17,812,961 (July 2013 est.)
Tropical (dry from October to May, wet from May to October)
514.1 Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (XOF) =1 USD (2012 est.)
Bobo-Dioulasso, Ouahigouya, Koudougou, Banfora
Muslim 60.5%, Catholic 19%, Animist 15.3%, Protestant 4.2%, other 0.6%, none 0.4%
More, Dioula, Fulfulde
Head Of State
Type of Government
Date of Independence
Cotton, Gold, Animal Products, Sesame seed
The history of Burkina Faso is dominated by its largest ethnic group, the Mossi peoples. The Mossi founded powerful kingdoms in the Volta River basin from the 14th century onward, and controlled the region through their mastery of the war horse. They maintained a conflict-free area conducive to trade, keeping close ties to the Asante peoples in Ghana and mutual non-aggression treaties with the territories to the south. However, they exerted their power by means of slave raids upon weaker neighboring peoples, and many captives were shipped to the Atlantic coast and then to Brazil. French colonists claimed the territory in 1896. The Mossi resisted European influence until France captured Ouagadougou, which became the capital of the French Upper Volta in 1919. Throughout its colonial history, the densely populated nation remained underdeveloped in terms of infrastructure, with the excepting of a railroad constructed to transport laborers to the coast. This was a conscious decision on the part of the French to discourage laborers from seeking work anywhere besides the French plantations and factories in Côte d'Ivoire.
After France relinquished control of Burkina Faso in 1960, several foreign governments, the United Nations, and the European Economic Union assisted the underdeveloped nation by paving roads and constructing factories, including a large textile mill in Koudougou. Internally, the country experienced a power struggle between the supporters of democracy and the military leaders who seized power by accusing the civilian government of corruption. Ethnic minorities have fought continually for a measure of power to balance the size and influence of the Mossi majority. After a series of coup d’états, Captain Blaise Compaoré of the Congress for Democracy and Progress party became president in 1987, ushering in an era of relatively stable government and industrial development. A significant foundation for Ouagadougou’s recent progress dates to 2006, when the Multilateral Debt-Reduction Initiative cancelled approximately 1.25 billion dollars of debt. In 2007, the government began reconstructing the central market (Rood Woko), but closed the country’s two universities in 2008 due to violent student protests demanding improvements in the educational system. In 2009, the Loropéni Ruins, an ancient fortress, was added to UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites for mankind. Burkina Faso celebrated fifty years of independence in 2010, and re-elected Compaoré for the fourth time. Several civilian and political uprisings occurred in 2011, however, and new economic tensions arose in 2012 due to reports of dire grain shortages. In 2014 Campaore tried to force an additional term, but in a popular uprising crowds demonstrated in Ouagadougou and elsewhere, and Campaore fled the country. Michel Kafando is the interim head of state.
Lawrence Rupley, Lamissa Bangali, and Boureima Diamitani, Historical Dictionary of Burkina Faso (Lanham, Toronto, and Plymouth, UK: The Scarecrow Press, 2013).
Audio and Video
Burkina Faso; Mossi peoples
"Mossi Marriage [excerpt]"
Upper Volta, Koupela, Mossi; Noura, Marka and Fuebe, 1973
Collected by Valerie Christian and Jim Rosellini
Indiana University, Bloomington
Archives of Traditional Music