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Burkina Faso is a landlocked sub-Saharan country bound by Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire in the south, by Mali in the north and west, and by Niger in the east.

Burkina Faso has limited natural resources and rainfall and an economy that is strongly dependent on exports of its main cash crop, cotton.

Since 1991, the country has implemented substantial economic and social reforms with support from the World Bank, the IMF, and other donors to liberalise the economy and develop the private sector. However, deeper structural and institutional reform is needed to support diversification of an economy based on agriculture and characterised by low productivity.


map of burkina faso
By about A.D. 1100, the principal inhabitants of the western part of present-day Burkina Faso were the Bobo, Lobi and Gurunsi. Invaders from present-day Ghana conquered central and Eastern Burkina Faso, establishing the Mossi states of Ouagadougou, Yatenga, and Tengkodogo in the center and the state of Gourma in the east. Although outnumbered by their subjects, the conquerors created powerful states by using religion (based on ancestor worship) and a complex administrative system (which allowed for some local autonomy!) that endured for more than 500 years. Ouagadougou was headed by the Morho Naba and at its peak was divided into several provinces, which were subdivided into a total of about 300 districts. The Mossi states had strong armies, which included cavalry units, and were able to repel most attacks by the Mali and Songhai empires during the period from the 14th to 16th centuries.

At the end of the 19th-century, France gained control over the region, peacefully negotiating a protectorate over Yatenga in 1895.

In 1896 they forcefully occupied Ouagadougou. One year later, the French annexed Gourma and the lands of the Bobo, Lobi and Gurunsi; and an Anglo-French agreement in 1898 established the boundary with the Gold Coast (now Ghana).

The region of present-day Burkina Faso was administered as part of the French colony of Soudan (then called Upper Senegal-Niger, now mostly part of Mali).

In 1919, it became a separate protectorate under the name of Upper Volta, only to be divided again for administrative convenience among Côte d’Ivoire, Soudan, and Niger in 1932.

In 1947, Upper Volta was re-established as a separate territory within the French Union.

In 1958 it finally became an autonomous republic within the French Community and achieved full independence on August 5, 1960. The constitution of 1960 established a strong presidential government with Maurice Yaméogo of the Voltaic Democratic Union (UDV) its first president.

In 1970, a new constitution was approved in a national referendum; Upper Volta became Burkina Faso in 1984. The name is a composite of local languages and is roughly translated as “the land of incorruptible men.”

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