25 interesting facts about Burkina Faso

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Home to the “African Che Guevara” and one of the world’s youngest populations, these are the most interesting facts about Burkina Faso.

The Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Burkina Faso
Capital city: Ouagadougou
Population: 20,835,401
Area: 273,800 sq km
Major languages: French
Time zone: UTC (GMT)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about Burkina Faso

1. Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa. A landlocked country is entirely surrounded by land with no access to open sea. There are currently 45 landlocked countries in the world as well as five partially recognised states.
– Source: Britannica, The Telegraph

2. Burkina Faso used to be known as Upper Volta until it changed its name in 1984.
– Source: BBC News

3. Before colonisation, Burkina Faso was ruled by the Mossi who arrived in the region between the 11th to the 13th centuries and ruled until the end of the 19th.
– Source: Encyclopedia.com


4. They called the land Mogho (“country of the Mossi”) and established five independent kingdoms: Tenkodogo, Yatenga, Gourma, Zandoma, and Ouagadougou.
– Source: Encyclopedia.com

The capital city, Ouagadougou – one of 25 interesting facts about Burkino Faso
The capital city Ouagadougou today (Shutterstock)

5. The kingdoms became a French protectorate in 1896. In 1919, Upper Volta became a separate constituent territory of French West Africa and then an autonomous republic within the French Community in 1958.
– Source: BBC News

6. Burkino Faso (Upper Volta) declared independence from France on 5 August 1960.
– Source: Encyclopedia.com

7. Burkina Faso translates as “Land of the Honest (Incorruptible) Men”.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

8. The capital city, Ouagadougou, is a French adaptation of the native name “Wogodogo,” meaning “where people get honour and respect”.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book


9. According to the UK Foreign Office, Burkina Faso is one of 17 countries deemed to be entirely unsafe for tourists to visit.
– Source: The Telegraph

10. The flag of Burkina Faso is striped red and green with a central yellow star. Yellow represents the country’s mineral wealth, red represents the revolutionary struggle and green symbolises hope and abundance. The star stands for Sankara’s revolutionary principles.
– Source: Britannica

The flag of Burkina Faso
The flag of Burkina Faso (Shutterstock)

11. Burkina Faso has three principal rivers: the Black Volta (Mouhoun), the Red Volta (Nazinon) and the White Volta (Nakambé). All of which converge in Ghana to form the Volta River which drains into Lake Volta.
– Source: Britannica

12. Between 1960 and 1983, Burkina Faso experienced six coups and counter-coups.
– Source: Lonely Planet

13. As well as military coups, Burkina Faso has suffered from recurring droughts, particularly during the 1970s when drought caused a serious famine and killed an estimated 100,000 people by 1973.
– Source: United Nations, Britannica


14. This is largely due to Burkina Faso’s position in the Sahel region of West Africa. The Sahel is a savanna region increasingly afflicted by soil erosion and desertification.
– Source: Britannica

15. Thomas Sankara, who ruled Burkina Faso for four years from 1983, is known as the “African Che Guevara” due to his radical left-wing policies and mysterious death in 1987.
– Source: BBC News

Thomas Sankara ruled Burkina Faso for four years from 1983
The “African Che Guevara” (Shutterstock)

16. Sankara, an accomplished guitarist, even wrote Burkina Faso’s national anthem himself.
– Source: Reuters

17. Sankara’s deputy, Blaise Compaoré, took over and ruled Burkina Faso for 27 years before being ousted in a popular uprising in 2014. He was one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.
– Source: The Guardian

18. Burkina Faso has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Ruins of Loropéni, the Ancient Ferrous Metallurgy Sites and the transnational W-Arly-Pendjari Complex.
– Source: UNESCO


19. Burkina Faso is also home to the Grande Mosquée in Bobo-Dioulasso. Built in 1893, the mosque is an exceptional example of Sahel-style mud architecture.
– Source: Lonely Planet

The Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque (Shutterstock)

20. People from Burkina Faso are known as Burkinabe.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

21. The national symbol of Burkina Faso is the white stallion. The country’s coat of arms depicts a horse, the national football team is nicknamed Les Etalons (“The Stallions”) and the most common surname is Ouedraogo (meaning stallion).
– Source: The Times, CIA World Fact Book

22. The median age in Burkina Faso is just 17, making it among the ten youngest countries in the world.
– Source: UN Population Division (via Our World in Data)

23. The Sindou Peaks are one of Burkina Faso’s most unusual geological formations. The unique sandy cones have been shaped by the elements over millions of years.
– Source: Lonely Planet


Sindou Peaks in Burkina Faso
Sindou Peaks in Burkina Faso (Shutterstock)

24. Around 80% of the Burkinabe population is engaged in subsistence farming, a form of farming where nearly all of the crops or livestock are used to maintain the farmer and the farmer’s family, leaving little, or no surplus for sale or trade.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

25. Burkina Faso has the 9th highest fertility rate in the world with an average of 5.2 children are born per woman.
– Source: World Bank


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