Burkina Faso was formerly known as Upper Volta. It is located in western Africa, north of Ghana. Its official language is French while the largest communities speak Dioula It was colonized by France and it achieved its independence in 1960. The country was a single party government until during the 1970's where there were numerous civil wars. In the early 1990, the country adapted a multiparty system of government. The current president is Blaise COMPAORE who came to power through military coup in 1987. Since then, he has been president after winning subsequent elections (World Bank, 2002). Burkina Faso has a very high population density that can not be supported by the resources which are limited. It is basically because of this that most of the people live below the poverty line. Some of its immediate neighbors are Cote d'Ivoire and northern Ghana. These countries have not been much a support to Burkina Faso's economy due to political unrest. The main economic activity of the country is farming.
Burkina Faso is a landlocked country is surrounded by six nations namely Mali which neighbors it to the north, Togo and Ghana to the south, Côte d'Ivoire to the southwest, Niger to the east and Benin to the southeast.
Geography and climate
Burkina Faso lies between latitudes 9° and 15°N and longitudes 6°W and 3°E. the country has two prominent geographical features, the largest is the peneplain with undulating landscape and some isolated hills. In southwest part of the country is composed of sandstone which is basically the highest pick. The country stands on an altitude of 400 meters (1,312 ft). The difference between the highest terrain and the lowest is 600 meters (1,969 ft), this therefore means that it is a flat region. The historic name of the country, Upper Volta, was derived from three rivers that cross it, the White Volta also known as Nakambé, the red Volta or Nazinon and the Black Volta also known as Mouhoun. The red and the White Volta are seasonal rivers. The Black Volta and the Komoe are the only permanent rivers the country has. The Niger River pours an estimated 27% to the surface of the country.
Despite the presence of seasonal rivers, the flatness of the country makes it susceptible to floods. This mostly happens when the seasonal streams start flowing. Some of the lakes of the country include Dem, Tingrela and Bam. Some of the large ponds of the country are Markove, Oursi, Yomboli and Beli. There is usually a seasonal shortage of water especially in southern region. There are primarily two tropical seasons in Burkina Faso, the rainy season, and the harmattan (dry season). The average rainfall of the country is between 600 and 900 millimeters. The rainy season is between the months of May and September. The dry season is usually accompanied by a hot and dry wind from the Sahara desert. The three climatic zones of the country are the Sudan-Sahel, Sahel, and the Sudan-Guinea (Central intelligence agency). The natural treasures of the country are small deposits of gold, phosphates, limestone, manganese, salt, marble and pumice. There are two national parks where its flora and fauna is stored and protected.
The gross domestic product of the country is $ 1,200 which one of the lowest in the world. The main economic activity of the country is agriculture that is done on a seasonal basis. Most of the farmers deal in subsistence farming which is generally hardly enough to feed their large population. Eighty percent of the people in Burkina Faso depend on farming and agriculture for their basic needs. Due to the seasonal rainfall, most people prefer to rear livestock. Maize (corn), rice, sorghum, peanuts, cotton, and pearl millet are some of the crops that are mostly grown by the farmers. The country relies on foreign aid especially in carrying out its economic activities. Burkina Faso is part of the West African Monetary and Economic Union (UMEOA). The union requires its members to adopt the franc; it is responsible for all monetary and reserve policies that are adapted by member countries. Since 1998, Burkina Faso decided to privatize some of the state owned enterprises with the bid to improve on the economy (International Monetary Fund, 2000). In 2004, the government revised the investment code which was a measure taken to attract foreign investors. The move yielded results especially in the mining industry where gold was exploited more and in 2010, it became the main source of foreign revenue to the country.
The exploitation of minerals in the country has had positive impacts to the people as it has attracted foreign aid as well as served as health care centers for the public. The country participates in international art and craft fairs. One of its prominent events is Ouagadougou or SIAO, Le Salon International de l' Artisanat de Ouagadougou, an event that has made it gain a lot of popularity. Burkina Faso is also a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA). The GDP rate of the country is 5.2%, the unemployment rate stands at 77% by 2004 while 46.4 of the population lives below poverty line. The revenue of the country is $ 7 billion while its total expenditure is $2.343 billion. The inflation rate is 1.4 %, the industrial product growth rate is 5.5% with an electricity production of 611.6 million kWh.
Government and Political environment
The system of government is parliamentary republic; the French civil law system and customary law govern the country. The constitution was formally adopted on 11 June 1991 and was approved by a referendum done in 2nd June 1991. The last amendments were done in January 2002. According to the constitution, the president can dissolve the semi-presidential government. The president is elected by the people and is to rule for a five year term period with no re-election. This was according to the amendments done in 2002 but they took effect in 2005 (Klotchkoff, 2005). The law could not take effect immediately it was amended because of the then sitting president who was allowed to finish his 2nd term office and then pave way for a new president. Despite the numerous political parties, Blaise Compaoré was able to win the 2005 general elections with a landslide because the opposing parties were many and disunited.
The parliament is composed of the national assembly that has 111 seats. The members come to government through an election that is carried out after five years. The constitutional chamber is made up of ten members with an economic and social council. The role of the chamber is mainly to consult with the government and various stakeholders on things to do with the countries economic and political status. The judicial branch is composed of Supreme Court of Appeals (Cour de Cassation), Council of State (Conseil d'Etat) Court of Accounts (la Cour des Comptes) and Constitutional Council (Conseil Constitutionnel) (Faso & Englebert, 1999). The main political parties of the country include;
African Democratic Rally-Alliance for Democracy and Federation (ADF-RDA) under the leadership of Gilbert OUEDRAOGO,
Citizen's Popular Rally (RPC) by Antoine QUARE,
Coalition of Democratic Forces of Burkina (CFD-B) by Amadou Diemdioda DICKO,
Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) by Roch Marc-Christian KABORE,
Democratic and Popular Rally (RDP) by Nana THIBAUT,
Movement for Tolerance and Progress (MTP) by Nayabtigungou Congo KABORE,
Party for African Independence (PAI) by Soumane TOURE,
Party for Democracy and Progress-Socialist Party (PDP-PS) by Ali LANKOANDE
Party for Democracy and Socialism (PDS) by Felix SOUBEIGA
Party for National Rebirth PAREN by Jeanne TRAORE];
Rally for the Development of Burkina (RDB) Antoine KARGOUGOU
Rally of Ecologists of Burkina Faso (RDEB) by Ram OUEDRAGO
Republican Party for Integration and Solidarity (PARIS)
Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) by Fidele HIEN
Union for Rebirth - Sankarist Movement (UNIR-MS) by Benewende STANISLAS
Union for the Republic (UPR) by Toussaint Abel COULIBALY
Union of Sankarist Parties (UPS) by Ernest Nongma OUEDRAOGO
Burkina Faso has an average population of 16,751,455 people, they belong to two main African cultural groups namely the Mande and the voltaic Mossi whose language is the Dioula. The Mossi are the most prominent and account for half of the population. Most of the people in Burkina are located in the southern and central part. It is a secular state with integrated ethnic communities. Due to the economic status of the country, most people migrate to Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana to seek for employment opportunities. The unstable political environment of their neighbors considering that it is a landlocked country has always affected their economic stability. Most people that had migrated to Côte d'Ivoire were forced to go back to their country following a coup attempt in 2002.
The population growth rate of the country stands at 3.085% with a birth rate of 43.59 births/ 1,000 people and a death rate of 12.74 deaths/ 1,000 people. The urban population is 26% of total population with the rate of urbanization increasing by 6.2% annually. The infant mortality rate is 81.4 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy at birth is 53.7 years, females have a tendency to live longer with an expectancy of 55.71 years while the males at 51.75 years (Central intelligence agency). The fertility rate is 6.14 children born/woman. HIV/AIDS is big issue in the country with a prevalence of 1.2%. People living with aids are 110,000 while those who die of the pandemic on a yearly basis is 7,100. The rate of infectious diseases is very high with the following major pandemics; food or waterborne diseases include bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever. Vectorborne diseases include malaria and yellow fever, those caused by water contact disease is schistosomiasis, respiratory disease is meningococcal meningitis while that of animal contact is rabies (International Health Information, 1994).
The system of education is comprised of three levels, primary, secondary and tertiary levels. The estimated yearly cost of obtaining education in Burkina Faso is $ 97 USD which is above what most people can afford. Boys are given preference when it comes to schooling, which is reflected, by their literacy levels. Approximately people above the age of 15 can read and write which is a total population of 21.8%. Males stand at 29.4% while females at 15.2%. The school life expectancy is a 6 years, with male at 7 years and females at 6 years. Recently, the government introduced measures to encourage girls to go to school. Their schooling expenditures were reduced as they obtained scholarships to advance their studies (Lear, 1986). Promotion to the next level of education is facilitated by an exam where the candidates are required to pass with a certain percentage for them to be eligible. Among other training institutes and colleges, the country's higher education institutions include University of Ouagadougou, University of Koudougou and the Polytechnical University in Bobo-Dioulasso.
Culture and religion
Islam is the main religion of the country, which accounts for 50% of the population. Indigenous beliefs account for 40% of the population while the remaining 10% are Christian, mainly Roman Catholic. Oral tradition takes the centre stage in its literature. There are also a lot of French cultural influences which is the basis of their western culture. There is a lot of belief in traditional ceremonies and rituals that arte practiced by most communities. A new form of theatre was also developed since the 1970's with the main objective of educating and entertaining the masses on issues to do with life. The staple food of the people is composed of their main agricultural products of potatoes, sorghum, maize, millet, okra, rice, beans, peanuts, and yams (Sacerdoti, 2001). The main sources of proteins for the people are chicken, fresh water fish and chicken eggs. Banji or Palm Wine is the main social drink that is fermented from palm sap.