored the constitution and appointed Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba as interim president, who was himself overthrown in a second coup on 30 September and replaced by military captain Ibrahim Traoré.

Burkina Faso is one of the least developed countries, with a GDP of $16.226 billion. Approximately 63.8 percent of its population practices Islam, while 26.3 percent practice Christianity. The country's official language of government and business is French. There are 60 indigenous languages officially recognized by the Burkinabè government, with the most common language, Mooré, spoken by over half the population. The country has a strong culture and is geographically biodiverse, with plentiful reserves of gold, manganese, copper and limestone. Burkinabè art has a rich and long history, and is globally renowned for its orthodox style. The country is governed as a semi-presidential republic with executive, legislative and judicial powers. Burkina Faso is a member of the United Nations, La Francophonie and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. It is currently suspended from ECOWAS and the African Union.


Formerly the Republic of Upper Volta, the country was renamed "Burkina Faso" on 4 August 1984 by then-President Thomas Sankara. The words "Burkina" and "Faso" stem from different languages spoken in the country: "Burkina" comes from Mossi and means "upright", showing how the people are proud of their integrity, while "Faso" comes from the Dioula language (as written in N'Ko: ߝߊ߬ߛߏ߫ faso) and means "fatherland" (literally, "father's house"). The "-bè" suffix added onto "Burkina" to form the demonym "Burkinabè" comes from the Fula language and means "women or men". The CIA summarizes the etymology as "land of the honest (incorruptible) men".

The French colony of Upper Volta was named for its location on the upper courses of the Volta River (the Black, Red and White Volta).


Early history

The northwestern part of present-day Burkina Faso was populated by hunter-gatherers from 14,000 BCE to 5000 BCE. Their tools, including scrapers, chisels and arrowheads, were discovered in 1973 through archaeological excavations. Agricultural settlements were established between 3600 and 2600 BCE. The Bura culture was an Iron-Age civilization centred in the southwest portion of modern-day Niger and in the southeast part of contemporary Burkina Faso. Iron industry, in smelting and forging for tools and weapons, had developed in Sub-Saharan Africa by 1200 BCE. To date, the oldest evidence of iron smelting found in Burkina Faso dates from 800 to 700 BC and form part of the Ancient Ferrous Metallurgy World Heritage Site. From the 3rd to the 13th centuries CE, the Iron Age Bura culture existed in the territory of present-day southeastern Burkina Faso and southwestern Niger. Various ethnic groups of present-day Burkina Faso, such as the Mossi, Fula and Dioula, arrived in successive waves between the 8th and 15th centuries. From the 11th century, the Mossi people established several separate kingdoms.

Africa de l'Oèst en 1875-es
West Africa circa 1875

8th century to 18th century

There is debate about the exact dates when Burkina Faso's many ethnic groups arrived to the area. The Proto-Mossi arrived in the far Eastern part of what is today Burkina Faso sometime between the 8th and 11th centuries, the Samo arrived around the 15th century, the Dogon lived in Burkina Faso's north and northwest regions until sometime in the 15th or 16th centuries and many of the other ethnic groups that make up the country's population arrived in the region during this time.

The cavalry of the Mossi Kingdoms were experts at raiding deep into enemy territory, even against the formidable Mali Empire.
Pg381 Des hommes sur les toits s'opposent
Armed men prevent the French explorer Louis-Gustave Binger from entering Sia (Bobo-Dioulasso) during his stay in April 1892.

During the Middle Ages, the Mossi established several separate kingdoms including those of Tenkodogo, Yatenga, Zandoma, and Ouagadougou. Sometime between 1328 and 1338 Mossi warriors raided Timbuktu but the Mossi were defeated by Sonni Ali of Songhai at the Battle of Kobi in Mali in 1483.

During the early 16th century the Songhai conducted many slave raids into what is today Burkina Faso. During the 18th century the Gwiriko Empire was established at Bobo Dioulasso and ethnic groups such as the Dyan, Lobi, and Birifor settled along the Black Volta.

From colony to independence (1890s–1958)

Starting in the early 1890s during the European Scramble for Africa, a series of European military officers made attempts to claim parts of what is today Burkina Faso. At times these colonialists and their armies fought the local peoples; at times they forged alliances with them and made treaties. The colonialist officers and their home governments also made treaties among themselves. The territory of Burkina Faso was invaded by France, becoming a French protectorate in 1896.

French West Africa 1913 map
French West Africa c. 1913

The eastern and western regions, where a standoff against the forces of the powerful ruler Samori Ture complicated the situation, came under French occupation in 1897. By 1898, the majority of the territory corresponding to Burkina Faso was nominally conquered; however, French control of many parts remained uncertain.

The Franco-British Convention of 14 June 1898 created the country's modern borders. In the French territory, a war of conquest against local communities and political powers continued for about five years. In 1904, the largely pacified territories of the Volta basin were integrated into the Upper Senegal and Niger colony of French West Africa as part of the reorganization of the French West African colonial empire. The colony had its capital in Bamako.

The language of colonial administration and schooling became French. The public education system started from humble origins. Advanced education was provided for many years during the colonial period in Dakar.

The indigenous population was highly discriminated against. For example, African children were not allowed to ride bicycles or pick fruit from trees, "privileges" reserved for the children of colonists. Violating these regulations could land parents in jail.

Draftees from the territory participated in the European fronts of World War I in the battalions of the Senegalese Rifles. Between 1915 and 1916, the districts in the western part of what is now Burkina Faso and the bordering eastern fringe of Mali became the stage of one of the most important armed oppositions to colonial government: the Volta-Bani War.

The French government finally suppressed the movement but only after suffering defeats. It also had to organize its largest expeditionary force of its colonial history to send into the country to suppress the insurrection. Armed opposition wracked the Sahelian north when the Tuareg and allied groups of the Dori region ended their truce with the government.

The capital, Ouagadougou, in 1930

French Upper Volta was established on 1 March 1919. The French feared a recurrence of armed uprising and had related economic considerations. To bolster its administration, the colonial government separated the present territory of Burkina Faso from Upper Senegal and Niger.

The new colony was named Haute Volta for its location on the upper courses of the Volta River (the Black, Red and White Volta), and François Charles Alexis Édouard Hesling became its first governor. Hesling initiated an ambitious road-making program to improve infrastructure and promoted the growth of cotton for export. The cotton policy – based on coercion – failed, and revenue generated by the colony stagnated. The colony was dismantled on 5 September 1932, being split between the French colonies of Ivory Coast, French Sudan and Niger. Ivory Coast received the largest share, which contained most of the population as well as the cities of Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso.

France reversed this change during the period of intense anti-colonial agitation that followed the end of World War II. On 4 September 1947, it revived the colony of Upper Volta, with its previous boundaries, as a part of the French Union. The French designated its colonies as departments of metropolitan France on the European continent.

On 11 December 1958 the colony achieved self-government as the Republic of Upper Volta; it joined the Franco-African Community. A revision in the organization of French Overseas Territories had begun with the passage of the Basic Law (Loi Cadre) of 23 July 1956. This act was followed by reorganization measures approved by the French parliament early in 1957 to ensure a large degree of self-government for individual territories. Upper Volta became an autonomous republic in the French community on 11 December 1958. Full independence from France was received in 1960.


Blaise Compaoré 2014 White House
President Blaise Compaoré ruled Burkina Faso from a coup d'état in 1987 until he lost power in 2014.
Assemblee Nationale Burkina Faso
The National Assembly building in downtown Ouagadougou

The constitution of 2 June 1991 established a semi-presidential government: its parliament could be dissolved by the President of the Republic, who was to be elected for a term of seven years. In 2000, the constitution was amended to reduce the presidential term to five years and set term limits to two, preventing successive re-election. The amendment took effect during the 2005 elections.

The parliament consisted of one chamber known as the National Assembly, which had 111 seats with members elected to serve five-year terms. There was also a constitutional chamber, composed of ten members, and an economic and social council whose roles were purely consultative. The 1991 constitution created a bicameral parliament, but the upper house (Chamber of Representatives) was abolished in 2002.

The Compaoré administration had worked to decentralize power by devolving some of its powers to regions and municipal authorities. But the widespread distrust of politicians and lack of political involvement by many residents complicated this process. Critics described this as a hybrid decentralisation.

The prime minister is head of government and is appointed by the president with the approval of the National Assembly. He is responsible for recommending a cabinet for appointment by the president.


In 2015, Kaboré promised to revise the 1991 constitution. The revision was completed in 2018. One condition prevents any individual from serving as president for more than ten years either consecutively or intermittently and provides a method for impeaching a president. A referendum on the constitution for the Fifth Republic was scheduled for 24 March 2019.

Certain rights are also enshrined in the revised wording: access to drinking water, access to decent housing and a recognition of the right to civil disobedience, for example. The referendum was required because the opposition parties in Parliament refused to sanction the proposed text.

Following the January 2022 coup d'Ă©tat, the military dissolved the parliament, government and constitution. On 31 January, the military junta restored the constitution, but it was suspended again following the September 2022 coup d'Ă©tat.

Administrative divisions

The country is divided into 13 administrative regions. These regions encompass 45 provinces and 301 departments. Each region is administered by a governor.


Burkina sat
Satellite image of Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso Map
Map of Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso lies mostly between latitudes 9° and 15° N (a small area is north of 15°), and longitudes 6° W and 3° E.

It is made up of two major types of countryside. The larger part of the country is covered by a peneplain, which forms a gently undulating landscape with, in some areas, a few isolated hills, the last vestiges of a Precambrian massif. The southwest of the country, on the other hand, forms a sandstone massif, where the highest peak, Ténakourou, is found at an elevation of 749 meters (2,457 ft). The massif is bordered by sheer cliffs up to 150 m (492 ft) high. The average altitude of Burkina Faso is 400 m (1,312 ft) and the difference between the highest and lowest terrain is no greater than 600 m (1,969 ft). Burkina Faso is therefore a relatively flat country.

The country owes its former name of Upper Volta to three rivers which cross it: the Black Volta (or Mouhoun), the White Volta (Nakambé) and the Red Volta (Nazinon). The Black Volta is one of the country's only two rivers which flow year-round, the other being the Komoé, which flows to the southwest. The basin of the Niger River also drains 27% of the country's surface.

The Niger's tributaries – the Béli, Gorouol, Goudébo, and Dargol – are seasonal streams and flow for only four to six months a year. They still can flood and overflow, however. The country also contains numerous lakes – the principal ones are Tingrela, Bam, and Dem. The country contains large ponds, as well, such as Oursi, Béli, Yomboli, and Markoye. Water shortages are often a problem, especially in the north of the country.

WP 35, SDr9776
Savannah near the Gbomblora Department, on the road from Gaoua to Batié

Burkina Faso lies within two terrestrial ecoregions: Sahelian Acacia savanna and West Sudanian savanna.


Burkina Faso has a primarily tropical climate with two very distinct seasons. In the rainy season, the country receives between 600 and 900 mm (23.6 and 35.4 in) of rainfall; in the dry season, the harmattan – a hot dry wind from the Sahara – blows. The rainy season lasts approximately four months, May/June to September, and is shorter in the north of the country. Three climatic zones can be defined: the Sahel, the Sudan-Sahel, and the Sudan-Guinea. The Sahel in the north typically receives less than 600 mm (23.6 in) of rainfall per year and has high temperatures, 5–47 °C (41–117 °F).

A relatively dry tropical savanna, the Sahel extends beyond the borders of Burkina Faso, from the Horn of Africa to the Atlantic Ocean, and borders the Sahara to its north and the fertile region of the Sudan to the south. Situated between 11° 3′ and 13° 5′ north latitude, the Sudan-Sahel region is a transitional zone with regards to rainfall and temperature. Further to the south, the Sudan-Guinea zone receives more than 900 mm (35.4 in) of rain each year and has cooler average temperatures.

Wreckage of a dam (Dourtenga, 2008)
Damage caused by the Dourtenga floods in 2007

Geographic and environmental causes can also play a significant role in contributing to Burkina Faso's food insecurity. As the country is situated in the Sahel region, Burkina Faso experiences some of the most radical climatic variation in the world, ranging from severe flooding to extreme drought. The unpredictable climatic shock that Burkina Faso citizens often face results in strong difficulties in being able to rely on and accumulate wealth through agricultural means.

Burkina Faso's climate also renders its crops vulnerable to insect attacks, including attacks from locusts and crickets, which destroy crops and further inhibit food production. Not only is most of the population of Burkina Faso dependent on agriculture as a source of income, but they also rely on the agricultural sector for food that will directly feed the household. Due to the vulnerability of agriculture, more and more families are having to look for other sources of non-farm income, and often have to travel outside of their regional zone to find work.

Natural resources

Burkina Faso's natural resources include gold, manganese, limestone, marble, phosphates, pumice, and salt.


Burkina Faso has a larger number of elephants than many countries in West Africa. Lions, leopards and buffalo can also be found here, including the dwarf or red buffalo, a smaller reddish-brown animal which looks like a fierce kind of short-legged cow. Other large predators live in Burkina Faso, such as the cheetah, the caracal or African lynx, the spotted hyena and the African wild dog, one of the continent's most endangered species.

Burkina Faso's fauna and flora are protected in four national parks:

  • The W National Park in the east which passes Burkina Faso, Benin, and Niger
  • The Arly Wildlife Reserve (Arly National Park in the east)
  • The LĂ©raba-ComoĂ© Classified Forest and Partial Reserve of Wildlife in the west
  • The Mare aux Hippopotames in the west

and several reserves: see List of national parks in Africa and Nature reserves of Burkina Faso.


Burkina Faso Product Exports (2019)
A proportional representation of Burkina Faso exports, 2019
GDP per capita development of Burkina Faso
GDP per capita in Burkina Faso, since 1950

The value of Burkina Faso's exports fell from $2.77 billion in 2011 to $754 million in 2012. Agriculture represents 32% of its gross domestic product and occupies 80% of the working population. It consists mostly of rearing livestock. Especially in the south and southwest, the people grow crops of sorghum, pearl millet, maize (corn), peanuts, rice and cotton, with surpluses to be sold. A large part of the economic activity of the country is funded by international aid, despite having gold ores in abundance.

The top five export commodities in 2017 were, in order of importance: gems and precious metals, US$1.9 billion (78.5% of total exports), cotton, $198.7 million (8.3%), ores, slag, ash, $137.6 million (5.8%), fruits, nuts: $76.6 million (3.2%) and oil seeds: $59.5 million (2.5%).

A December 2018 report from the World Bank indicates that in 2017, economic growth increased to 6.4% in 2017 (vs. 5.9% in 2016) primarily due to gold production and increased investment in infrastructure. The increase in consumption linked to growth of the wage bill also supported economic growth. Inflation remained low, 0.4% that year but the public deficit grew to 7.7% of GDP (vs. 3.5% in 2016). The government was continuing to get financial aid and loans to finance the debt. To finance the public deficit, the Government combined concessional aid and borrowing on the regional market. The World Bank said that the economic outlook remained favorable in the short and medium term, although that could be negatively impacted. Risks included high oil prices (imports), lower prices of gold and cotton (exports) as well as terrorist threat and labour strikes.

Burkina Faso is part of the West African Monetary and Economic Union (UMEOA) and has adopted the CFA franc. This is issued by the Central Bank of the West African States (BCEAO), situated in Dakar, Senegal. The BCEAO manages the monetary and reserve policy of the member states, and provides regulation and oversight of financial sector and banking activity. A legal framework regarding licensing, bank activities, organizational and capital requirements, inspections and sanctions (all applicable to all countries of the Union) is in place, having been reformed significantly in 1999. Microfinance institutions are governed by a separate law, which regulates microfinance activities in all WAEMU countries. The insurance sector is regulated through the Inter-African Conference on Insurance Markets (CIMA).

Essakane Mill in Burkina Faso
Processing facilities at the Essakane Mine in Burkina Faso

In 2018, tourism was almost non-existent in large parts of the country.

Burkina Faso is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA). The country also belongs to the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.


There is mining of copper, iron, manganese, gold, cassiterite (tin ore), and phosphates. These operations provide employment and generate international aid. Gold production increased 32% in 2011 at six gold mine sites, making Burkina Faso the fourth-largest gold producer in Africa, after South Africa, Mali and Ghana.

A 2018 report indicated that the country expected record 55 tonnes of gold in that year, a two-thirds increase over 2013. According to Oumarou Idani, there is a more important issue. "We have to diversify production. We mostly only produce gold, but we have huge potential in manganese, zinc, lead, copper, nickel and limestone".

Food insecurity

According to the Global Hunger Index, a multidimensional tool used to measure and track a country's hunger levels, Burkina Faso ranked 65 out of 78 countries in 2013. It is estimated that there are currently over 1.5 million children who are at risk of food insecurity in Burkina Faso, with around 350,000 children who are in need of emergency medical assistance. However, only about a third of these children will actually receive adequate medical attention.

These high rates of food insecurity and the accompanying effects are even more prevalent in rural populations compared to urban ones, as access to health services in rural areas is much more limited and awareness and education of children's nutritional needs is lower.

Infrastructure and services


Grand marché de Koudougou
The Grand marché in Koudougou, Burkina Faso

While services remain underdeveloped, the National Office for Water and Sanitation (ONEA), a state-owned utility company run along commercial lines, is emerging as one of the best-performing utility companies in Africa. High levels of autonomy and a skilled and dedicated management have driven ONEA's ability to improve production of and access to clean water.

Since 2000, nearly 2 million more people have access to water in the four principal urban centres in the country; the company has kept the quality of infrastructure high (less than 18% of the water is lost through leaks – one of the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa), improved financial reporting, and increased its annual revenue by an average of 12% (well above inflation). Challenges remain, including difficulties among some customers in paying for services, with the need to rely on international aid to expand its infrastructure. The state-owned, commercially run venture has helped the nation reach its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets in water-related areas, and has grown as a viable company.

However, access to drinking water has improved over the last 28 years. According to UNICEF, access to drinking water has increased from 39 to 76% in rural areas between 1990 and 2015. In this same time span, access to drinking water increased from 75 to 97% in urban areas.


A 33-megawatt solar power plant in Zagtouli, near Ouagadougou, came online in late November 2017. At the time of its construction, it was the largest solar power facility in West Africa.


The growth rate in Burkina Faso is high although it continues to be plagued by corruption and incursions from terrorist groups from Mali and Niger.


Sudanese Style Railway Station Bobo Dioulasso Burkina Faso
The railway station in Bobo Dioulasso was built during the colonial era and remains in operation.

Transport in Burkina Faso is limited by relatively underdeveloped infrastructure.

As of June 2014 the main international airport, Ouagadougou Airport, had regularly scheduled flights to many destinations in West Africa as well as Paris, Brussels and Istanbul. The other international airport, Bobo Dioulasso Airport, has flights to Ouagadougou and Abidjan.

Rail transport in Burkina Faso consists of a single line which runs from Kaya to Abidjan in Ivory Coast via Ouagadougou, Koudougou, Bobo Dioulasso and Banfora. Sitarail operates a passenger train three times a week along the route.

There are 15,000 kilometres of roads in Burkina Faso, of which 2,500 kilometres are paved.


Ouagadougou (3839513403)
A Burkinabè Tuareg man in Ouagadougou
Year Million
1950 4.3
2000 11.6
2018 19.8

Burkina Faso is an ethnically integrated, secular state where most people are concentrated in the south and centre, where their density sometimes exceeds 48 inhabitants per square kilometre (120/sq mi). Hundreds of thousands of Burkinabè migrate regularly to Ivory Coast and Ghana, mainly for seasonal agricultural work. These flows of workers are affected by external events; the September 2002 coup attempt in Ivory Coast and the ensuing fighting meant that hundreds of thousands of Burkinabè returned to Burkina Faso. The regional economy suffered when they were unable to work.

In 2015, most of the population belonged to "one of two West African ethnic cultural groups: the Voltaic and the Mandé. Voltaic Mossi make up about 50% of the population and are descended from warriors who moved to the area from Ghana around 1100, establishing an empire that lasted over 800 years".

The total fertility rate of Burkina Faso is 5.93 children born per woman (2014 estimates), the sixth highest in the world.

Largest cities or towns in Burkina Faso
According to the 2006 Census
Rank Name Pop.
1 Ouagadougou 1,475,223
2 Bobo-Dioulasso 489,967
3 Koudougou 88,184
4 Banfora 75,917
5 Ouahigouya 73,153
6 Pouytenga 60,618
7 Kaya 54,365
8 Tenkodogo 44,491
9 Fada N'gourma 41,785
10 Houndé 39,458

Ethnic groups

Burkina Faso's 17.3 million people belong to two major West African ethnic cultural groups: the Voltaic and the Mandé (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 northern Ghana around 1100 AD. They established an empire that lasted more than 800 years. Predominantly farmers, the Mossi kingdom is led by the Mogho Naba, whose court is in Ouagadougou.


Native Languages in Burkina Faso
Languages percent
Other National
Other African
Other non-indigenous

Burkina Faso is a multilingual country. The official language is French, which was introduced during the colonial period. French is the principal language of administrative, political and judicial institutions, public services, and the press. It is the only language for laws, administration and courts. Altogether, an estimated 69 languages are spoken in the country, of which about 60 languages are indigenous. The Mooré language is the most spoken language in Burkina Faso, spoken by about half the population, mainly in the central region around the capital, Ouagadougou.

According to the 2006 census, the languages spoken natively in Burkina Faso were Mooré by 40.5% of the population, Fula by 29.3%, Gourmanché by 6.1%, Bambara by 4.9%, Bissa by 3.2%, Bwamu by 2.1%, Dagara by 2%, San by 1.9%, Lobiri with 1.8%, Lyélé with 1.7%, Bobo and Sénoufo with 1.4% each, Nuni by 1.2%, Dafing by 1.1%, Tamasheq by 1%, Kassem by 0.7%, Gouin by 0.4%, Dogon, Songhai, and Gourounsi by 0.3% each, Ko, Koussassé, Sembla, and Siamou by 0.1% each, other national languages by 5%, other African languages by 0.2%, French (the official language) by 1.3%, and other non-indigenous languages by 0.1%.

In the west, Mandé languages are widely spoken, the most predominant being Dioula (also known as Jula or Dyula), others including Bobo, Samo, and Marka. Fula is widespread, particularly in the north. Gourmanché is spoken in the east, while Bissa is spoken in the south.


Cathedrale Ouagadougou
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Ouagadougou

The government of Burkina Faso's 2019 census reported that 63.8% of the population practice Islam, and that the majority of this group belong to the Sunni branch, while a small minority adheres to Shia Islam. A significant number of Sunni Muslims identify with the Tijaniyah Sufi order.

The 2019 census also found that 26.3% of the population are Christians (20.1% being Roman Catholics and 6.2% members of Protestant denominations) and 9.0% follow traditional indigenous beliefs such as the Dogon religion, 0.2% have other religions, and 0.7% have none.

Animists are the largest religious group in the country's Sud-Ouest region, forming 48.1% of its total population.


The Gando primary school. Its architect, Diébédo Francis Kéré, received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004.

Education in Burkina Faso is divided into primary, secondary and higher education. High school costs approximately CFA 25,000 (US$50) per year, which is far above the means of most Burkinabè families. Boys receive preference in schooling; as such, girls' education and literacy rates are far lower than their male counterparts. An increase in girls' schooling has been observed because of the government's policy of making school cheaper for girls and granting them more scholarships.

To proceed from primary to middle school, middle to high school or high school to college, national exams must be passed. Institutions of higher education include the University of Ouagadougou, The Polytechnic University of Bobo-Dioulasso, and the University of Koudougou, which is also a teacher training institution. There are some small private colleges in the capital city of Ouagadougou but these are affordable to only a small portion of the population.

There is also the International School of Ouagadougou (ISO), an American-based private school located in Ouagadougou.

The 2008 UN Development Program Report ranked Burkina Faso as the country with the lowest level of literacy in the world, despite a concerted effort to double its literacy rate from 12.8% in 1990 to 25.3% in 2008.


COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Een Nunuma of Winiama maskerdanser TMnr 20031569
A masked Winiama dancer, c. 1970

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 (Maxims, 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.

Malika slameuse
Malika Outtara, poet

Slam poetry is increasing in popularity in the country, in part due to the efforts of slam poet Malika Outtara. She uses her skills to raise awareness around issues such as blood donation, albinism and the impact of COVID-19.

Arts and crafts

Burkina faso artisan painted gourds
Artisan garland of decorative painted gourds in Ouagadougou

In addition to several rich traditional artistic heritages among the peoples, there is a large artist community in Burkina Faso, especially in Ouagadougou. Much of the crafts produced are for the country's growing tourist industry.

Burkina Faso also hosts the International Art and Craft Fair, Ouagadougou. It is better known by its French name as SIAO, Le Salon International de l' Artisanat de Ouagadougou, and is one of the most important African handicraft fairs.


A plate of fufu (right) accompanied with peanut soup

Typical of West African cuisine, Burkina Faso's cuisine is based on staple foods of sorghum, millet, rice, maize, peanuts, potatoes, beans, yams and okra. The most common sources of animal protein are chicken, chicken eggs and freshwater fish. A typical Burkinabè beverage is Banji or Palm Wine, which is fermented palm sap; and Zoom-kom, or "grain water" purportedly the national drink of Burkina Faso. Zoom-kom is milky-looking and whitish, having a water and cereal base, best drunk with ice cubes. In the more rural regions, in the outskirts of Burkina, you would find Dolo, which is drink made from fermented millet.


Burkina team
Burkina Faso national football team in white during a match

Sport in Burkina Faso is widespread and includes football, basketball, cycling, rugby union, handball, tennis, boxing and martial arts. Football is the most popular sport in Burkina Faso, played both professionally, and informally in towns and villages across the country. The national team is nicknamed "Les Etalons" ("the Stallions") in reference to the legendary horse of Princess Yennenga.

In 1998, Burkina Faso hosted the Africa Cup of Nations for which the Omnisport Stadium in Bobo-Dioulasso was built. Burkina Faso qualified for the 2013 African Cup of Nations in South Africa and reached the final, but then lost to Nigeria 0–1. The country has never qualified for a FIFA World Cup.

Basketball is another sport which enjoys much popularity for both men and women. The country's men's national team had its most successful year in 2013 when it qualified for the AfroBasket, the continent's prime basketball event.

At the 2020 Summer Olympics, the athlete Hugues Fabrice Zango won Burkina Faso's first Olympic medal, winning bronze in the men's triple jump. Cricket is also picking up in Burkina Faso with Cricket Burkina Faso running a 10 club league.


The music of Burkina Faso includes the folk music of 60 different ethnic groups. The Mossi people, centrally located around the capital, Ouagadougou, account for 40% of the population while, to the south, Gurunsi, Gurma, Dagaaba and Lobi populations, speaking Gur languages closely related to the Mossi language, extend into the coastal states. In the north and east the Fulani of the Sahel preponderate, while in the south and west the Mande languages are common; Samo, Bissa, Bobo, Senufo and Marka. Burkinabé traditional music has continued to thrive and musical output remains quite diverse. Popular music is mostly in French: Burkina Faso has yet to produce a major pan-African success.

Cultural festivals and events

Every two years, Ouagadougou hosts the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO), the largest African cinema festival on the continent (February, odd years).

Held every two years since 1988, the International Art and Craft Fair, Ouagadougou (SIAO), is one of Africa's most important trade shows for art and handicrafts (late October-early November, even years).

Also every two years, the Symposium de sculpture sur granit de Laongo takes place on a site located about 35 kilometres (22 miles) from Ouagadougou, in the province of Oubritenga.

The National Culture Week of Burkina Faso, better known by its French name La Semaine Nationale de la culture (SNC), is one of the most important cultural activities of Burkina Faso. It is a biennial event which takes place every two years in Bobo Dioulasso, the second-largest city in the country.

The Festival International des Masques et des Arts (FESTIMA), celebrating traditional masks, is held every two years in DĂ©dougou.

Related pages

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Burkina Faso para niños

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