Burkina Faso - Country Commercial Guide
Market Overview
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Burkina Faso’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2021 grew at an estimated 8.5 percent, attributable to increases in gold exports and the services sector, according to the World Bank.  The economy is forecasted to grow at 5.6% in 2022.  The fiscal deficit stood at 5.5%  of GDP in 2021, but could reach 6.6% of GDP in 2022 as a result of the multitude of challenges Burkina Faso faces, including security, humanitarian, food, and social, etc.  The mining sector accounted for about 10 percent of GDP and over 70%  of export earnings.  In 2020, Burkina’s mining sector output increased 20%  to 61 tons of gold or about US$ 3.5 billion in exports.  In 2021, the mining output increased 10 percent to 67 tons, and generated US$544 million in revenues or 15%  to the state budget.  The industrial mining sector employs about 51,000 direct and indirect employees.  Some mining sector experts estimate mining sector employment—industrial and artisanal—to surpass that of agriculture, the sector that historically has employed the most Burkinabe.  In 2021, Burkina Faso was Africa’s fourth largest gold producer after South Africa, Ghana, and Mali.  There are currently 17 industrial-scale mines in the country, all of which 17 are gold mines. These gold mining firms come primarily from Australia, Canada, Russia, and Turkey.  

In September 2022, the sole zinc mine closed indefinitely following the deaths of eight miners in an April 2022 flooding incident. . In Burkina Faso, however, the informal sector is an important sector of the economy.  A sizable part of the Burkinabe population earns a living in the informal economy, especially in agriculture and artisanal mining sectors.  Artisanal mining alone is estimated to employ one million to 1.3 million people directly. The value of gold extracted annually through artisanal mining is estimated at  20 and 40 tons,  or between one and two  billions in value, from approximately 600 artisanal mining sites nationwide.  Some estimates put artisanal mining output on par with industrial mining. Much of Burkina Faso’s artisanal mining output is smuggled out through neighboring countries without royalties or tax revenue going to the state budget.  Rampant insecurity has resulted in the installation of costly security measures which in turn have raised operating costs for mining companies.  Before the security environment deteriorated in recent years, manganese and zinc deposits attracted interest from international mining firms.

Cotton is Burkina Faso’s main agricultural export.  In 2020, cotton generated US$ 233 million in export revenue, accounting for 6%  of its export earnings in 2020.  Burkina Faso is the third largest producer of cotton in Africa, producing 518,545 tons in the 2021-2022 harvest. The sector projects 700,000 tons for conventional seed cotton and 2,500 tons for organic cotton for the 2022-2023 harvest.  Burkina Faso used to be the largest cotton producer in Sub-Saharan Africa, producing both conventional and organic cotton.  However, during the 2017-2018 campaign, the country saw its cotton production decrease.  Mali surpassed Burkina Faso to become the biggest cotton producer in West Africa.  Cotton is critically important to the economy, as roughly 25%  of the population derive their income from it in some way.  Virtually all cotton is produced on small-scale, family-owned, or communal plots.  The country formerly produced significant genetically modified (GM) cotton, but since 2015, Burkina Faso abandoned that experiment and has returned to conventional cotton.  Burkina Faso currently processes less than 5%  of its total cotton production and is exploring ways to boost cotton manufacturing locally.  Other major agricultural exports are sesame and cashew nuts.  

In 2021, Burkina’s two largest trading partners were Switzerland (39.1% of Burkina’s bilateral trade) and China (6.1%).  In the same year, Switzerland was Burkina’s largest export market (about 80 percent) due to mostly gold exports. In 2020, most of Burkina’s exports also went to Europe (80.3% ) and Asia (11% ).  Africa received 8.5%  of Burkina Faso’s exports.

Eighty percent of the country’s 22 million people are engaged in small-scale, rain-fed subsistence farming.  The poverty level (the percentage of the population living below the poverty line of USD 1.90 per day) was 40.1%  in 2022.

In 2020, total trade between the United States and Burkina Faso amounted to US$ 283 million.  The United States exported US$ 273.61 million worth of goods, whereas Burkina Faso exported to the United States US$ 9.5 million in goods.  The top U.S. imports category for 2020 was Agricultural Products (cotton and cashew).  The top U.S. export categories for 2020 were gas, petroleum, and petroleum products (26%), bulldozers (7.3%), trucks (3.5%), rice (3.5%), machinery parts (3.4%), etc.

Political & Economic Environment:  State Department’s website for background on the country’s political environment.