About Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso, (formerly Upper Volta), is a landlocked country in West Africa. It is surrounded by six countries: Mali to the north, Niger to the east, Benin to the south east, Togo and Ghana to the south, and Côte d’Ivoire to the south west.

Burkina Faso is one of the friendliest and, until recently (issues only affecting the very north), one of the safest, countries in all of Africa. Although it receives only a small number of tourists per year, it is an excellent destination for anyone interested in seeing a beautiful West African country and exploring African culture and music.

Burkina Faso’s seventeen million people belong to two major West African cultural groups—the Voltaic and the Mande (whose common language is Dioula). The Voltaic Mossi make up about one-half of the population. The Mossi claim descent from warriors who migrated to present-day Burkina Faso from Ghana and established an empire that lasted more than 800 years. Predominantly farmers, the Mossi kingdom is still led by the Mogho Naba, whose court is in Ouagadougou.

While over 60 ethnic groups (and just as many languages) can be found in Burkina, the country may also be divided into these primary ethnic regions:

  • Touareg: Extreme north
    Peul/Fulani: Far north, just south of the Tourags
    Gourmantché: East
    Mossi: Central plateau centred around Ouagadougou and stretching north to Ouahigouya and south to the Ghanaian border
    Gourounsi: Southern Burkina Faso between Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso
    Lobi: South-west along the borders with Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire
    Bobo/Dioula: West centered around Bobo-Dioulasso
    Senoufo: Southwest along the borders with Mali and Côte d’Ivoire

Burkina Faso is an ethnically integrated, secular state. Most of Burkina’s people are concentrated in the south and centre of the country, sometimes exceeding 48 per square kilometre (125 mi²). Several hundred thousand farm workers migrate south every year to Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. These flows of workers are obviously affected by external events; the civil war in Cote d’Ivoire have meant that hundreds of thousands of Burkinabé returned to Burkina Faso. A plurality of Burkinabé are Muslim, but most also adhere to traditional African religions.