Burkina Faso is a landlocked sub-Saharan country with limited natural resources. A low-income country, per capita income was at $635 in 2012. 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 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. Former officials of the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), the party in office, joined the ranks of the opposition to create their own party, the People’s Movement for Progress (MPP). These officials accuse the government in power of having “imposed” a new Senate in order to revise article 37 of Burkina’s constitution which limits the president to two consecutive terms, and prevents the current president from running in the upcoming 2015 presidential elections.
In an effort to maintain peace and stability in the country, former president Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo and three religious dignitaries attempted to facilitate dialogue between the opposition and the majority, however, this mediation was blocked following a disaccord amongst political actors.
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.
The 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 to 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.
According to the Human Development Index published by the United Nations Development Program in 2013, the poverty rate in Burkina Faso was estimated at 46% in 2009 and the country ranked 183rd out of 187 countries.
Sound economic management is behind Burkina Faso’s steady annual average growth rate of over 5.5% per year over the course of 2000 to 2013. It has also contributed to an inflation rate of 3% and a budget deficit of approximately 3%, both of which conform to convergence criteria of various International Monetary Fund (IMF) programs.
Although positive growth of up to 6.8% has been observed in 2013, it still lags two and half percentage points compared to the growth rate seen in 2012 (9%). Growth has mainly been driven by agricultural production, with cotton production growing at 9%. The resumption of activities in the construction and public works sector has also had a positive impact. Mining is growing at an average of 9% per year since 2008 and now ranks above livestock farming in terms of leading exports.
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.
Despite major market economy reforms, a lack of support for the private sector and access to basic services remain major concerns. The challenge lies in expanding growth poles in key sectors that have export potential and will help boost revenue in rural areas. To this end, the establishment of private sector-led growth poles in the mining sector would be beneficial.
Last Updated: Apr 11, 2014