Geography and Landscape


Burkina Faso is located in West Africa. Burkina Faso is located partly in the Sahel strip south of the Sahara desert, under Mali. Niger is located east of Burkina Faso, and Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast to the south.

Burkina Faso Satellite PhotoBurkina Faso Satellite PhotoPhoto: Public domain

The area of Burkina Faso is 274,122 square kilometers.


Burkina Faso LandscapeBurkina Faso LandscapePhoto: Stefan Dressler CC 2.5 Generic no changes made

The former Upper Volta lies partly in the Sahel strip south of the Sahara desert. The Sahel is characterized by steppe and savanna vegetation in the wet period and half desert in the dry period. The Sahel is known for its problematic drought. After a long drought in the late 1960s and early 1970s, overgrazing, forest clearing, erosion and salinization made the Sahel less and less suitable for habitation. The Sahara continues to expand in a southerly direction.

The country consists of low-lying plateaus, consisting alternately of rocky and sandy soils. To the west, the plateaus are between 500 and 550 meters high and the highest peak in the fairly flat country is Ténakourou, with a height of 749 meters above sea level. In the rest of the country, the average height is 250 to 350 meters. The plains are intersected by a number of rivers, most of which are part of the Volta river system.

The largest of these are the White Volta, the Black Volta and the Red Volta.

Climate and Weather

Burkina Faso Savanna climateBurkina Faso Savanna climatePhoto: Marco Schmidt CC 2.5 Generic no changes made

Burkina Faso has a tropical climate. The far north has a desert climate with less than 500 mm. rainfall per year. The center of the country has a steppe climate, the south a savanna climate. To the south, the average amount of precipitation increases to about 1200 mm in the southwest. The average annual temperature is 29 degrees Celsius. The rainy season is from June to October. But the amount that falls out of this is relative. Burkina Faso is a dry country. The dry season is from November to May. Especially when the Harmattan, a dry desert wind, blows between December and February. The best time to travel to Burkina Faso is from December to February, when the heat is a bit more bearable.

Plants and Animals


Monkey bread tree (Baobab) Burkina FasoMonkey bread tree (Baobab) Burkina FasoPhoto: Quinn Norton CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The steppe in the north does not have lush vegetation. A few thorny trees grow here and there in the steppe grass. The far north has no vegetation at all and consists of sand dunes. The east and south have some forest. Common species include: acacia, monkey bread, butter tree, euphorbia and tamarind. In the more humid south, besides trees, there are also sugar cane fields.


Warthog Burkina Faso

Warthog Burkina FasoPhoto: Bernard DUPONT CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

In Burkina Faso there are some protected nature reserves. These parks are home to all kinds of monkeys, as well as buffaloes, gazelles, lions and warthogs. Burkina Faso also has the largest elephant population in West Africa. Crocodiles and hippos are found in the southeast.


Burkina Faso Mossi WarriorBurkina Faso Mossi WarriorPhoto: Gerhard Haubold CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The history of present-day Burkina Faso goes back to the 14th century, when the Mossi, the most important tribe in the area, founded several kingdoms in the savannahs of West Africa.

The French presence in the area dates back to 1895, when the area of present-day Burkina Faso became part of French West Africa. In 1919, the Upper Volta colony was founded, consisting of parts of Niger, Ivory Coast and present-day Mali. After some border shifts, Burkina Faso (then Upper Volta) emerged in 1947 within its current borders and as part of French West and Equatorial Africa.

From 1958 until independence in 1960, Upper Volta was part of the Communauté franco-africaine, under French colonial rule, but with a degree of autonomy.

Drawing Thomas Sankara Burkina FasoDrawing Thomas Sankara Burkina FasoPhoto: Larrybzh CC 4.0 International no changes made

On August 5, 1960, Upper Volta became an independent republic with Maurice Yaméogo as president. Economic decline, increasing corruption and growing authoritarian rule led to a coup in 1966. with the Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant Colonel Sangoulé Lamizana, seizing power. In the period 1966-1980 the country had alternating military and civilian governments. On November 25, 1980, a coup took place by Colonel Saye Zerbo, who was overthrown in 1982 by a group of young officers who appointed Major Jean-Baptiste Oué draogo president. Young Army Captain Thomas Sankara was appointed Prime Minister in 1983.

After a period of internal conflict on August 4, 1983, a group of young, radical soldiers seized power. The country was governed by the Marxist-Leninist-oriented Conseil National de la Révolution (CNR), led by Sankara and with officers Blaise Compaoré and Henri Zongo and Jean Baptiste Boukary Lingani as its main members.

On August 2, 1984, Boven Volta was renamed Burkina Faso, “the land of the people of integrity”. Sankara's strict measures and charismatic personality initially made him popular but later provoked resistance. In 1987 a violent coup took place under the direction of Blaise Compaoré. In addition, the then president Sankara was killed. Until 1990 there was dictatorial rule under Compaoré. Zongo and Lingani were sentenced to death on charges of treason. From 1990 Compaoré's policy began to relax. In June 1991, in a national referendum with 93% in favor, a new constitution was passed, providing for a multiparty system.

Campaore Burkina Faso Campaore Burkina FasoPhoto: Amanda Lucidon / White House in the public domain

In the December 1991 presidential election, boycotted by the opposition, Compaoré was elected president. In the general election of May 1992, Compaoré's party, the Organization pour la Démocratieoners-Mouvement du Travail (ODP-MT), won an absolute majority of 78 (then 107) seats. In 1996 several parties were merged with the ODP-MT into a new party: Congrès pour la Démocratie et le Progrès (CDP). In the May 1997 elections, it won 101 of the 111 seats in parliament. This created a de facto one-party state, albeit on formally democratic grounds. In the fall of 1998, Compaoré was re-elected president for a second term of 7 years and in November 2005 for a third term of five years. In May 2007, the CDP wins the parliamentary election. In April 2008, Parliament passed a law requiring at least 30% of political party candidates to be women. In 2011 Compaoré won the elections again and in July 2013 there were riots. The opposition thinks that Compaoré sees reason in this to extend his term. Demonstrations against extending the president's term are also taking place in 2014.

President Kabore Burkina FasoPresident Kabore Burkina FasoPhoto: Koch / MSC CC 3.0 Germany no changes made

In November 2015, former Prime Minister Kabore wins the presidential election. In January 2016, Islamic terrorists attacked a hotel and café in Ouagadougou, killing 29, including many foreigners. In 2017 it remains unstable, in February Burkina Faso will form an anti-terrorist unit together with four other Sahel countries. In August, another 18 people were killed in an attack on a Turkish restaurant in Ougadougou. In November 2020, President Kabore will be re-elected despite the fact that many polling stations in the north of the country remained closed for fear of Jihadite attacks.


Burkina Faso PopulationBurkina Faso PopulationPhoto: Public domain

More than 20 million people live in Burkina Faso (2017). The population density is approximately 73 inhabitants per square kilometer.

All of the above figures can change quickly and significantly in connection with the AIDS epidemic.

More than 50% of the inhabitants of Burkina Faso belong to the Mossi. The Mossi live in the central part of the country. The nomadic Fulani live in the north of the country. Other important minorities are the Lobi, the Mandé, the Bobo and the Gourma. The French make up the bulk of the foreigners living in Burkina Faso.


French Language MapFrench Language MapPhoto: Public domain

French is the official language of Burkina Faso, but only 15% of the population speaks it at home. Indigenous languages are mainly spoken there. Mossi or Moré is the language spoken by more than 50% of the population, especially in the region around the capital Ouagadougou. Other important languages are Fulfulde and Dioula. These three languages have national status, unlike the many other indigenous languages spoken in Burkina Faso.


Burkina Faso MosqueBurkina Faso MosquePhoto: Semiliki CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

About half of Burkina Faso's population is Muslim. 40% of the population profess traditional nature religions. The rest (about 10%) are Christian, mostly Roman Catholic.


State structure

Burkina Faso Presidential PalaceBurkina Faso Presidential PalacePhoto: Sputniktilt CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The 1991 Constitution provides for a multiparty system, independent executive, legislative and judicial powers and guarantees freedom of expression. Since a constitutional amendment in 2000, the term of office of the president has been limited to a maximum of two times five years. President Compaoré has not interpreted this law retroactively and participated in the November 2005 presidential elections.

The president appoints the prime minister with the approval of parliament, for a term of five years.

The Burkinabe parliament has only one chamber: the Assemblée Nationale, with 111 seats, 96 of which are allocated on the basis of the provinces and 21 on the national basis. Burkina Faso also has an Ombudsman and, since September 2001, a National Independent Electoral Commission, the CENI.

As part of the administrative decentralization process that started some years ago, the basic law on decentralization was approved at the end of 2004, which provides, among other things, for the establishment of 302 new rural municipalities and the expansion of the 49 existing urban municipalities. The entire territory of Burkina Faso is now divided into "collectivités territoriales". The aim is to establish a fund from which the municipalities can draw for investments in the social and economic field.


Burkina Faso Administrative DivisionBurkina Faso Administrative DivisionPhoto: Public domain

The national crisis that arose after the unexplained murder of journalist Zongo in late 1998 is over, although the problems that caused the crisis have not all been resolved. The government, led by the young technocrat Yonli, initiated reforms in 2000-2001, of which a new Electoral Law was one of the most important. On the basis of this law, general elections were organized on 5 May 2002, in which the radical opposition also took part and which led to a greater representation of the opposition in parliament. On May 25, 2005, the Elections Act was amended as a result of the new decentralization act.

In addition, CENI carried out a "revision exceptionelle" of the electoral rolls, which resulted in a 40% increase in the number of voters, compared to May 2002. This means that approximately one third of the total population will be registered. The electoral rolls were included on the internet for the first time this year as a sign of transparency in the electoral process. In September 2006, the fifteen members of the CENI were re-elected because the existing mandate had expired.

The opposition is divided and is formed by the "Alternance 2005" parties, "Hermann Yaméogo" coalition, PDP / PS, the ecological party and ADF / RDA.

The current state of affairs is described in the chapter history.


Burkina Faso Export Burkina Faso ExportPhoto: R Haussmann, Cesar Hidalgo CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Burkina Faso is landlocked with an economy that is vulnerable to exogenous factors such as the climate and world oil prices. 31.9% of the gross domestic product (GDP) comes from the primary (agricultural) sector, where cotton and livestock farming are the most important products. The primary sector is the basis of the economy. Approx. 90% of the employed labor force is employed in this sector. The secondary sector contributes approximately 22% to the gross domestic product and the tertiary sector 46.1%. (2017)

Burkina Faso has been pursuing an economic restructuring program since 1991, which, partly due to the devaluation of the FCFA in 1994, has resulted in positive growth figures of 5.7% on average over the period 1995-1999.

Economic growth was 6.4% in 2017.

In an effort to protect farmers from excessive fluctuations in cotton prices, the government will introduce a new cotton pricing mechanism. The price that farmers will then receive for the cotton will be based on an average of the historical and forecast prices on the world market.

The industrial sector is receiving a positive impulse, gold mining is started in the Essakane and Taparko-Boroum mines. These are the first of five to six mines to be opened in the coming years; these developments will most likely lead to an increase in investment. The services sector is also experiencing growth at the moment, mainly due to an increase in national demand.

Shop Burkina Faso Shop Burkina FasoPhoto: Public domain

Efforts to further diversify the economy have so far had little effect: costs for essentials such as transport, water and electricity are high and the education level of the population is very low.

Burkina Faso must make a structural appeal to the donor community to get the budget balanced and to be able to make investments.

Holidays and Sightseeing

For Burkina Faso, you must first visit the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the current state of affairs in this country. A number of sights are described below.

Ouagadougou Cathedral Burkina FasoOuagadougou Cathedral Burkina FasoPhoto: Sputniktilt CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Ouagadougou is the capital of Burkina Faso. Visit the Ethnographic Museum, which contains a significant collection of Mossi artifacts. The city is the center of the many Mossi kingdoms. Other museums are the National Museum in the Lycee Bogodogo and the Snake Museum in the Collège de la Salle. Witness the ceremony with traditional costumes and drums at the Moro-Naba Palace every Friday morning. the cathedral is also worth a visit.

Waterfalls Karfiguela Burkina Faso

Waterfalls Karfiguela Burkina FasoPhoto: C Hug CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

From Ouagadougou, you can make excursions to a small artificial lake 18 km. to the north. Pabre, an old Mossi village, is a short distance from a large reservoir to the north of the city. On Sabou, you can see crocodiles up close. The national parks and reserves are the best places to view wildlife. South of Ouagadougou, near Po, is a game reserve with a large population of elephants, antelopes, monkeys, baboons and warthogs. The Karfiguéla Falls are a series of waterfalls along the Komoé River in southwestern Burkina Faso. They are located about 12 km northwest of Banfora and are a major tourist attraction in Burkina Faso.

Market Bobo-Dioulasso Burkina FasoMarket Bobo-Dioulasso Burkina FasoPhoto: Adam Jones Ph. D CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Discover the attractive streets and bustling market, the Grand Marche, of Bobo Dioulasso, the largest city inhabited by the Bobo people. Other attractions include the Musee Provincial du Houët with regional relics, arts and crafts, and the Grande Mosque in the Kibidwé district.

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Elmar Landeninformatie

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Last updated December 2021
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