burkina faso

Developments in Burkina Faso

Published: 17 June 2009 Updated: 29 June 2014

Things are changing in Burkina Faso. One of the world’s poorest countries has taken a firm hold of its own development agenda. It faces some difficult challenges, but the national plan to combat poverty is beginning to take root.

The former French colony of Upper Volta changed its name in 1984 to Burkina Faso, which means "the land of incorruptible/upright men." The man behind the name change was the military president Thomas Sankara, a charismatic Marxist who during his four years in office initiated Africa's most radical social reform program. Sankara was assassinated in 1987 in yet another military coup d’état. Since then, Burkina Faso has gone from military rule to multi-party system and market economy, but the political opposition and the trade union movement are restricted. The judicial system is corrupt and inefficient and accused of not investigating abuses from the government's side. Murders and disappearances remain unsolved.

Burkina Faso is one of the world’s poorest countries, with major social problems. Illiteracy is widespread, infant mortality rate is high and life expectancy is just over 50 years.

Most Burkinabes subsist on farming or cattle breeding and almost half of them live in poverty in the densely populated country. Cotton used to account for more than half of the country's exports, but today, gold has taken over as the major export product. Cotton production is still very important and employs some million people. The poor soils can often lead to crop failure in the arid climate. Soil erosion is extensive and locusts (swarms of grasshoppers) often ruin the harvest. In addition to gold, there are very few natural resources and the country’s industry is undeveloped.

Long-term solutions for a better future

Difficult circumstances are challenging the population that has already had to go through a great deal. The future of millions of poor people is determined by the government’s continued focus on poverty reduction. The country’s target is to reduce the number of people living in poverty to below 35 per cent by 2015 and to increase the average life expectancy to at least 60. The current stable economic growth must be followed by long-term strategies for future generations. Important progress within education and health must be followed up and new solutions are required for effective and sustainable farming.

Sweden’s focus areas in Burkina Faso include:

  • poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth
  • democratic governance and social development
  • sustainable development of natural resource sectors

Read more about Sida’s work in Burkina Faso  

 A phase-out of the Swedish development assistance has been initiated, and will be completed in 2016.


Page owner: Department for Africa

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