By: Kasise Ricky Peprah

The former Republic of Upper Volta, the country now known as Burkina Faso, gained independence on 5th August 1960. It has a population of a little over 21.5 million, 60 percent are Muslim, 23% are Christians and 15 % hold indigenous beliefs.  The official language of Burkina Faso is French, having once been a colony of imperial France, however an estimated 70 languages are spoken in Burkina Faso with Moore, Fula and Dioula being highly recognized.

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa and has Niger, Mali, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast for neighbours.  It formed part of French West Africa from 1896 up until 1960 when it gain independence. From as far back as the 11th century, the Mossi people had arrived on that piece of real estate and subsequently established powerful kingdoms such as Ouagadougou, Tenkodogo and Yatenga. These kingdoms were centers of trans-Saharan trade and wielded admirable military might, managing to resist conquest by the more popular Mali and Songhai empires.

Like its counterparts in West Africa, Burkina Faso experienced a turbulent political history in the immediate aftermath of independence, culminating in that which saw Thomas Sankara rise to power. It was under his leadership that the country changed its name from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso. Meaning “the land of incorruptible people” Burkina Faso began to experience a peace and development but that was not to last. Blaise Compaore ousted his long-time friend amid citing inter alia, a souring of relations with their colonizer France. Admittedly it was not obviously sensible to many to attempt to sever ties with France or its most faithful disciple in West Africa, La Cote D’Ivoire but such a disarticulation was prudent, even essential. Suffice to say that the revolutionary fervor that Sankara sought to infuse in his countrymen to engender real self-rule and autonomous development had not even permeated even his close allies, who saw to his ouster and subsequent death. His removal also saw the truncation of his ambitious socio-economic policies which included notably, a re-afforestation of the country to stem its desertification and a decided delinking from its colonial power France.

Burkina Faso exports Gems, Cotton, Zinc, Oil seeds, nuts, Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes, computers, vehicles. The latest available country-specific data shows that 95.3% of products exported from Burkina Faso were bought by importers in: Switzerland (54.8% of the global total), India (17.7%), Singapore (6.5%), Ivory Coast (5.5%), France (3.2%), Ghana (2.7%), Denmark (1%), Niger (0.9%), Togo (0.8%), Vietnam (also 0.8%), Mali (0.7%) and the United Kingdom (0.6%). And in 2019, Burkina Faso shipped an estimated US$3.3 billion worth of goods around the globe. From 2004 to 2017, Burkina Faso was the leading producer of cotton in Africa, producing averagely1.2 million bales of cotton annually until it lost it position to Mali.

Today as Burkinabe mark their 60th anniversary as a resilient and hopeful people, they face two formidable challenges; the increasingly debilitating effects of Climate Change as well as an unending spate of fundamentalist violence coupled with the growth of community militias which have sprung up in an attempt to defend affected communities. The modest gains that they began to chalk with the ouster of Blaise Compaore and the ultimate election of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore have been stalled, maybe even reversed. General elections are scheduled to be held in Burkina Faso on 22 November 2020 to elect the President and National Assembly.