burkina faso

Developments in Burkina Faso

Updated: 29 May 2017

Burkina Faso is one of the world's poorest countries. The popular uprising in 2014, followed by democratic elections in 2015, demonstrates democratic development, but the challenges ahead are great.

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in the interior of West Africa, just south of the Sahara. Its area covers just under two thirds that of Sweden.

Between 1987 and 2014, Burkina Faso was governed by Blaise Compaoré, who took power in a military coup in which he overthrew and killed the country's national hero, Thomas Sankara. There was some democratic development in the early 2000s, but Compaoré was accused of electoral fraud when he consolidated his position with 80 per cent of votes in the 2005 and 2010 elections.

The popular protests against Compaoré’s military-supported regime began in 2011. Compaoré had then attempted to amend the constitution to make himself re-electable. 

A transitional government with representatives from civil society and the military led the country during turbulence and through a military coup until free elections in November 2015 in which MPPS candidate Roch Marc Kaboré received the most votes and was installed as president on 29 December. The election was assessed by international observers to have been properly conducted.

Human rights

The Constitution provides for freedom of expression, but there is a law that makes it possible to ban media spreading false information or threatening national security. In 1998, the dissident journalist Norbert Zongo was murdered by persons close to the president, something which sparked widespread protests.

The judicial system and the military are facing reform, which had already started during the transition. The Regiment of Presidential Security, which also led a military coup in September 2015 and was close to the former president, Compaoré, has been dissolved and its soldiers will be integrated into the regular army.

The security situation and conflict in Mali is alarming, and there have been attacks on police stations along the border with this neighbouring country. Burkina Faso also contributes a force to the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA in Timbuktu.

Economy and business

Burkina Faso is an agricultural economy, and about 85 per cent of the population make their living from agriculture and animal husbandry. Most people live mainly on subsistence agriculture. Burkina Faso has major problems with soil degradation due to the hunt for firewood, which reduces the forest area. The cattle herds also cause heavy wear on the soil.

There are good mineral resources in Burkina Faso, but only a small portion is extracted. Most important to the economy is gold, which in 2009 overtook cotton as Burkina Faso's main export commodity. However, cotton production is still very important, employing several million people.

The country's dependence on development cooperation and international loans has long been great. Despite a relatively good economic growth over the past decade, the country's poor have hardly noticed any increase in standard. One reason for this is Burkina Faso's high population growth, another is increases in the price of food and fuel.

Around half of all employees belong to a trade union. Despite the low number of those in employment, the trade union movement has long played an important role in the fight for democracy and was one of the many civil society actors that actively contributed to depose the President Blaise Compaoré.

Social development

Burkina Faso is one of the world's poorest countries, with almost half its population living in poverty. The situation is worst in the arid regions of the north.

Burkina Faso has a young population, and almost half are under the age of fifteen. Its population growth is high. Three of four burkinabes live in rural areas, but urban migration is great.

Poverty has driven hundreds of thousands of burkinabes to Ivory Coast and Ghana to work on plantations there. However, in recent years, economic decline in neighbouring countries has reduced emigration.

The school system has very great deficiencies, and the illiteracy rate is among the highest in the world. Among rural women, there are few who can read or write.

The country's life expectancy is just over 54 years, and almost one in ten children who are born dies before the age of one. One out of three surviving children are stunted in growth due to malnutrition.

Page owner: Department for Africa

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