Burkina Faso is one of the ten poorest countries in the
world. One of its biggest exports is its people, up to 3,000,000
of whom work in neighbouring countries, primarily the Côte
dIvoire. Although 16 per cent of the population lives
in urban areas, it is estimated that ninety per cent of
Burkinabè continue to depend directly or indirectly on farming.
One million people live in the capital, Ouagadougou
- just under ten per cent of the countrys population.
Burkina Faso has more than 60 ethnic groups, but one
people, the Mossi, make up more than half of the population.
Their language, Mooré, is more widely spoken than French,
the countrys official language. Dioula developed
as a trading language, and is spoken by about six million
people in western Burkina Faso and northern Côte dIvoire.
Other ethnic groups include the Fulani, Lobi, Bobo, Bissa,
Gourounsi, Gourma and Tuareg. Most are agriculturalists,
with the exception of the Fulani and Tuareg, who herd
livestock. Despite the diversity of language and culture,
inter-marriage is common and there is little conflict
between the ethnic groups. They all have one thing in
common - loyalty to their family and to their village.
Between many peoples like the Gourounsi and Bissa, Bobo
and Fulani, Samo and Mossi, there is a special joking
relationship which helps to defuse any tensions. For example,
a Bissa man visiting a Gourounsi homestead might climb,
uninvited, onto the flat roof of a house and lay down
as if to sleep. The owners will shout at him and pretend
to chase him off, waving sticks. Though this looks alarming,
it is no more than play-acting.
Many Burkinabè are Animists, a belief which reflects
the spirituality of people who live in harmony with their
natural environment. Forces in the natural world are made
known through their ancestors and can be used for good
or evil: it is humanity which has the moral responsibility
of choice. About 40 per cent of the population is Muslim,
and about ten per cent Christian.