Africa snapshot: Burkina Faso

Tucked between Mali and Niger in the Sahel region of western Africa, Burkina Faso is perhaps one of Africa’s least known countries. It also one of the poorest nations in the world.

Burkina Faso has the region’s largest elephant population, and vast game preserves home to lions, hippos and antelope. The culture dates back to at least the 13th century. Despite the rich history and culture, tourism remains undeveloped – the main industries are agriculture and gold mining.

Burkina Faso is host to this week’s Pandemic Response Tabletop Exercise.

Population: 16.3 million. Nearly 65 percent of the population is younger than age 25.

Capital city: Ouagadougou (Wah-guh-doo-goo). Want to sound like a local? Just call it “Ouaga.”

Religion: Predominantly Muslim, but most residents also adhere to traditional African beliefs.

Language: French is the official language, but the indigenous Moore language is more widely spoken.

Education: The literacy rate is just 15 percent for females and 30 percent for males. Ouagadougou University, the country’s first institute of higher learning, opened in 1974.

National motto: “Unity, Progress, Liberty.” The words “Burkina Faso” loosely translate to  “Land of Honest of Men” or “Land of Upright People.”

U.S. partnerships: Burkina Faso is a partner in the Africa Contingency Training and Assistance program, which focuses on military training for multinational peacekeeping missions, as well as the Trans Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership, which aims to enhance counterterrorism capabilities. In fiscal year 2011, the U.S. government provided $22.5 million in assistance to Burkina Faso.

“Lonely Planet” says: “Standing at the geographical heart of West Africa, Burkina Faso (formerly Haute or Upper Volta, or just Burkina to the locals) is the sort of place that captures the imagination – how many of your friends back home even know that Burkina Faso exists?”

Sources: CIA FactBook Burkina Faso, U.S. Department of State Background Note – Burkina Faso, Oxfam Cool Planet Guidebook Burkina Faso, Lonely Planet Travel Guide

This is the latest in our “Africa Snapshot” series, which takes a brief look at the countries in the AFRICOM area of operations. Click here for previous posts.

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