Burkina Faso

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burkina_fasoPopulation: 16,460,141

HDI ranking: 183/187

HDI score: 0.343

Burkina Faso has undergone a process of democratization and decentralization since the 1990s. The country’s first major local elections took place in 2006, though major challenges, such as widespread illiteracy in rural areas, remain for decentralization implementation (Europeaid, 2013).

Local governance at a glance

  • The commune is the basic unit of local government, of which there are three types: 302 rural communes, 47 ordinary urban status communes, and 2 special status urban communes (Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso) (Government of Burkina Faso, n.d.).
  • Each commune has a municipal council directly elected through universal suffrage and a mayor indirectly elected by the municipal council (World Bank, 2013).
  • Special status communes are organized into arrondissements, sectors, and villages. At the end of 2011, Ouagadougou had 12 arrondissements, 55 sectors, and 17 villages; and Bobo-Dioulasso had 7 arrondissements, 33 sectors, and 36 villages (World Bank, 2013).

Civil society actors include

  • Réseau Afrique Jeunesse, a network of young people dedicated to building a more just, accountable, and prosperous Burkina Faso.
  • Yam Pukri, a technology association that created Democr@TIC, an online portal for democracy and governance organizations in Burkina Faso.

Capacity building institutions

  • The Centre International de Formation des Autorités/Acteurs Locaux (CIFAL), is a training center for local officials from 15 West African nations. The objectives of the center are to develop the skills of local councilors through education and exchanges, help improve local government, set up networks of towns, and monitor and assess the impact of its training sessions (University World News, 2010).
  • The Burkina Faso Urban Country Program is an initiative undertaken by the Government of Burkina Faso to align urban development efforts at the national government, local government and community levels and include the urban poor in the planning and decision-making processes (Cities Alliance, n.d.).

Fiscal control

  • In 2005 and 2007, local government received 2% of total public sector spending (World Bank, 2008; UCLG, 2010).
  • Taxing authority remains largely with the central government. The central government retains control over the determination of base and rates on the most significant local taxes, while local governments have autonomy to revise base and rates on limited number of taxes (World Bank, 2008).

Key initiatives for participatory local governance

  • Beginning in the 1990’s, the country adopted a series of laws to establish an increasingly decentralized government. The constitution gives official status to the territorial collectivities (collectivités territoriales) that are now recognized as legal entities, financially autonomous, and administered by elected bodies.
  • In 2004, the General Code of Territorial Collectivities (Code général des collectivités territoriales) “communalized” the entire country, bringing the levels of local government to two. The grouping of the country’s 8000 rural villages – where 80 percent of the population lives – into self-governing communes was designed to enhance local capacity to plan, manage and mobilize resources for their development (IDA, 2007).
  • In 2006, the first country wide municipal elections took place, electing representatives for the 13 regional governments and the 351 urban and rural communes.
  • In 2007, the Government of Burkina Faso adopted a decade-long strategy (2006-2015) for implementing decentralisation reform. The main pillars of the strategy are (German Agency for International Cooperation, n.d.):
    • Mainstreaming decentralisation in social and political life
    • Transferring competences and resources to the municipal authorities
    • Capacity building among local actors
    • Promoting local development planning
    • Steering and coordinating the reform process
  • At the 2008 National Decentralization Conference the Government committed to reporting annually on the implementation and progress of decentralization and adopted an action plan for the following three years. A fund has been set up to finance municipal infrastructure for the local authorities, to which the government makes annual contributions (German Agency for International Cooperation, n.d.).

Challenges for participatory local governance

  • In 2009, the UNDP reported 90 percent illiteracy rate among rural officials, nearly 16,000 individuals. In 2009, the government piloted a literacy campaign in 40 communities, funded in part by UNDP and led by the Ministry for Basic Education and Literacy Training and the Ministry of Regional Government and Decentralization (UNDP, 2009).
  • UNDP reported additional challenges, including weak technical capacity and poor support mechanisms for decentralized services and territorial communities. UNDP pointed to the need to mobilize resources to finance the decentralization process, for improved literacy skills, and wider distribution of informative texts that guide the decentralization process (UNDP, 2009).
  • A 2010 report for the World Bank concluded that local governments have a very low degree of discretionary power and weak accountability to citizens at all levels. In the fiscal sphere, taxing powers are restricted, while transfers are insufficient and unpredictable, making local financial management extremely difficult (Journal of Public Administration and Development, 2010).
  • A 2013 World Bank report identified 8 major institutional challenges for decentralization, including (World Bank, 2013):
    • An unclear link between decentralization and deconcentration. Government agencies at the regional level are both national government and local government entities. The functions of the decentralized regions do not seem clear despite a list of devolved responsibilities.
    • A lack of democratic legitimacy within the regional assemblies, as these representatives are indirectly elected by their peers, risking a lack of autonomy from the local governments. This risk is heightened by the fact that six of the main local taxes are shared with the communes, which collect the taxes and then transfer only a small share (1.5–3 percent) of the receipts to the regions.

Recent posts on this website about this country:


List of sources (in order of citation):

UN Human Development Index, 2013: “Burkina Faso”

Europeaid, 2013: “Burkina Faso”

Government of Burkina Faso, n.d.

World Bank 2013: “The Political Economy of Decentralization in Sub-Saharan Africa”

UCLG, 2010: “Local Government Finance: The Challenges of the 21st Century.”

University World News, 2010: “Burkina Faso: Local government centre opens.”

Cities Alliance: “The Burkina Faso Urban Country Programme.”

World Bank, 2008: “Local Government Discretion and Accountability: Application of a Local Governance Framework”

International Development Association (IDA) , 2007: “In Burkina’s Poor Rural Areas, Paving the Way for Decentralization”

German Agency for International Cooperation, n.d.: “Decentralization and municipal management.”

UNDP Newsroom, 2009: “40 communities launch literacy courses for Burkina Faso politicians.”

UNDP 2009: “Owning the Participatory Process in Burkina Faso.”

Journal of Public Administration and Development, 2010: “Local Government Discretion and Accountability in Burkina Faso.”

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