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In Burkina Faso, poverty among immense mineral wealth

A general view of Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou.


In 2014, Burkina Faso ranked 183rd out of 188 on the United Nations Development Programme's 2015 Human Development Index, which rates health, education and living conditions. Canada is no stranger to Burkina Faso. Canadian companies have significant stakes in three large mining operations there. Iamgold, a mining company based in Toronto, is the largest single private employer in the West African country with approximately 2,300 workers.

There are cultural parallels between Canada and Burkina Faso as well: Both countries belong to La Francophonie, an international organization representing areas where large portions of French-speaking people live. In June, 2014, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard met Luc-Adolphe Tiao, then-prime minister of Burkina Faso.

Islam is the predominant religion in the country. Sixty-one per cent of the population is Muslim, 23 per cent is Catholic and roughly 7 per cent is animist, according to the Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook.

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Cultural context

The country has an estimated 17.6 million people, according to the World Bank. The majority of the population lives in rural areas and is impoverished. Most workers – 80 per cent – rely on jobs in agriculture and they generate only 34 per cent of the country's GDP. In 2010, the United Nations Development Programme reported that 63.8 per cent of people in the country live in "severe multidimensional poverty."


Trade between Burkina Faso and Canada has grown since 2006 when a total of $4-million was recorded, rising steadily to $75-million in 2014, according to the Canadian embassy.

Since 2008, Burkina Faso's main export has been gold. In 2013, gold accounted for 80 per cent of exports. In 2013-2014, Canada gave Burkina Faso $33-million for developmental projects, including education.


The country, which used to be called Upper Volta, was granted independence from France in 1960. In 1984, it became Burkina Faso, meaning "Land of Incorruptible People." Blaise Compaoré served as the country's president from 1987 to 2014, but was unseated in 2014. The country had presidential elections in the fall of 2015.

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In 2014, growth had slowed to 4 per cent a year from an average of 8 per cent in the past few years. There were fears that progress in reducing inequality and poverty would stop. Between 2014 and 2020, the European Union will contribute €620-million to development.

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