Burkina Faso is one of those African countries you’ve probably heard of that has a lot of drama going on however, there’s a whole world of underlying fascination and culture awaiting you once you visit this beautiful West African Country. Starting with the flag, the flag of Burkina Faso has two equally sized horizontal bands of red and green with a yellow star resting in the middle. These colors are the pan-African colors which symbolizes the breaking away and unity of post-colonial nations in Africa. Adopted in 1984, the red symbolizes the revolution while the green represents the abundance of agricultural and natural resources and finally the yellow star represents the guiding light of the revolution.
Burkina Faso is arguably the country with the world’s most interesting sounding names, i mean you have places like Bouroum bouroum sounds pretty much like the sound of a car and then you have places like Gorom Gorom sounding more like a Swedish car. There are also places called Rambo and Bobo-Dioulasso, a lot of these names basically comes from tribal words and the cool thing is that Burkina Faso is actually really good at inter mixing its ethnic influences pretty well. In fact, the name Burkina Faso comes from the mother a word “Burkina” meaning honorable people and “Faso” which is the Dioula word meaning fatherland. The usage of different languages in the name symbolizes the unity between the many ethnic groups.
Burkina Faso is a landlocked country located in West Africa surrounded by six other countries and is divided into 13 administrative regions each with its own governor. The name of the capital is Ouagadougou. Burkina Faso’s old name actually used to be Upper Volta or French Upper Volta when as part of the French Empire named after the three Volta Rivers, the Black, the Red and the White Voltas. The color of these rivers explains why the former flag of Burkina Faso was black, red and white. Well, you might ask if it was called the Upper Volta then where was the lower Volta? Was it Ghana? to be frank there was never really a lower Volta, however all three Volta rivers do kind of drain into Lake Volta in Ghana so I guess in an unofficial sense Ghana is kind of like the Lower Volta.
When it was under the French Empire, Burkina Faso was kind of utilized as like a bridge nation and wasn’t really exploited much for its natural resources the country was pretty much targeted solely for the purpose of giving direct access from the coastal colonies to the desert holdings like Mali and Niger. About 19 provinces in Burkina Faso have this weird fusion contiguous territory agreement with Mali and Niger under this thing called the Liptako Gourma Authority which basically administers the resources and power corporations between the people of the entire region of all three countries. Burkina Faso has quite a few noticeable places that have their own cultural Flair. Typically towns will have their own contrasting architectural style based on the tribes that are predominantly inhabiting that area like the thick red clay houses of Kumi, the elaborately embellished pattern houses of Tiabele, the spiky mud mosque of Bobo-Dioulasso otherwise Ouagadougou has its own taste in modern buildings and offices but with a dry red clay of African ambiance that gives its distinct cultural character.
Want to know another thing that gives Burkina Faso its distinctive character? Well, Burkina Faso’s landscape plays a huge role in how people live and engage with each other on a daily basis. First of all, as a landlocked country Burkina Faso obviously has no access to the sea so instead relies on its system of rivers and lakes for irrigation. The northern part of Burkina Faso is kind of like entirely in the Sahel line. This basically means that the northern region of Burkina Faso appropriately named the Sahel region is the driest part in the entire country and has a desert-like atmosphere. The further the South you go, the greener and wetter it gets until you are literally in humid forest zones. In general though one thing that you can kind of expect in Burkina Faso is a lot of red dirt. The soil and many parts have noticeably dusty red hue that kind of gives the entire country a rustic African appeal. Unfortunately, as a whole, Burkina Faso doesn’t really have many internal natural resources. There’s no oil and many of the cash crops aren’t really extensively grown.
Despite the fragile soil conditions about 80 percent of the population lives on subsistence agriculture. In fact, despite plagues of locusts, desertification and droughts about three-quarters of the people still live in the countryside and prefer agricultural lifestyles it’s just the thing they do and have been doing for centuries. The French colonial administrator Dim Delobsom – wrote in 1946 that “We came from industrialized Europe where factories are joyless affairs and found people who work to music”. Typically, drummers still accompany farmers in Burkina Faso to this very day. The most common crops distributed domestically and internationally are peanuts, millet and sorghum; however, the economy is heavily centralized around cotton and gold. Burkinabe cotton is one of the cheapest cotton you can buy in the market right now and comes in very good quality. Gold found in various mines scattered throughout the country makes up an almost equal share of the export sector and together collectively gold and cotton alone make up about 70% of all exports.
Nonetheless Burkina Faso still has a few impressive geological tricks up its sleeve. One of the most recognizable natural landmarks of this country would be the Sindou Peaks near Ban fora these curiously eroded rock formations dispersed among the terrain give a wonderful visual experience almost on par with the Hunan province rock pillars in China but adjacent to the Falls is another strangely eroded rock formation with stone ledges carved in an almost ovular fashion. Burkina Faso’s land may be on the brink of surviving but the people sure know how to look good in the process. The people of Burkina Faso are called Burkinabe. Burkina Faso has about seventeen and a half million people, the ethnic majorities are about (49%) half of the entire population identified as Mossi from the Mossi tribe, about 10% are Fulani, Lobi, Mande and Bobo each make up about 7% of the population.
Each and the rest of the population is comprised of about 60 different tribes and people groups. Faith lies somewhere around 60 percent of the country follows malachite Sunni Islam heavily influenced on the doctrines of Sufism whereas about thirty percent of the country identifies as Christian the remainder typically follows some form of animism and traditional beliefs. The country’s official language is French; however there are three regional languages that exist, Moore mostly spoken by the Mossi, Mandinka mostly spoken in the west by the Bobo and Bambara mostly spoken in the North close to Mali. Although Fulfude the language of the Fulani is also widely spoken, it doesn’t really encompass any specific region as it’s kind of widely throughout the country so they don’t really get any regional recognition.
Burkina Faso is a pretty low income country, most people live off of one dollar a day and the country depends heavily off on aid from the IMF and World Bank. It’s also one of the countries with the highest birth rates as women typically on average have about six children each which in return has exploded the population almost fivefold in the past half century. To really understand Burkina Faso you have to kind of understand what has happened to it in the past and what is happening to it today. In the shortest condensed way, shortly after the French left the country and they gained independence in 1960, the country got a president (Maurice Yameogo) who was later usurped by a revolution led by Thomas Sankara who acted on Marxist ideologies often referred to as the “Che Guevara of Africa” Sankara was then assassinated by another guy named Blaise Compaore eventually he was taken over by the storming of the Parliament by youth revolts. Blaise Compaore resigned and fled the country and the ruins of Parliament are now a tourist attraction.
After two weeks of intense negotiations with political and military leaders the country elected retired diplomat Michel Kafando to act as an interim president until November 2015 when elections will determine a new leader. After the election in 2015, the country new leader by name Roch Marc Christian Kaboré was elected.
As mentioned before there are many tribes in Burkina Faso however, the largest one the Mossi tribe has historically been the predominant ethnic group in the region. Mossi like other tribes found in the region have a heavily equestrian culture as they are sometimes referred to as the Cowboys of Africa which may explain the huge profusion of horse race betting shops found in the country. French horse races are broadcasted live and Burkinabe love betting on them. This gave them a huge advantage over their southern neighbors as they were even able to effectively fight off the Atlantic slave traders very well in the early sixteenth century and remained intact for over 400 years until finally the kingdom was taken over by the French at the end of the 19th century.
The cool thing is, according to Mossi tradition the highest position in Mossi society is the Emperor. The Emperor referred to as the Mogho Naba and the current one being Zomwogbo. He is recognized as an authoritative figure and holds substantial power and influence in the country to this day. These days rugby is actually a little more popular than soccer especially since Fulgence Ouedraogo was drafted into Montpellier Hérault Rugby team he’s kind of like a local hero and since then Burkinabe have swapped kicking for tackling.
When it comes to friends Burkina Faso kind of does get along with or at least tolerates all of their immediate neighbors and have multilateral agreements but they aren’t exactly yet be Skippy about all of them either. Historically they have had kind of a lot of conflicts with almost every single one of their neighbors. Nonetheless it’s kind of interesting because Burkina Faso does have kind of smooth relationship with the EU even though former president Blaise Compaore has been heavily criticized over the decades and yet chooses to acknowledge underdog areas like Kosovo and Taiwan effectively cutting off ties with the People’s Republic of China and Serbia.
Libya is a huge ally, both Sankara and Compaore were both close friends of Gaddafi and eventually both countries became founding members of the community of Sahel Sahara States an organization that aims to establish free trade in the area. Interestingly enough Algeria was actually not part of that Club and it all had to do with some kind of political dispute. When it comes to their best friends however more or less they might be grudgingly say the Ivory Coast and Ghana even though they’ve had some drama with the Ivory Coast during the recent civil war as they were accused of supporting rebel fighters they still remain the largest trade partners and we’re at one point the same country under French rule.
Ghana has established numerous ties with Burkina Faso and today they have regular high-level consultations and cooperation commissions and they even share joint military exercises with each other to encourage diplomacy. In conclusion Burkina Faso is a land ridden with kings, Cowboys and Gold.