Posted on Monday, 23 November 2015 10:00

Burkina Faso Country Profile 2015: Beyond Blaise

By The Africa Report

altBurkina Faso will be preparing elections in 2015 in order to end the transitional period after the late October 2014 downfall of President Blaise Compaoré, who faced a popular uprising after attempting to change the constitution to remove the term limits that would force him to step down.

The civilian opposition and the country's senior military officers expressed distrust about each other's ability to manage a successful transition.

The economy remained stable in late 2014, and the country's international mediators urged donors to refuse to impose sanctions, as civilians planned to take over from the military leaders who first claimed power.

The main task of the transitional government is to organise elections within a
year of taking office. Delays in organising the vote are likely. The leaders of the transitional government cannot run in the upcoming elections.

Oppositionists and civil society representatives were keen to weaken the Congrès pour la Démocratie et le Progrès, the ruling party under Compaoré, meaning that it is likely that one of the leading opposition figures would win the new presidential polls. Zéphirin Diabré, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré and Bénéwendé Stanislas Sankara are some of the potential candidates.

Military rule

Civil society groups are worried about the politicisation of the armed forces during the days immediately after Compaoré's downfall and sought to minimise the role of the armed forces in the transition.

A mutiny within the ranks spread instability throughout the country in 2011 and pointed to problems in civilian control of the institution. High-ranking soldiers will be on guard against any attempts by the transitional authorities to reform the armed forces.

altHighlighting dissent in the ranks, General Honoré Nabéré Traoré was the first armed forces official to claim the leadership mantle after Compaoré stepped down in October 2014 and was quickly followed by Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida, who later agreed to hand power over to civilians.

Burkina Faso's neighbours played a critical role in the transition and in mediating between the parties and African intergovernmental organisations.

Senegal's President Macky Sall was the Economic Community of West African States' mediator and he was supported by Ghana's John Mahama and Mauritania's Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who is the chairperson of the AU.

Over the past few years, Burkina Faso's economy has been growing faster than most of its West African counterparts, but the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that about 45% of the population has remained below the government-determined poverty line since the mid-1990s. A lack of infrastructure and unreliable and high-cost energy supplies are obstacles to growth.

Mining to suffer

Gold is Burkina Faso's most valuable export. Miners are unlikely to pursue expansion projects under the transitional regime out of fear of political instability.

Exploration levels, which are amongst the highest in Africa, could also suffer. Gold production was expected to rise from 32tn in 2013 to 25tn in 2014.

Weaker global prices will also discourage investment in gold mining in the year ahead. The sector has not contributed much to development of the local economy, and companies rely on foreign outfits for most mining-related services.

The IMF advised the government to revise its mining code to raise more revenue and yet attract enough investor interest. Nonetheless, other minerals are also attracting attention.

In May 2014, the government awarded Pan African Minerals an exploration licence for manganese at Tambao, a deposit estimated to contain more than 100m tonnes of the mineral.

In August, Pan African Minerals and France's Bolloré signed an agreement for an $895m project to rehabilitate a railway line from the Ivorian port of Abidjan and link it to Tambao. The companies estimate that it will take three years to complete, but the political instability is expected to cause delays.

The cotton sector accounts for just under 4% of gross domestic product but is responsible for much of the employment in rural areas. Prior to the political crisis, actors in the sector were predicting record production of 800,000tn for the 2014/2015 season.

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