Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

Facts & figures

Full name: Burkina Faso

Population: 17.4 million (UN, 2012)

Capital: Ouagadougou

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

Major languages: French, indigenous languages

Major religions: Indigenous beliefs, Islam, Christianity

Life expectancy: 55 years (men), 57 years (women) (UN)

Monetary unit: 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc = 100 centimes

Main exports: Cotton, animal products, gold

GNI per capita: US $580 (World Bank, 2011)

Internet domain: .bf

International dialling code: +226



Blaise Compaore came to power in a coup in 1987. He subsequently won four presidential elections, the latest in November 2010. He is suspected of planning to extend his term in office beyond 2015, and former members of the ruling party in January 2014 formed a political movement to challenge him.


Visa & travel advice

To make your trip easier and enjoyable, please read carefully the following information.

For visa, the following is required:

A valid passport;

  • Two (2) application forms to be completed and available at the Embassy front desk or on the website;
  • Two (2) passport-size photos.
  • Best period

Burkina Faso has four “seasons.” The early dry season is from September to November; the middle dry season is from December to February, the late dry season is from March to May, and the wet season is from June to September. We recommend going between November and February, when the weather is dry and not too hot, and we discourage you from planning a trip during the late dry season and the start of the wet season before the rains come, as the heat can be intense and very uncomfortable.

  • Safety

Burkina Faso is one of the safest tourist destinations in West Africa, and despite the country’s poverty the people are welcoming and friendly. It is nonetheless important to use common sense and keep valuable belongings safe in crowded areas or when you’re using public forms of transportation. Check out the U.S. Department of State’s consular website for current travel advisories for Burkina Faso.


By the 14th century the territory of present-day Burkina Faso was occupied by the Bobo, Lobi, Gourounsi and the Mossi. The Mossi, who now make up almost half of Burkina Faso’s population, founded their first kingdom more than 500 years ago in Ouagadougou. Three more Mossi states ruled over the remainder of the country, known for their devastating attacks against the Muslim empires in Mali.

During the Scramble for Africa in the second half of the 19th century, the French broke up the traditional Mossi states, but French rule in Upper Volta, as Burkina Faso was then known, saw money and resources go elsewhere. By the time that independence came in 1960, Upper Volta was neglected, desperately poor and had become little more than a repository for forced labour.


Arts & Culture

  • Music

The music of Burkina Faso includes the folk music of 60 different ethnic groups. The Mossi people, centrally located around the capital, Ouagadougou, account for 40% of the population while, to the south, Gurunsi, Gurma, Dagaaba and Lobi populations, speaking Gur languages closely related to the Mossi language, extend into the coastal states. In the north and east the Fulani of the Sahel preponderate, while in the south and west the Mande languages are common; Samo, Bissa, Bobo, Senufo and Marka. Burkinabé traditional music has continued to thrive and musical output remains quite diverse. Popular music is mostly in French: Burkina Faso has yet to produce a major pan-African success.

  • Literature

Burkinabé literature was originally based around oral tradition. This remains important. In 1934, during French occupation, Dim-Dolobsom Ouedraogo published his Maximes, pensées et devinettes mossi (Maximes, Thoughts and Riddles of the Mossi), a record of the oral history of the Mossi people. The oral tradition continued to have an influence on Burkinabé writers in the post-independence Burkina Faso of the 1960s, such as Nazi Boni and Roger Nikiema. The 1960s saw a growth in the number of playwrights being published. Since the 1970s, literature has developed in Burkina Faso with many more writers being published.

  • Film industry

The cinema of Burkina Faso is an important part of the history of the post-colonial West African and African film industry. Burkina's contribution to African cinema started with the establishment of the film festival FESPACO (Festival Panafricain du Cinéma et de la Télévison de Ouagadougou), which was launched as a film week in 1969 and gained government support and permanent structures in 1972. It is largest film exhibition venue in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than half a million attendants and takes place in odd numbered years in March. Burkina is also one of the countries producing most feature films in Africa. Many of the nation's filmmakers are known internationally and have won international prizes. For many years the headquarters of the Federation of Panafrican Filmmakers (FEPACI) was in Ouagadougou, rescued in 1983 from a period of moribund inactivity by the enthusiastic support and funding of President Sankara (In 2006 the Secretariat of FEPACI moved to South Africa but the headquarters of the organization is still in Ouagaoudougou). Between 1977 and 1987 Burkina Faso housed a regional film school Institut d'Education Cinématographique de Ouagadougou (INAFEC), which was instigated by FEPACI and funded in part by UNESCO, but eighty percent of its funding came from the government of Burkina Faso (no other African country participated in its funding and few sent students).

In the late 1990s, local private production companies began to proliferate and digital production became increasingly prevalent. By 2002 over twenty-five small production companies existed in the country, many pooling their resources and expertise in order to produce. The best known directors from Burkina Faso are: Mamadou Djim Kola, Gaston Kaboré, Kollo Daniel Sanou, Paul Zoumbara, Emmanuel Kalifa Sanon, Pierre S. Yameogo, Idrissa Ouedraogo, Drissa Toure, Dani Kouyate, and Régina Fanta Nacro. Burkina also produces popular television series such as Bobodjiouf. The internationally known filmmakers such as Ouedraogo, Kabore, Yameogo, and Kouyate make also popular television series.


  • Famous places

The amazing Bobo Dioulasso Grand Mosque is impressive representative of the traditional Sudano-Sahelian architecture, most likely - the largest building in this style in Burkina Faso. It was built in the end of the 19th century as a result of political deal between local king and Islamic religious leader.


Gaoua is located in the heart of Lobi country, a culturally distinct people with a distinctive architecture. Their fortified family compounds are built in the fields widely separated from their nearest neighbours. The Lobi are a fiercely independent and shy people who still adhere to many of their traditional customs. Nearby the ancient stone ruins of Loropéni are the best preserved ruins in the Lobi area and have recently been shown to be at least 1,000 years old. Much about the site is unknown but it is believed to have been occupied by the Lohron or Koulango peoples, who controlled the extraction and transformation of gold in the region when it reached its apogee from the 14th to the 17th century.



Banfora is a sleepy and picturesque in the west of Burkina Faso which comes alive on Sundays when its market attracts traders from as far away as Mali and the Ivory Coast. The surrounding region contains numerous natural attractions. These include Karfiguela Waterfalls, Lake Tengréla - home to hippos and a wide variety of bird life and the Fabedougou ‘Domes’, giant, egg-shaped rocks that date back two billion years.



Traditional architecture varies by region and ethnic group. It ranges from the temporary straw hut of the Fulbe and the tent of the Tuareg to the round hut made of adobe bricks and covered by a straw roof (used by the Mossi, Bisa, and Gurmanché). In the south, the Bobo, Dagara, Gurunsi, and Lobi build huge, castle-like houses with solid wood and mud walls and flat roofs. Over a hundred persons can live in these structures, which are sometimes colorfully decorated. Villages in the south may consist of a dozen widely-dispersed huge houses. Markets in the center of villages and towns are not only spaces for commercial activities but communication centers were news is exchanged, marriages are arranged, and company is enjoyed.

Imported building material, such as the zinc sheets for roofing, is becoming increasingly important in the countryside. In cities, large boulevards, representative roundabouts, football stadiums, and multi-storied administrative buildings like the headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States in Ouagadougou symbolize modernity. An entire new quarter, called Ouaga 2000 and containing villas, embassies, and a congress center, has been built on the southern fringes of the capital. There is a drastic disparity between cities and the countryside in matters of revenue, health, education, and general infrastructure.

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