Facts you may not have know about Burkina Faso:
Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa. Burkina Faso is a francophone country, with French as the official language of government and business. Roughly 40% of the population speaks the Mossi language.
Burkina Faso has a population of approximately 20 million, is a unitary semi-presidential republic, and gained independence from France in 1960.
1. When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?
A handshake with the right hand is the most common form of greeting. There’s usually a handshake accompanied by head taps on holidays: this means touching the sides of your head to another person’s head four times – two on each side. To say hello in French, it is “bonjour”, and in Mossi, it is “Ne y windiga”.
2. What languages are spoken in the country?
Burkina Faso is a multilingual country. An estimated 69 languages are spoken there, of which about 60 languages are indigenous. Mossi is spoken by about 40% of the population, mainly in the central region around the capital, Ouagadougou. The country has 4 official languages; French, Mòoré, Fula, and Dioula.
3. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?
We use a 24-hour system.
4. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in the country?
We drive on the right side of road.
5. How important is punctuality?
Time is flexible in Burkina Faso. People don’t always arrive on time for meetings – this is part of the culture.
6. Which types of music are popular? Who are some of the most popular musicians?
The music of Burkina Faso includes the folk music of 60 different ethnic groups. Burkinabé traditional music has continued to thrive and musical output remains quite diverse. Popular music is mostly in French. With a musical career that lasted half a century, singer Amadou Balaké was one of the foremost singers from the country during the 20th century. In his music, Balaké combined Mandé, Mossi, and Afro-Cuban traditions. Other influential artists from the country include George Ouédraogo and Joseph Moussa Salambéré “Salambo”.
Popular traditional groups from Burkina Faso include balafon bands, percussion ensembles and others such as Farafina and Gabin Dabiré, who uses elements of traditional Burkinabé music. More recently, modern musicians in Burkina Faso are beginning to incorporate more foreign influences into their music, especially those from the United States, with genres such as hip-hop, rap, salsa and techno entering the music scene.
7. Are there any Traditional Dances?
Dancing is a long-time part of the culture of Burkina Faso, both traditional dancing and contemporary dancing. There are many small groups of dancers that perform locally or travel small distances for special events. Dancing and music groups exist for all occasions, and Bobo-Dioulasso’s Djembe drumming tradition is internationally famous.
Watch an traditional Gour’mache dance here.
8. What traditional Festivals are celebrated in the country?
Every two years, in the city of Dedougou, the Festima Festival occurs. This is a mask festival attended by around 40 villages, each of them represented by their own group of masks. Aside from much dancing, there is also the “market of the communities”, as well as the cabaret nights when various “griots” (storytellers) are in competition to reveal their own talent.
The PanAfrican Cinema and Television Festival of Ouagadougou is one of the most important festivals revealing the African cinema. It happens every two years in Ouagadougou. Goals of the festival include allowing contacts and exchanges between cinema, television and radio professionals; promoting the distribution of African cinema pieces; and encouraging the blossoming, development, and protection of the African cinema as a mean of expression, education, and social awareness.
Jazz à Ouaga
The festival was created in 1992, in Ouagadougou. Over the years, Jazz à Ouaga has become a major festival for all jazz lovers. The high quality of the artistic program satisfies an always increasing international body of attendees.
9. What are the seasons like?
Burkina Faso has a primarily tropical climate with two very distinct seasons. In the rainy season, the country receives between 60 and 90 cm (23.6 and 35.4 in) of rainfall; in the dry season, the harmattan – a hot dry wind from the Sahara – blows. The rainy season lasts approximately four months, May/June through September, and is shorter in the north of the country. A relatively dry tropical savanna, the Sahel, extends beyond the borders of Burkina Faso, from the Horn of Africa to the Atlantic Ocean, and borders the Sahara to its north and the fertile region of the Sudan to the South. The Sudan-Sahel region is a transitional zone with regards to rainfall and temperature. Further to the south, the Sudan-Guinea zone has cooler average temperatures than the northern region.
10. What are some interesting facts about the President?
President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré has been in office since 2015. Previously he served as the Prime Minister of Burkina Faso between 1994 and 1996, and as President of the National Assembly of Burkina Faso from 2002 to 2012. He has also served as President of the political party Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP). In January 2014, he left the ruling CDP and joined a new opposition party, the People’s Movement for Progress. Upon taking office, he became the first non-interim president in 49 years without any past ties to the military. He is married to Togolese-born jurist and healthcare advocate Sika Bella Kaboré, and has three children.
11. What are the country’s major industries?
Burkina Faso’s main industries are agriculture and mining. Agriculture represents around a third of the country’s GDP, and employs around 80% of its workforce. It consists mostly of rearing livestock. Especially in the south and southwest, the people grow crops of sorghum, pearl millet, maize (corn), peanuts, rice and cotton, with surpluses to be sold. A large part of the economic activity of the country is funded by international aid. Major exports from the country include raw cotton, sesame seeds, and non-monetary gold.
12. What are some of the things visitors can look forward to experiencing in Benin?
Major tourist attractions include the Domes de Fabedougou (fascinating rock formations outside the town of Banfora); Cascades de Karfiguela (a series of waterfalls along the Komoé River in Southwestern Burkina Faso); Ouagadougou Cathedral (a 1930s-build cathedral showcasing beautiful architecture); and Reserve de Nazinga (a wildlife reserve where visitors can see elephants, among other animals).
13. What is a popular local drink?
Popular drinks include bissap (a sour-tasting drink made from roselle (bissap) flowers (a member of the hibiscus family) and sweetened with sugar; and degue, a drink made from pearl millet and yogurt.
14. What is a popular local dish?
Burkinabé cuisine, the cuisine of Burkina Faso, is similar to the cuisines in many parts of West Africa, and is based on staple foods of sorghum, millet, rice, fonio, maize, peanuts, potatoes, beans, yams and okra.
Popular local dishes include tô (cooled polenta-style cakes made from ground millet, sorghum or corn, served with a sauce made from vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, sumbala, and carrots); and babenda, a stew of fermented beans, fish, cabbage, and/or spinach.
15. What do you pay, on average, for the following? (1 USD = approx. CFA 581)
Benin’s currency is the West African CFA franc (CFA).
3 Course meal: CFA 12,500
Domestic beer (500ml): CFA 1,000
Cup of coffee: CFA 2,000
Coca cola (330ml): CFA 450
Milk (1l): CFA 1,100
Loaf of white bread: CFA 1,500
Apples (1 kg): CFA 2,000
Water (1.5l): CFA 850
16. Any general safety tips?
Burkina Faso carries a risk of terrorist activity, and there are travel warnings for many parts of the country, including the capital. In December 2018, the Government of Burkina Faso declared a six-month state of emergency in the entire East and Sahel regions, the provinces of Kossi and Sourou in the Boucle de Mouhoun region, the province of Kenedougou in the Hauts Bassins region, the province of Loroum in the North region, and the province of Koulpelogo in the Center-East region.
UK health authorities have classified Burkina Faso as having a risk of Zika virus transmission.
17. In conclusion, famous (and sometimes infamous) people from the country include:
- Georgie Badiel, a model and activist living and working in New York City. Badiel was Miss Burkina Faso in 2003 and Miss Africa 2004. She is also an author and activist who has taken on the issue of the lack of potable drinking water in her West African homeland. Therein she runs the Georgie Badiel Foundation which is dedicated to raising funds to support the cause.
- Gabin Dabiré, a singer, guitarist, kora player, and composer. In 1979 his collection of ethnic music of Western Africa was published by the cultural association and music group Futuro Antico, which he co-founded with Walter Maioli and Riccardo Sinigaglia.
- Jacky Ido, a Burkinabe-born French actor, who has starred in movies including Lockout, West, and Salaud, on t’aime.
- Fulgence Ouedraogo, a French rugby union player. He currently plays for Montpellier Hérault RC in the Top 14 championship. His usual position is as a flanker.
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