The Republic of Burkina Faso in West Africa has a long colonial history under French rule, keeping French as the official language of the state. It’s been through a few coups and unsettled regimes since its independence from colonial France, but nevertheless it has lots of interesting facts and statistics and could be a great place to visit as well.
Let’s have a look at the top interesting facts about Burkina Faso.
Burkina Faso Facts
1. The country was once named after the rivers flowing through it
There are three main rivers in Burkina Faso: the Black, White and Red Voltas, which flow into Ghana. These three rivers also influenced the country’s name before it became Burkina Faso. In 1958, the Republic of Upper Volta was set up within the French Community as a self-governing colony. This was the first step towards independence, achieved in 1960.
2. Burkina Faso has an interesting meaning
The name Burkina Faso became the official country’s name in 1983, after a coup which brought in Thomas Sankara as president. He thought this would be a good name for the state – it means “the land of the honest men”, an interesting fact about Burkina Faso. Sankara also tried to establish lots of positive initiatives such as a literacy campaign, land redistribution to peasants, construction of new railways and roads, and outlawing practices such as female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy, which were the norm before.
3. Burkina Faso’s history dates back to pre-historic times
We have evidence of hunter gatherers populating the territory of Burkina Faso between 14,000 BC and 5,000 BC. In 1973, a number of artifacts such as scrapers, chisels and arrowheads were discovered, giving us the ability to date back these tools accurately.
It was later in 3,600-2,600 BC that the area moved to farming, and there are artifacts proving that Burkina Faso is actually home to one of the oldest human settlements in West Africa.
4. Its national anthem was written by Thomas Sankara
Not only did Thomas Sankara try to start numerous initiatives to modernize the country, he also composed the music and lyrics to Burkina Faso’s anthem. Sankara has a revolutionary image in the country, similar to Che Guevara. He was a guitar player, enjoyed jazz, and played in a few bands. Because he believed that music was essential for cultural development, he wanted his country to have an anthem they could be proud of. It was through music as well, that Sankara tried to spread a lot of his ideas.
Burkina Faso’s national anthem, therefore, is called “The Anthem of Victory” and speaks of going towards a horizon of good fortune, acquiring liberty and progress, and conquering death.
5. They are devoted to horses
A fun fact about Burkina Faso is that it is a horse-loving nation, and its national symbol is a white stallion. The Fulani indigenous people consider the horse to be a best friend, a wife, a colleague, and a car! They basically view the horse as inseparable from human life. People of Burkina Faso have consequently been called “the cowboys of West Africa” for their love of horse-riding.
6. There’s very little electricity there
Burkina Faso has a very poor electric network outside of urban areas. Despite Thomas Sankara’s dreams of progress and development, after his assassination and the consequent periods of unrest, many of his development plans have been abandoned. One of them was the electrification of the country, which makes Burkina Faso one of the lowest lit countries in Africa. Only 56% of urban areas have electricity, while only about 1% are lucky to have it in the rural areas.
However, efforts are being made to spread electricity by adopting renewable methods in rural Burkina Faso.
7. Burkina Faso is rich in gold, cotton and animal products
Gold is the main export of Burkina Faso, but it is also Africa’s largest producer of cotton, a fun fact about Burkina Faso. This means you’re likely to own at least one item made from cotton from this country. In fact, brands like Victoria’s Secret have publicly stated that they are looking into improving the quality and value of organic cotton they’ve been importing from Burkina Faso. Major brands have also come under scrutiny for the prices paid for cotton and are looking into improving the livelihood of farmers in the country, mostly women.
8. Burkinabe people rely on subsistence agriculture
Subsistence agriculture is essentially farming to produce crops people can live off. Over 80% of the population relies on this to survive, as wages are extremely low.
The reliance on farming, however, is problematic, as the climate of Burkina Faso makes it prone to extended periods of drought. Severe droughts affected the country in the 1970s and 1980s.
9. Burkina Faso has a lot of protected natural reserves
Despite being mostly flat, with some undulating plains and the highest point at 747 m (Mount Tenakourou), Burkina Faso is home to 4 national parks, a UNESCO biosphere reserve, 3 complete reserves, 6 partial reserves and 10 protected forests. The parks are home to elephants, hippopotamus and lions, as well as baboons, buffalo, monkeys, warthog, boar, and antelopes.
The Nazinga Reserve has the largest protected elephant population in West Africa.
10. Its top tourist destination is a series of waterfalls
Whilst the national parks are definitely a great place to visit, especially for seeing elephants up close at the Nazinga Reserve, the best tourist destination in Burkina Faso is are the Banfora Cascades or the Cascades de Karfiguela. This is a series of waterfalls on the Komoe River in the southwest of the country.
Another great tourist site is at the peaks of Sindou, a very interesting set of rock formations near Sindou, a fun Burkina Faso fact.
Burkina Faso is a land of contrasts, with many people living in poverty and not earning a lot at all, relying on agriculture to survive. At the same time, it’s rich in gold and cotton and has gorgeous nature reserves which attract tourism.
Here you have it, the top 10 interesting facts about the West African country of Burkina Faso! If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!