Thinking Citizen Blog — Burkina Faso — What should every thinking citizen know?

Thinking Citizen Blog — Monday is Foreign Policy Day

Today’ s Topic: Africa VI — Burkina Faso — what should every thinking citizen know?

Let’s get personal. In seventh grade, I learned that “Ouagadougou is the capital of Upper Volta.” Why? Because writing that sentence 100X was the standard punishment for minor infractions of my school’s disciplinary code. Since then the country’s name has changed to Burkina Faso. The other day I realized I knew absolutely nothing about this country. So I decided to do a little digging. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

This is the sixth in a series of posts on African countries. Prior posts covered: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (5/4), the Republic of the Congo (5/11), Cameroon (5/18), Chad (5/25), and Niger (6/1).


1. Burkina Faso’s old name of Upper Volta comes from three rivers: the White Volta, the Red Volta, and the Black Volta — see above. Its six neighbors are Mali and Niger to the north the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, and Benin to the south. Most of the population is concentrated in the center and south.

2. Economy: 80% of workforce agricultural, principally livestock rearing. Principal exports: gold (78%) and cotton (8%). GDP per capita (nominal) — $792, versus $2226 for Ghana, $510 for Niger, $891 for Mali, and $2159 for Ivory Coast.

3. Demography: 21 MM up from 4 MM in 1950! Fertility: 5.9 children per woman. High rates of anemia and malnutrition. Religion: 60% Muslim, 23% Christian, 15% indigenous.Slavery still exists — an estimated 85,000.

NB: French is the official language. The most spoken language is Mossi (about half the population). The next is Fula (9%), then Gourmanche (6%), Bambara (5%).

HISTORY: from the Mossi Empire to French Colony to Independence

1. From the 11th to the 19th century the Mossi Empire competed with other regional powers including the Mali and Songhay Empires.

2. In the late 19th century, the French, Germans, and British vied for control of the region that is now Burkina Faso. The French prevailed and Burkina Faso became part of French West Africa which included what are now Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Ivory Coast, Benin, and Niger.

3. Self-government was achieved in 1958 and full independence in 1960. A series of military coups followed (1966, 1983,1987, 2015).


1 President Kabore, elected in 2015, is the first non-interim president in 49 years without any past ties to the military.”

2. Previously Prime Minister (1994–6), and President of the National Assembly (2002–2012). Before that a banker.

3. Multiple terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda in the Mahgreb (AQIM) and Al- Mourabitoun since 2016.

Burkina Faso

Mossi Kingdoms

2016 Ouagadougou attacks

Roch Marc Christian Kaboré


Please share the coolest or most important thing you learned in the last week, month, or year related to foreign policy. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in our life related to foreign policy.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is the key to depth of thought.

The prospect of imminent publication, like hanging and final exams, concentrates the mind. A useful life long habit.

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