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(Download Burkina Faso overview as a PDF)


  • Total population: 12,272,289 (Ranked 65th in the world by the US Census Bureau).
  • National GDP: US $11.6 billion (1998).
  • GDP per capita: US $1,000.
  • Median Age: 16.1 years.
  • Infant Mortality: 105.22 per 1000 live births.


  • Location: West Africa, south of the Sahara.
  • Borders: Mali, Niger, Begnin, Togo, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
  • Capital: Ouagakougou.
  • Major cities and population: Ouagadougou—1,130,000.
  • Area: 105,900 square miles.
  • Topography: Located in the savanna landscape of Africa and landlocked. In the north it is hot, arid, and sparsely populated.
  • 45 Provinces: Bale, Bam, Banwa, Bazega, Bougouriba, Boulgou, Boulkiemde, Comoe, Ganzourgou, Gnagna, Gourma, Houet, Ioba, Kadiogo, Kenedougou, Komandjari, Kompienga, Kossi, Koupelogo, Kouritenga, Kourweogo, Leraba, Loroum, Mouhoun, Nahouri, Namentenga, Nayala, Naumbiel, Oubritenga, Oudalan, Passore, Poni, Samentenga, Sanguie, Seno, Sissili, Soum, Sourou, Tapoa, Tuy, Yagha, Yatenga, Ziro, Zondomo, Zoundweogo.


  • Population density: 113 per square mile.
  • Children 0-14: 47.5 %—5,829,392.
  • Teenage 10-19: 24.7%—3,025,268.
  • Youth between 15-24: 20.3%—2,495,769.
  • Seniors Over 70: 1.7%—204,521.
  • Male to female ratio: 71.1 males per 100 females.
  • Birth rate: 45.26 births per 1,000 people.
  • Life expectancy at birth: 44.57 years for males and 46.84 for females.
  • Infant mortality rate: 105.22 per 1000 live births.
  • Official language: French.
  • Other languages: Sudanic tribal languages spoken by 90% of the population.
  • Ethnic groups: 24 % Mossi, Gurunsi, Senufo, Lobi, Bobo, Mande, Fulani.
  • Religious affiliations: 50% Muslim, 40% indigenous beliefs, and approximately 10% Christian, mostly Roman Catholic.
  • Religious group representation: 48.6% Muslim (5,796,106), 34.1% Ethnoreligionist (4,070,239), and 16.7 % Christian (1,988,446). Less than 1% Nonreligious, Baha’i, and other.
  • Education: Free and compulsory from ages 7-14.
  • Literacy rate: 19%.


  • Currency: CFA Franc.
  • GDP per capita: $1,000.
  • National GDP: $11.6 billion (1998). This is one of the poorest countries in world.
  • Important Labor Trend: Currently, thousands migrate south every year to Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana for seasonal employment.
  • Major Industries: Agriculture processing, beverages, soap, textiles.
  • Chief crops: Millet, sorghum, rice, peanuts, cotton.
  • Electricity production: 225 mil kWh (1998).
  • TV Sets: 4.4 per 1,000 people.
  • Radios: 48.3 per 1,000 people.
  • Telephones: 47,300 main lines.


  • Government type: Republic.
  • Head of state: President Blaise Compaoré.
  • Head of government: Kadré Désiré Ouedraogo.
  • International organization memberships: United Nations (UN) and Organization of African Unity (OAU).
  • Historical Background: The Mossi tribe migrated to this region from the 11th to 13th centuries. The Mali and Songhai empires later took control. In 1896, however, the French overpowered the region. It was not until 1947 that Upper Valta, modern day Burkina Faso, was even considered a separate region. August 5th, 1960 marks its full independence from France. In more recent history, the military seized power in 1980, and in 1987 this was overthrown by the current regime which has implemented a multiparty democracy.
  • Name Origin: Changed name from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso in 1984 which means ‘land of honest men.’


Understanding the trends and social issues of a particular country should always take into consideration the opinions of persons within the country. The Center for Youth Studies is looking for contributors from each country to add to our appreciation and understanding of its culture, potential, trends, and critical issues. If you have insight as to what is important to Burkina Faso, please contact us.

We look forward to hearing the insights of the Burkinabe on what they consider their most important issues. From an outsiders’ perspective, current issues would include the AIDS epidemic, migrations of Burkinabe, the recent political unrest, governmental leadership, and education. What are the most important issues for Burkina Faso today? This will be added as we receive this information.



Barrett, D., Kurian, G., & Johnson, T. (2001). World Christian Encyclopedia 2nd Edition: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World. Oxford: University Press.

Turner, B. (2000). The World Today: Essential Facts in an Ever Changing World 2000. New York, NY: St. Marten’s Press.

McGeveran, Jr., W. (Ed.). (2001). The World Almanac and Book of Facts. Mahwah, NJ: World Almanac Books.


US Census Bureau, International Database.


United Nations Statistics Division.

US Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook.


  1. How important do you see Burkina Faso’s role in West Africa and in the world?
  2. What most impresses you about the above information?
  3. Do you take issue with any of the above? If so, how would you express it differently?
  4. What strikes you most about the population of Burkina Faso and the literacy rate? Why?
  5. What do you see as the historical and cultural contributions of Burkina Faso to the world?
  6. How has Burkina Faso handled its part in AIDS crisis?
  7. What can we learn from Burkina Faso and the Burkinabe people?
Tammy Smith cCYS