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.
In October 2014, a popular uprising resulting in violent protests and pillaging led to President Blaise Compaore’s resignation after 27 years in power. The uprising was a reaction to plans to modify elements of the constitution that limited the number of presidential mandates and would have allowed the former president to run in 2015.
Two weeks after the fall of President Compaore, negotiations gave way to a power transition plan adopted by an assembly of 80 members from the army, political parties, and civil society. The plan defines the institutional contours of the transition which is set to last a year. The document designated an interim president, a prime minister, and a national transition council as well as its leader.
The transitional government will remain in power for only one year. Its mission is to get the country back on track and organize the November 2015 presidential and legislative elections. Members of the transitional government are prohibited from running in the upcoming elections.
Over the last fifteen years, Burkina Faso has led the countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union in economic growth with an average growth rate of 5.5% despite exogenous shocks. Falling gold and cotton prices, drops in grain production, and the recent political crisis have all contributed to low public revenues and investments. In addition, these factors have also had a negative impact on economic growth in 2014, lowering it to 5% from a predicted 6.6%. Inflation has been mitigated in part due to grain subsidies and a prudent monetary policy run by the Central Bank for West African States. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), having suspended its activities on the eve of the uprisings, resumed its work in December to evaluate macroeconomic conditions in the framework of the Extended Credit Facility Program. The World Bank will pursue its cooperation with the transitional government in partnership with other multilateral and bilateral partners.
The growth forecast for 2015 is positive despite the morose international economic context marked by a drop in the price of raw materials. The rising value of the American dollar (currency that trades in petroleum) will unfortunately not permit Burkina Faso to benefit from falling oil prices observed on the international market. Growth in 2015 will hover around 5% and inflation will remain controlled under UEMOA standards. Public revenues will decline following the falling prices of gold and cotton. The budget deficit will remain within the quantitative measures agreed upon with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) thanks to exterior budget support notably from the World Bank and the regional financial 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: Apr 09, 2015