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Burkina Faso

Situation and cooperation


Children in Kaya, Burkina Faso

Since the start of the 1990s the political framework in Burkina Faso has improved steadily. Today the country is a parliamentary democracy with a constitution based on western models. Society displays great ethnic and religious tolerance.

Burkina Faso’s core problem is structural poverty: well above 40 per cent of its population of around 16.9 million live below the absolute poverty threshold. On the UNDP Human Development Index, Burkina Faso is ranked 185th of the 188 states reviewed (HDI 2015).

The low level of education an inadequate health system, deficits in the quality and quantity of the water supply, and underutilisation of existing potentials in the agricultural sector are all impediments to Burkina Faso’s development. Unfavourable production factors are a further problem. The costs of energy and transportation arising from Burkina Faso’s landlocked location are very high. The level of training is also low, as is productivity. Some 70 per cent of the population is unable to read or write.

The fact that the country has managed to push down the rate of HIV infection from 2.1 per cent (2001) to 0.9 per cent (2013) must be seen as a major achievement, although there are still deficits in terms of access to antiretroviral drugs; only 35 per cent of people living with HIV had access to this treatment in 2007.

Burkina Faso is slowly making progress in reducing child mortality. The number of children dying before their fifth birthday has declined steadily since 1994, from 201.8 per 1,000 live births to 98 (in 2013), although even this figure is relatively high. The country seems unlikely to be able to reduce child mortality by two thirds by 2015. Almost half the population is under the age of 15. Life expectancy is only 55 years.

Burkina Faso has nevertheless made significant progress in terms of development. Important indicators for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals have steadily improved over recent years. The proportion of undernourished children has fallen by more than a third within one decade to under 26 per cent (2010). The number of children attending school has more than doubled – from 30 per cent (1990) to more than 66 per cent (2012). There have also been significant improvements in access to clean drinking water (1990: 41 per cent, 2012: 82 per cent).

Development potential

Children practice their reading and counting in the Burkina capital Ouagadougou. University students are volunteering their time to help the Malian Tuareg children get an education.

Burkina Faso’s economic output is good compared with the other states in the region. In spite of challenges such as the international financial crisis and the food crisis in the Sahel Zone, Burkina Faso has been able to retain its macroeconomic balance. Inflation has been fairly low for several years (2013: 0.5 per cent), while the country chalked up economic growth of around 5.7 per cent in 2014. The budget deficit was about 3.2 per cent. Agriculture and downstream branches of industry offer the greatest development potential for the country’s economy. Four fifths of the population work in the agriculture sector, which generates almost 40 per cent of the country’s output. The country has practically no industry. Efforts to diversify the economy with vegetable production and beef farming are still on a very modest scale.

Most of the country’s foreign exchange earnings come from the export of very few products: cotton, livestock, groundnuts and gold.

The abolition of subsidies for cotton producers in wealthy countries could allow cotton from Burkina Faso to compete on world markets. This would definitely boost the economy. Within the framework of the Cotton Initiative, Burkina Faso is fighting alongside Mali, Chad and Benin to try and overturn the subsidies granted by the USA, the EU and the People’s Republic of China to their own farmers.

The mining sector has become increasingly important for the country’s economy in recent years. Between 2008 and 2011 gold production rose six-fold. Today Burkina Faso earns even more from exporting gold than its does from cotton production.

To achieve a more positive trend, the country must improve legal security for investments in the private sector and increase its tax revenues. Furthermore, effective banks must be set up, especially microfinance institutions.


Regional integration and stability

African girls

Burkina Faso is actively engaged in efforts to bring about political and economic integration in Africa. It is a member of a number of regional organisations, including the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). It is a priority of the government to reinforce relations with neighbouring countries and to step up relations with major donors (EU member states, Switzerland, Canada, Taiwan and the USA).

Thanks to its relative political stability the country plays a positive role in the region. Former President Blaise Compaoré mediated in Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire in 2010 to secure a stable peace and ensure that free elections could be held.

On 30 October 2014 the parliament of Burkina Faso was due to vote on an amendment to the constitution, which would have enabled President Compaoré, who had been in office for 27 years, to seek a further term of office. Following mass protests in the capital Ouagadougou and the country’s second largest city Bobo-Dioulasso, Compaoré announced his resignation on 31 October 2014. The army took power for a short period, before handing over to a civilian transitional government headed by the diplomat Michel Kafando. Parliamentary and presidential elections are expected to be held in November 2015.


Human rights

In recent years, the government has taken various steps to protect human rights. These include setting up a fund for the victims of political violence. Reforms have also been introduced in the judiciary. Human rights are now part of the mandate of the Ministry of Justice.

However, basic rights, and specifically women’s rights, hold little sway in rural areas; women are rarely involved in policy-making processes. Since 2009 a quota has been in place for general elections that requires 30 per cent of the candidates on electoral lists to be women. In the same year Burkina Faso adopted its first national gender strategy.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is banned by law, but remains prevalent throughout the country: some 75 per cent of all women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been subjected to the practice, irrespective of their regional, ethnic or religious background. Studies suggest that the number of cases of FGM is declining (with a rate of 13.3 per cent recorded in 2010 among girls aged 0-14 years). In the region, Burkina Faso’s political commitment to eradicating the practice of FGM is exemplary.

Although the rights of children and young people are enshrined in law, their living conditions remain difficult. 36 per cent of births are not registered, meaning that children live without ID documents or any evidence of their age. Child labour and trafficking in children remain widespread.


Poverty reduction

Women making cheese at a local dairy in Dori, northeastern Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso produced its first poverty reduction strategy (Cadre Stratégique de Lutte contre la Pauvreté, CSLP) in 2000 and completely revised it in 2003. The third version was drawn up in a participatory process that commenced in 2009; it was adopted in December 2010. The new strategy (Stratégie de Croissance Accélérée et de Développement Durable, SCADD) is geared more to economic growth, although it also embraces the goals of its predecessors (provision of basic social services for the poor, measures to generate jobs and income, and good governance). Civil society is involved in reviewing the poverty reduction strategy but has no decision-making authority.

The government of Burkina Faso is struggling to implement the envisaged reforms. The reasons for this include the country’s weak financial position, a lack of qualified staff and functioning administrative structures, and infrastructural deficits. The decentralisation of administrative structures and the transfer of more planning and decision-making authority to the local level could speed up implementation of some reforms. The challenge now is to enable local authorities to perform their new tasks.


Pri­or­ity ar­eas of Ger­man de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion

Development cooperation provides a vital lifeline for Burkina Faso. Grants and foreign loans account for more than 50 per cent of state revenues.

At government negotiations with Burkina Faso in December 2011 Germany pledged more than 82 million euros for a three-year period.

Three priority areas of cooperation were agreed with the Government of Burkina Faso. They complement the engagement of other donors in the country:

  • Agriculture and natural resource management
  • Decentralisation and municipal development
  • Drinking water supply and sanitation.

In addition to these three priority areas, since 2005 German development cooperation and nine other donors have been providing general budget support for the realisation of the country’s strategy for poverty reduction and growth. German experts are advising Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Economy and Finance on poverty reduction issues.

Germany is also engaged in other sectors through what are known as cross-cutting programmes: these are aimed at promoting human rights, especially women’s rights, improving sexual health, especially among young people, combating HIV/Aids and abolishing child labour.


Agri­cul­ture and nat­ural re­source man­age­ment

Women working on a field in the region of Fada N'gourma, Burkina Faso

Agriculture plays an important part in feeding the population and reducing poverty in Burkina Faso. With German support, the Government of Burkina Faso has drawn up a strategy for rural development up to 2015. This strategy forms the framework for development cooperation between Burkina Faso and Germany. Germany is helping Burkina Faso to introduce market-oriented production and processing of agricultural goods. To this end, agricultural products with good market prospects are being identified. New services for market integration, product processing and improved quality standards are being developed as part of development cooperation activities. This is intended to raise farmers’ incomes. Another area of activity is the introduction of improved financing mechanisms. Measures to protect against erosion and make use of flood plains are intended to help with the sustainable management of natural resources.


De­cen­tral­i­sa­tion and mu­nic­i­pal de­vel­op­ment

The most important objective of cooperation between Burkina Faso and Germany in the priority area of "Decentralisation and municipal development" is to promote democracy and participation by all social groups in Burkina Faso’s development process. The Federal Republic of Germany is supporting the establishment of democratically legitimated self-government structures. Regional institutions can generally operate more efficiently and appropriately than centralised government agencies in the capital city. This is intended to improve the quality of life and reduce the poverty of the target group, the poor population groups. Key areas of cooperation in this sector are the definition and delineation of local government and central government mandates, staff training and the assessment of the financial inputs required to run decentralised administrative units. A fund geared to improving municipal infrastructure is intended to enhance the financial standing of self-governing bodies.


Drink­ing wa­ter sup­ply and san­i­ta­tion

Water supply systems in Burkina Faso are not adequate to provide clean drinking water to the population. In future this situation will only become more acute as climate change causes groundwater and surface water resources to dwindle.

In December 2006, the government passed a national drinking water and sanitation programme. The programme provides a framework for the inputs of the government, non-governmental organisations, and donors. Since then the supplies of safe drinking water available to the people have improved immeasurably.

Currently, development cooperation between Burkina Faso and Germany is focused on drinking water supply and sanitation in small and medium-sized towns. Migration into these towns has produced large deficits in these areas. Following decentralisation, the towns must now take on management tasks as well – tasks for which they are not yet properly equipped. The programme aims to get the users to shoulder more responsibility for the operation of water supply systems. To achieve this, municipal level institutional reforms are to be introduced.


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