Burkina Faso country profile


A poor country even by West African standards, landlocked Burkina Faso has suffered from recurring droughts and military coups.

Burkina Faso, which means "land of honest men", has significant reserves of gold, but the country has faced domestic and external concern over the state of its economy and human rights.

A former French colony, it gained independence as Upper Volta in 1960.

In 1983 Capt Thomas Sankara seized power and adopted radical left-wing policies but was ousted by Blaise Compaore, who went on to rule for 27 years before being ousted in a popular uprising in 2014.


Burkina Faso

Capital: Ouagadougou

  • Population 18.6 million

  • Area 274,200 sq km (105,870 sq miles)

  • Major languages French, indigenous languages

  • Major religions Indigenous beliefs, Islam, Christianity

  • Life expectancy 59 years (men), 61 years (women)

  • Currency CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc

Getty Images


President: Roch Marc Kabore

Image source, Getty Images

Marc Kabore, who served as prime minister and speaker of parliament under veteran President Blaise Compaore, has won presidential elections in 2015 and 2020, easily beating his main rival.

A French-educated banker, Mr Kabore sees himself as a social democrat, and has pledged to reduce youth unemployment, improve education and healthcare, and make health provision for children under six free of charge.

But, like his neighbours, he has found his domestic agenda undermined by the spread of jihadist groups from Mali, and the attendant military and security problems.


Image source, Getty Images


Some key events in Burkina Faso's history:

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Thomas Sankara, also known as "Africa's Che Guevara", seized power in 1983 and tried to introduce major reforms. He was killed in a coup led by his successor Blaise Compaore

1896 - Kingdoms now making up Burkina Faso become a French protectorate, later known as Upper Volta.

1960 - Upper Volta becomes independent with Maurice Yameogo as president. He is overthrown in 1966 by Sangoule Lamizana.

1980 - President Lamizana is ousted in coup led by Saye Zerbo, who is overthrown two years later by Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo, ushering in a period of unrest and power struggles.

1984 - Upper Volta renamed Burkina Faso.

1990 - Blaise Compaore, who assumed power when he ousted and killed then-leader Capt Thomas Sankara in 1987, introduces limited democratic reforms. He remains in power for 27 years.

2000 - Government agrees to set up UN-run body to monitor weapons imports after allegations that it has been involved in smuggling arms to rebels in Sierra Leone and Angola.

2011 - Months of unrest, including a mutiny.

2014 - President Compaore steps aside following massive protests against plans to extend his rule. A transitional government takes charge.

2015 - Acting President Kafando faces down coup attempt by presidential guard allies of Blaise Compaore. In November, former Prime Minister Roch Marc Christian Kabore wins presidential election.

2016 - Islamists attack a hotel and cafe frequented by the French military and other expatriates, killing 29 people.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Blaise Compaore led the country for 27 years before stepping aside under popular pressure

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