Burkina Faso is a landlocked country located in the middle of Africa's western hump. At 274,200 square kilometers, it is slightly larger than Colorado. It was known as Upper Volta until the name was changed in 1984. Burkina Faso means "the land of upright men." The people are known as Burkinabes.
The largest West African elephant population is located in Burkina Faso. The country also is home to many game reserves. The Burkinabes have not taken advantage of these resources. Developing tourism would bring much needed employment to this impoverished country.
The region that contains Burkina Faso has a long history. The Mossi, still the largest ethnic group, claimed descent from warriors who migrated from Ghana. They established an empire that lasted 800 years. The Mossi lost control to the French in 1896.
The French established the colony of Upper Volta in 1919. The country was reconstituted many times until the borders were permanently set in 1947. Independence from the French was achieved in 1960 but independence had a price. Years of turmoil followed as the country struggled towards self rule.
In 1966, Colonel Sangoule Lamizana led a coup and deposed the first president, Maurice Yaeogo. He suspended the constitution and dissolved the National Assembly. In 1978, the people voted to reinstate the Assembly and constitutional rule returned. More coups followed until 1983 when Thomas Sankara took control. Sankara, a 33 year old Marxist, allied the country with North Korea, Libya, and Cuba. He is also responsible for changing the name to Burkina Faso.
In 1987, Sankara was assassinated. The new president began to rectify the economic decline that was brought about by the Sankara regime. In 1991, Burkina Faso adopted a new constitution.
The population of Burkina Faso, estimated in July 2010, is 16,241,811. The median age is 16.8, a number which represents a population decimated by AIDS. The risk of other infectious diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, typhoid, and Hepatitis A is also high. Because of the serious health issues, life expectancy in Burkina Faso is only 53.3 years.
The Mossi make up over 40% of the population in Burkina Faso. The rest of the population is made up from Gurunsi, Senufo, Lolu, Fulani and small groups of other ethnicities. Religions practiced in Burkina Faso are Muslim 50%, indigenous beliefs 40%, and Christianity 10%.
Even though independence from France was achieved several decades ago, French is still the official language.
Burkina Faso is a parliamentary republic with three branches. The Executive branch is led by the President, who is elected by popular vote for a 5 year term. The President appoints a Prime Minister with the consent of the Legislature. The Legislative branch is the unicameral National Assembly. There are 111 members elected by popular vote to a 5 year term. The Judicial branch consists of a Supreme Court and the Appeals Court.
Burkina Faso exports cotton and gold. For many years, cotton was the main cash crop but by 2010, with foreign investment, gold is now the #1 export.
Burkina Faso suffers the problems of high population density with limited natural resources.
Unrest in Cote D'Ivoire and Northern Ghana has prevented the Burkinabes from travelling for farm work, leaving many destitute. The literacy rate is only 21.8% and the average Burkinabe attends only 6 years of school. These low numbers explain why ninety percent of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture.