Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

Country profile HDI (UNDP):

In 2015, Burkina Faso became a partner of the Belgian Development Cooperation, in coherence with its focus on the least developed countries. In 2018 the first cooperation program will enter into vigour. Here, we will take a look at Burkina Faso, a country in the Sahel region of West Africa which, by its geographic location, is exposed to the harmful effects of climate variability and changes, and is facing a serious water crisis.

Population and geography

  • Capital: Ouagadougou
  • Population: 18 million
  • Rate of demographic growth: 3.1 %
  • Area: 274,200 km² (9 times the size of Belgium)
  • Borders: Mali and Niger to the north, Togo, Benin, Ghana and Ivory Coast to the south, separating the Burkinabes from the Atlantic Ocean
  • Climate: tropical with 2 seasons: the dry season from mid-October to mid-June, and the rainy season from July to September

Burkina Faso is a flat country, like Belgium, the highest point of which is the Tenakourou, rising to an altitude of 749m, in the western part of the country. The country is made up of a vast diversity of landscapes, combining everything which is to be found in Africa: expansive plains, low hills and a desert area, the Sahel, which is located to the north and which gradually turns into savannah when heading south.


  • Ethnicities: 65 ethnicities and sub-ethnicities, and more than 200 tribes. Within these tribes, there are two dominant families: the Mandé family and the Voltaïque family
  • Languages: French is the official language of the country and the main spoken languages are Mossi, Dyula and Pular.
  • Religions: Islam (60%), Catholicism (19%), Animism (5%) and Protestantism (5%).

Despite their diversity, the Burkinabes are known for their jovial, hospitable and tolerant nature, both on an ethnic and religious level. The three different religions can often cohabit within the same family.


  • Human development index: 185th out of 188.
  • Poverty level: 40.1%
  • GDP per capita: 613.04 US dollars

The country does however have resources, and it is the leading African exporter of cotton. Over the last 15 years, it has been the leading country of the Western African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) thanks to average annual growth of 5.5%. However, in 2014 various factors led to a slowdown in economic growth, such as a failed harvest in 2013, followed by a political crisis, the Ebola epidemic in 2014 and the steep decline in global prices of gold and cotton (which account for the country's main sources of revenue).

History and Politics

Burkina Faso officially became independent on 5 August 1960 under the name Upper Volta, which it had had since its dislocation from the Upper Senegal and Niger colony in 1919 due to its location in the upper basin of the Volta River which flows into the Atlantic at Ghana. In 1984, the country's name changed on the initiative of Thomas Sankara, the leader of the popular revolutionary party at the time. The name Burkina Faso means "land of the upright people" in the Dyula and Mossi languages.

After 27 years at the head of the country, President Blaise Compaoré who came to power in 1987 after a military coup which deposed Sankara, was forced to resign in October 2014 following a popular uprising in reaction to the revision of the Constitutions which aimed to remove any limit in the number of Presidential terms. Previously, the country had already been undermined by two major political crises which had destabilised the authorities in place: in 1988, the Zongo affair, and in 2011, a popular revolt and an army mutiny.

The country has a presidential regime, and the President is elected by the people for 5 years in a two-round election system. He can only be re-elected once. Since 29 November 2015, Roch March Christian Kaboré has been the Head of State in Burkina Faso. He was elected in the first round of presidential elections with 53.83% of the votes.

According to the corruption perception index of Transparency International of 2014, Burkina Faso is ranked 85th out of 175. After Senegal, it is the least corrupt country in the sub-region which extends from the Gulf of Guinea in the East to the Senegal River in the North West.

Relations with Belgium

In terms of commercial trade and investment, Burkina Faso is a minor partner for the Belgian economy. Just a handful of major businesses, including Brussels Airlines, have commercial relations with the country.

In 2012, Burkina Faso was the 104th largest customer of Belgium. With regards to Belgium's list of suppliers, it was in 111th place. In 2014, the main exports from Belgium to Burkina Faso were machinery and equipment, followed by transport equipment. Together, these two categories accounted for more than 60% of exports. With regard to Belgian imports from Burkina Faso, gemstones and precious metals dominate, representing 75% of imports.

Belgian Development Cooperation

Since the return of governmental cooperation with Burkina Faso Belgium's wish is to structurally support the democratic and socio-economic development of the country through two areas, namely sustainable and inclusive economic growth and an approach founded on human rights.

In view of this, Belgium initiated a launch programme in February 2016 for a total amount of €15 million, which comprises two main sections: (1) the right of access to drinking water in the city of Fada N’Gourma and (2) the sexual and reproductive rights of young people and women in delegated cooperation with the UNFPA.

On November 21, 2018, Belgium and Burkina Faso have signed a cooperation programme for the period 2018-2022. It will be executed by the Belgian Development Agency (Enabel) for a total amount of € 38,860 million. The overall objective will be to contribute to economic and inclusive and sustainable social development in the Centre-East region (Tenkodogo-Koupela) through three action lines: (1) the promotion of entrepreneurship and the creation of jobs for young people and women, (2) the reinforcement of security in the region and (3) "She Decides" (or the strengthening of women's sexual and reproductive rights).

Alongside governmental cooperation, we must not forget the existence for many years in Burkina Faso of wide-scale non-governmental cooperation. 22 Belgian NGOs are present in the country, not to mention Afrcalia, Universities and Scientific Institutions, the Association for the Promotion of Education and Training Abroad (APEFE), the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) in Antwerp and the Union of Cities and Municipalities of Wallonia. BIO-Invest is also active in Burkina Faso in search of financing opportunities. Moreover, Belgium has signed several loans from state to state. All this financing occurs in synergy with the new cooperation programme. 

Belgian ODA