Burkina Faso is a landlocked sub-Saharan country with limited natural resources. A low-income country, per capita income was at $670 in 2013. Its population was estimated at almost 17 million in 2013, and is characterized by a high percentage of youth (60%). The population growth rate averages around 3%. Burkina Faso’s economy is heavily reliant on agricultural production, with cotton being its main cash crop. With the discovery of large mineral deposits, gold exports have soared to record levels in the past three years. The country’s economy remains vulnerable to external shocks such as low rainfall, international financial and oil crises, and regional instability.
Over the course of the past couple of months, Burkina Faso has been faced with an unprecedented political crisis over the divisive issue of revising Article 37 of Burkina’s constitution, which currently limits the president to two consecutive terms. The party in office is seeking a national referendum to decide whether the constitution should be modified, while the opposition rejects the modification and referendum entirely, claiming that it would allow the current president to run in the upcoming 2015 presidential elections.
Both sides regularly organize protests and walks, for and against the referendum. Despite the open dialogue between both camps, each side is maintaining its position on the issue, making it difficult to arrive at a compromise.
Despite a stagnation of commodity prices and a lingering financial crisis in the Eurozone, Burkina Faso is maintaining its economic growth and is leading the member countries of the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA). Over the last 15 years, the country has recorded an average economic growth rate of 5,8% while controlling an increase in prices to 3%, thanks to an abundance of cereals and a monetary policy regulated by the
Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO). The country continues to benefit from support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group with three-year rolling programs.
In 2013, Burkina Faso was vulnerable to a decrease in gold commodities and a stagnation of cotton prices as growth only reached 6.6% against a forecast of 7%. In 2014, the growth rate is estimated at 6.8% and the inflation rate at 2%. Growth has mainly been driven agriculture production, cotton production and the gold industry. In addition, investments in infrastructure will also have a positive effect on growth. The social policies that the government adopted in 2013 and 2014 will have a negligible effect on the budget deficit which remains in conformity with convergence criteria of various International Monetary Fund (IMF) programs.
According to the most recent IMF and World Bank estimates, growth is expected to continue in the medium term, albeit at a slower pace (roughly 7% for the 2014-2016 period), mainly due to the projection of lower gold prices on the international market.
There have been some positive human development trends in Burkina Faso. Infant mortality fell from 81 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2003 to 65 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2010. In 2010, the maternal mortality rate stood at 341 per 100,000 live births, which is down from 484 in 1995. Life expectancy at birth stood at age 57 in 2009, which is slightly above the regional average of 50 years.
There have also been improvements in the education sector. Gross primary school enrolment rate rose from 57% in 2005 to 81% in 2013. The illiteracy rate among the youth stood at 28.7% in 2010, compared an average of 70% for sub-Saharan Africa. Access to secondary education also improved from 20% in 2005 to 37% in 2013 for first cycle students and from 5.6% to 14% for second cycle students during the same period. However, the quality of secondary education remains an issue.
Burkina Faso has other challenges ahead. According to the National Statistics and Demographics Institute, the poverty rate in Burkina Faso was estimated at 46% in 2009. In addition, the 2014 Human Development Index published by the United Nations Development Program ranked the country 181st out of 187 countries, up two places from last year.
A landlocked country located more than 1,000 km from the nearest harbor, Burkina Faso remains vulnerable to variations in rainfall and in its export commodities. The socioeconomic development of the country will depend in part on its openness to international trade and a diversification of its exports. Additional measures such as reforms to liberalize Burkina’s economy and promote employment by small and medium enterprises (SMEs), will also help boost sustainable growth.
Last Updated: Oct 15, 2014