Neil de Beer, president of the IFA who advises numerous African states on economic development. File Photo: IOL
Neil de Beer, president of the IFA who advises numerous African states on economic development. File Photo: IOL

Neil On Africa: Burkina Faso vulnerable to regional conflict

By Neil de Beer Time of article published Oct 10, 2019

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CAPE TOWN – One of the key issues in Africa that has contributed to growth regression in the 21st century within some of the countries is conflict either arising from ethnic diversity or terrorism. 

Regionalism has contributed immensely to trade, and through the formation of trade blocs, which makes the transfer of goods and services between countries easy and beneficial. 

However, as much as the Millennium Development Goal of achieving rural development and regional integration are positive and add value to the growth and development of African economies, integration also brings with it spillover effects of negativity.

Today one of the poorest countries in the world has been suffering and going through times of unrest caused by terrorist attacks and clashes between the different ethnic groups. 

Burkina Faso has been affected by part of the interregional conflict that began when Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in Libya, which saw armed groups crossing the Sahara desert and starting an insurgence in Northern Mali that later spread to the Sahel region. 

Burkina Faso, with an estimated population of 19.7 million (World Bank 2018), has its northern part within the Sahel region. This has been hobbled by food insecurity, ethnic conflict, and terrorist-related security threats. 

The country is also a member of the G5 Sahel, an institutional framework for the co-ordination of regional co-operation in development policies and security matters in West Africa, which includes countries like Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

The purpose of the G5 Sahel is to strengthen the bond between economic development and security, and together battle the threat of jihadist organisations operating in the region.

The capital is Ouagadougou, which in the Moor dialect literally means “you are welcome here at home with us”. Burkina Faso is green in the south, with forests and fruit trees and desert in the north. 

The country is Africa’s leading producer of cotton. Apart from cotton, most of Burkinabe practice subsistence farming with staple foods being predominant. 

Millet, sorghum, maize, rice, peanuts and cassava are some of the main crops being cultivated. 

Burkina Faso remains vulnerable to climatic shocks related to changes in rainfall patterns and fluctuations in the prices of its export commodities on world markets. The country has an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) of $14.4 bllion (R219.1bn) with the main contributors being food agriculture (up 14.2 percent in 2018), extractive industry (20.5 percent), and cotton ginning (8 percent).

It has enjoyed a real GDP growth of 7 percent in 2018, according to the African Develoment Bank.

On the Neil economic scale, the price of a can of Coke costs 583 CFA francs (R14.78) and the price of a litre of petrol is 675 CFA francs. Inflation in the country is about 2 percent.

Despite the good fertile lands and the conflict in the north, Burkina Faso remains food insecure, due to the population pressure, as the country’s population is rising at an average annual rate of 3.1 percent with a fertility rate of 5.4 children per woman.

In recent years, Burkina Faso has made considerable progress in education. The gross enrolment ratio at pre-primary school level rose from 3 percent in 2011 to 4 percent in 2017. More than 65 percent of the population of Burkina Faso is under the age of 25, which presents a long-term economic opportunity for the country, as there will be a large and cheap workforce to bring prosperity to the nation.

Neil de Beer is president of the IFA and advises numerous African states on economic development; or [email protected]


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