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Burkina Faso

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  • Population: 12,272,289 (Ranked 65th in the world by the US Census Bureau)
  • Population density: 113 per square mile
  • Children 0-14: 47.5 % 5,829,392
  • Teenage 10-19: 24.7% 3,025,268
  • Youth between 15-24: 20.3% 2,495,769
  • Seniors Over 70: 1.7% 204,521
  • Male to female ratio: 95 males per 100 females
  • Birth rate: 45.26 births per 1,000 people
  • Life expectancy at birth: 45.9 years for males and 47 years for females
  • Infant mortality rate: 106.9 per 1000 live births

Educational Landscape

Pre-primary Beginning age, 4 Duration, 3 years
Primary Beginning age, 7 Duration, 6 years
Secondary Beginning age, 13 Duration, 7 years

There are two organizations responsible for education in Burkina Faso: the Ministries of Secondary and Higher Education and of Scientific Research and the Ministry of Basic Education and Mass Literacy.


Combating illiteracy is a major issue in education in Burkina Faso. In 1995, more than 4.5 million people over the age of 15 were considered illiterate. This is almost 70% of the entire over-15 population. Another issue is incorporating the study of Islam and the Arab language into the educational curriculum, as 50% of the Burkina Faso population is Muslim.

Ethnic Landscape

Burkina Faso has the following ethnic groups represented:

  • Mossi.
  • Gurunsi.
  • Senufo.
  • Lobi.
  • Bobo.
  • Mande.
  • Fulani.

Mossi comprise about 40% of the entire population.

Social Landscape

There are 6.3 million women in Burkina Faso, compared to 6 million men (a ratio of about 95 men per 100 women). The life expectancy for men at birth is 45.9 years, and the life expectancy for women is 47 years (an overall average of 46.4 years). The birth rate is about 45 births per 1,000 people, and the death rate is about 17 per 1,000 people, for an overall growth rate of 2.68%. Infant mortality is 106.9 per 1,000 births (112.4 for males, 101.2 for females). Youth, or those under 15, make up 47% of the country’s overall population.

The official language of Burkina Faso is French, but 90% of people speak a tribal language as well. Education is free and compulsory from ages 7-14. The national literacy rate is estimated at about 20% (29.5% for men, 9.2% for women).

Burkina Faso is one of the world’s poorest countries. It is estimated that 90% of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture. Industry is dominated by government-controlled corporations, which are, on the whole, unprofitable. The gross domestic product (GDP) is about $12 billion (compare this to the $9.3 trillion GDP of the US) or about $1,100 per capita ($33,000 in the US).


Equality for women is a major social issue. Currently, Burkina Faso law sanctions discrimination against women and the few constitutional and legal protections available to women are not normally enforced. Women have scant educational or occupational opportunities, particularly in rural areas. Women also hold very few parliamentary seats or government positions. In addition, female literacy is estimated to be only 9.2%, compared to 29.5% for men. A more equitable distribution of wealth is sought, as is greater economic growth.

Religion and Faith Landscape

Indigenous beliefs are held by about 40% of the population of Burkina Faso. Islam is practiced by 50% of the population, and Christianity (mainly Roman Catholicism) is practiced by 10%.


Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Burkinabe constitution, and by all accounts, the government does not exert any control over religions (although religious movements are asked to register). Licenses for the transmission of religious information in print and by radio and television are given to all who apply.

By most accounts, religious tolerance is practiced by most citizens, with some families having members of several religions. There is limited tension between Christians and the indigenous religions, but persecution is, by and large, nonexistent. From a Christian perspective, the issue would have to be conversion, as 90% of the country is not Christian. Efforts to proselytize are not hampered by the government.


UNESCO Statistics Division.

US Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook.

Freedom House.

Jonathan Ketcham
© 2018 CYS

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