Burkina Faso (formerly known as Upper Volta) is an independent republic with a democratic government, which lies to the west of Niger and forms part of the landlocked West African Region.
The capital city is Ouagadougou, which is where the country’s international airport is situated. Other major cities are Koudougou and Bobo-Dioulasso.
The official language is French, in addition to which, the most commonly spoken languages are Moore, Dioula and Peul. Education is provided free of charge and is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 14.
The local currency is the CFA-franc. (US$ / CFA Franc – current exchange rate).
Over 80% of the population of Burkina Faso are engaged in subsistence agriculture and nomadic stock keeping. A significant proportion of the male labour force migrates annually to neighbouring countries, particularly Ghana and C’ote d’Ivoire, for seasonal employment. Most workers are employed in the agriculture sector in growing peanuts, shea nuts, cotton, millet, corn rice, sesame sorghum and tending livestock.
The main industries in Burkina Faso are cotton lint, beverages, agricultural processing, soap, cigarettes, textiles and gold.
Burkina Faso exports cotton, animal products and gold. The country imports machinery, food products and petroleum. Importing and exporting goods to Burkina Faso is free unless the good is subject to an import title or authorisation as determined by the minister of trade. Authorisation needs to be acquired before hand, is valid for 6 months for imports, and 3 months for exports, and may be renewed.
220 million kWh (1996) are produced in Burkina Faso using fossil fuels and hydro electric power. The potential exists, and projects are underway, to increase the hydroelectric installed capacity of Burkina Faso. Electricity is provided by the parastatal utility Societe Nationale de l’Electricite et du Gaz (SONELGAZ).
The oil industry in Burkina Faso is one of the key elements in the economy of the country since all petroleum products are imported in their refined form. Burkina Faso has a fledgling mining industry.
Burkina Faso, supported by the World Bank and IMF, has begun to implement reforms, which have helped it to increase its real GDP growth. The World Bank is providing further support for the government by signing a $15m credit deal for an operation, which will support economic reforms and regional integration. The country’s economy has recovered in the 1990s as a result of major economic and institutional reforms which include the reform of budget preparation and execution procedure, trade liberalisation (domestic and foreign), public enterprises sector reform (including an effective banking sector reform) and fiscal reform (introduction of the VAT).
Burkina Faso’s performance has been good since its currency devalued in 1994, however, the economy is still fragile and performance is below what is needed to substantially reduce poverty.
The international time zone for Burkina Faso is Greenwich – 1 and the international dialling code is +226. The principal airlines which fly to Burkina Faso are Air Afrique, Air France and Sabena. As of June 1995 all visitors to Burkina Faso require visas.
Malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, hepatitis A, meningitis, typhoid fever, yellow fever, schistosomiasis and dengue fever may be contracted while travelling in Burkina Faso. The risk of contraction is based on a number of factors including location, individual’s state of health, current immunisation status, and the local disease situation.