Preface Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:20 AM
Burkina Faso, whose name means “country of men with integrity,”
sits at the edge of the Sahel in the heart of West Africa. Despite
being one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world,
the Burkinabe are known for their hospitality. They have very few
natural resources but have managed to fashion a pleasant and
culturally sophisticated country out of the little that they do
Despite progress on the democratic front, Burkina Faso faces many
serious challenges. Literacy rates and school enrollment rank among
the lowest in the entire world. With its limited natural resources
and low education levels, the majority of Burkinabe remain engaged
in subsistence agriculture. Approximately 7% of Burkinabe adults
suffer from AIDS. To make matters worse, the recent turmoil in Cote
d’Ivoire has not only cut one of Burkina Faso’s major trade routes,
but it has dramatically reduced the ability of expatriate Burkinabe
to find work and send remittances to support family inside Burkina.
While there have been hopeful signs in most of these areas, the
government and people of Burkina Faso still have a great deal of
work ahead of them if they are to successfully address these issues.
While there are daily reminders of the poverty here, for the most
part, Burkina Faso does not appear to have the terrible urban
poverty that plagues so many African countries. For most new
arrivals, in fact, Burkina’s climate poses the greatest challenge —
at its worst, the heat and dust can make the prospect of venturing
out unattractive. Fortunately, the dust storms pass and newcomers
become acclimated relatively quickly to the high temperatures. Once
acclimated, most members of the Embassy community find life in
Ouagadougou to be fairly pleasant, especially if they make the
effort to learn and use French. In fact, many members of the
expatriate community believe that Ouagadougou is one of the cleanest
and most secure cities in all of West Africa. Younger children do
well in Ouagadougou. Older children, especially those who don’t
speak French, may have a harder time adjusting to the limited social
opportunities and relatively small English-speaking population. In
addition, spouses should be aware that there are very limited
employment opportunities, even if one speaks excellent French.
The Host Country
Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:20 AM
Burkina Faso, a landlocked country, is located in the middle of
West Africa’s “hump.” Covering 274,000 square kilometers, nearly the
size of Colorado, Burkina Faso is bordered on the north and west by
Mali, on the northeast by Niger, on the southeast by Benin and on
the south by Togo, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire. Burkina is a savanna
plateau, with an average elevation of 500 meters. The highest point
is Tenakourou (747 meters), in the west. Burkina Faso’s three main
rivers are the Mouhoun, the Nazinou, and the Nakambe, tributaries
that form Ghana’s Volta River. Situated in the same time zone as
Greenwich, England, Burkina Faso is five hours ahead of Eastern
Standard Time in the U.S. (Four hours ahead of eastern daylight
Much of Burkina lies in the Sahel, the fringe of the Sahara. The
north gradually dries out into scrub and semi-desert, but comes to
life during the rainy season, with green shrubs and thorn trees.
Toward the south are areas of savannah and wooded savannah,
including the shea and baobab trees that are of agricultural
importance. Wildlife in Burkina’s eastern and southern areas
includes elephants, antelope, hippos, monkeys, crocodiles, lions and
buffalo. Bird and insect life is rich and varied.
Burkina Faso’s climate is sunny, hot, dry, and dusty. The hot
season is from mid-February to June, when maximum temperatures
exceed 104° F in the shade. The rainy season typically lasts from
June to September. The first rains, called the mango rains, usually
begin in May/June and provide some relief from the heat and dust.
Annual rainfall ranges from about 10 inches in the extreme north to
nearly 40 inches in the south. Temperatures begin to moderate in
late September/early October as the rainy season winds down.
Mid-November to mid-February is the cool season — with high
temperatures in the 80s and lows in the 60s. The Harmattan, a hot,
dust-laden wind from the Sahara, often blows in January and
February, leading to reduced visibility and temporarily unpleasant
Population Last Updated: 4/28/2004 4:12 AM
Burkina Faso is one of the most densely populated states of West
Africa with 12.6 million people. More than 50 distinct ethnic groups
are represented in Burkina Faso, but ethnic friction is rare. Major
groups include the Mossi who represent over 40% of the population
and occupy Ouagadougou and much of the central portion of the
country, the Bobo and Senoufo in the southwest, esp. around
Bobo-Dioulasso, the Peulh, Fulani, Tuareg and Bella who live in the
north, and the Lobi-Dagari and Gourounsi in the south. In addition,
thousands of Nigerians, Malians, Ghanaians, and people from other
neighboring countries live and work in Burkina Faso. An even larger
number of Burkinabe work in neighboring countries, especially Cote
d’Ivoire and Ghana, although the recent turmoil in Cote d’Ivoire has
forced many Burkinabe to return home.
The official government language and the language taught in
school is French, although many Burkinabe often speak several
different languages. The language of the Mossi tribe, called Moré,
is spoken by about half of the population. Dioula (called Bambara in
Mali) is a common language of the Western population. Peulh is the
third most spoken ethnic language.
Traditional society in Burkina Faso is based on the extended
family. However, an urban elite, follow cultural traditions of both
Africa and Europe, especially France. According to the 2002 CIA Fact
Book, about 40% of Burkinabe practice only traditional African
religion, about 50% are Moslem, and about 10% are Christians—mostly
Roman Catholics—but with an increasing number of Protestants as
Ouagadougou, the capital, is home to approximately 1 million
people and combines modern and traditional Africa, with many paved
streets, a commercial center, and many large government buildings.
The residential areas contain large shade trees, packed dirt
streets, and walled compounds. There are several artificial lakes
(barrages) at the edge of Ouagadougou that serve as the towns water
reservoirs. Apart from Ouagadougou, principal towns include
Bobo-Dioulasso, Koudougou, Ouahigouya, Kaya, Fada N’Gourma, and
In 2002, services (including government) represented 47% of GDP,
agriculture represented 36%, and industry was 17%. About 90% of the
population is engaged in agriculture or stock rearing, primarily on
a subsistence basis. With such a limited industrial base and few
natural resources, Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in
the world — yearly per capita income averages about $210 and roughly
45% of all Burkinabe live below Burkina Faso’s declared poverty line
(~$100/year). Not surprisingly, average life expectancy is only 47
Public Institutions Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:21 AM
Burkina Faso is a parliamentary republic. The President (usually
titled “President du Faso”) is Chief of State, the President of the
Council of Ministers, and head of the executive branch. The Prime
Minister, who is appointed by the President with legislative
consent, is Head of Government. The 111-member National Assembly is
popularly elected for 5-year terms. The House of Representatives is
a consultative upper chamber of members chosen from geographical,
sociopolitical, religious, and other groups.
Burkina Faso’s current constitution was approved by referendum in
1991; in 2000 it was amended to reduce the presidential term from
seven to five years and allow for a single reelection as of 2005. At
this point, it is unclear whether this amendment will be applied
retroactively to the current president.
Administratively Burkina Faso is divided into 13 regions and 45
provinces. Given its experience as a French colony, much of Burkina
Faso’s government and legal system is patterned after the French
system. Although the government is moving towards the establishment
of a viable regional system of government, provincial government is
currently more developed. Each province is led by a
centrally-appointed Haute-Commissaire. From a policy perspective,
the government is focused on the following areas: improvements in
health (including the fight against AIDS, and improving health care
delivery services), investment in basic education, and improvements
in agriculture (including reductions in the rate of
Burkina Faso is a member of the U.N. and its specialized and
related agencies; Organization of African Unity (OAU); Council of
the Entente; West African Economic Community (CEAO); Economic
Community of West African States (ECOWAS); West African Economic and
Monetary Union (WAEMU); Niger Basin Authority; Permanent Inter-State
Committee on Drought control in the Sahel (CILSS); Organization of
the Islamic Conference (OIC); Nonaligned Movement; and Lome
Burkina Faso has had a somewhat stormy relationship with the
United States and other developed Western countries during its
history. Although Burkina Faso maintained a generally pro-Western
foreign policy from 1960 to 1983, during the Sankara years, it
highlighted non-aligned credentials and proclaimed its affinity with
Cuba, Libya, North Korea, and the then Soviet Union. Under its
current President, Blaise Compaore, Burkina Faso has distanced
itself from Sankara’s socialist policies and has placed a greater
emphasis on foreign economic assistance. At the same time, however,
the government has maintained close ties with a number of African
leaders and regimes that are viewed unfavorably by the United
States. Algeria, Belgium, Canada, Cote d'Ivoire, Cuba, Denmark,
Egypt, the European Union, France, Germany, Ghana, Libya, Mali,
Morocco, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Senegal, Taiwan, and the U.S.
have embassies or consulates in Burkina Faso.
Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:21 AM
Burkina Faso has led the way in the renaissance of African art
and culture. Ouagadougou hosts two of the most important pan-African
art and culture events, Le Salon International de l’Artisanat de
Ouagadougou (SIAO), a biennial international arts and crafts
festival (next scheduled for October 2004), and Le Festival
Panafricain du Cinéma et de la Télévision de Ouagadougou (FESPACO),
Francophone Africa’s major biennial film festival (next scheduled
for February/March of 2005). Both of these events attract artists
and aficionados from around Africa and the world. While these events
are the highlights of Burkina Faso’s art and culture scene, they are
by no means the only activities in this arena.
Burkinabe masks, metal sculpture, woodcarving, textiles, pottery,
music, dancing, and theater are all well known in West Africa.
Traditional music and dance performances are frequent and will be
featured in any village ceremony or public event. Modern
interpretations of traditional designs, works in nontraditional
media, traveling exhibits, and works of individual African and
Western artists can be seen at numerous locations in Ouagadougou. In
addition, there are a number of sites around Ouagadougou and
elsewhere in the country where one can see artisans at work.
Ouagadougou is home to the UN’s world headquarters for the
eradication of River Blindness, and several U.S. and European
Universities have study programs bringing students or researchers to
Burkina Faso. Burkina also has several specialized research centers,
many with connections to French organizations. One of the most
important tropical disease research centers in West Africa,
L’Organisation de Coopération et de Coordination pour la Lutte
Contre les Grandes Endémies (OCCGE), is headquartered in
Bobo-Dioulasso. Several other institutes in Ouagadougou carry on
social science studies and work in agricultural and economic
Education continues to be one of Burkina Faso’s greatest needs.
The adult literacy rate is about 19.2%; only 32% of school-age
children are in school. While public education is compulsory under
law, even the relatively low fees are prohibitive for much of the
population. Moreover, most schools are overcrowded and understaffed.
Private education is permitted, and it is common in Ouagadougou.
Public and private secondary education is on the French model,
leading to the baccalaureate degree. Currently, about 40 Peace Corps
volunteers teach at the secondary level throughout Burkina Faso.
The University of Ouagadougou, Burkina’s national university, was
formed in April 1974. It consists of five faculties: letters, arts,
and social sciences; law and political science; economics and
management; technical science; and medicine. Students who complete a
3-year course of study are awarded the “license”, roughly equivalent
to the American Bachelor’s Degree. Those who complete the 4th year
are awarded the “Maitrise,” or Master’s Degree. In addition, there
are four institutes: Technology, Science of Education (the teachers’
college), Rural Development, and Computer Science. Over the last few
years, the University has been the site of numerous student protests
regarding both university specific issues (fees, living conditions,
etc.) as well as national political issues. Much of the 1999–2000
and 2000–2001 academic years was lost to strikes; student protests
also disrupted classes for roughly two months during the 2002–2003
Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:21 AM
Burkina Faso is one of the least industrialized nations in Africa
and its commercial viability is linked to the stability of its
neighbors. The ports of Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) and Lome (Togo) have
historically served as key shipping points for Burkina’s imports and
exports. With the ongoing instability in Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina (and
its neighbors) have been struggling to develop alternative
transportation routes as well as to find ways to offset the economic
losses resulting from the decline in trade with Cote d’Ivoire. Since
the start of the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire in September of 2002,
Burkina has experienced ongoing disruption in the flow of goods to
and from its major trade partners.
Only a small fraction of Burkinabe are directly involved in
industry (2%) and services (5.5%). Industry mainly involves the
industrial processing of agricultural products in such areas as
breweries, pasta-making plants, leather and hide processing, textile
mills, and mechanical and metal processing units. Most manufacturing
is located in Bobo-Dioulasso, Ouagadougou, and Koudougou. Once
state-run, most factories have been privatized as part of a
structural-adjustment program with the World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund. Some mineral deposits, including gold,
manganese, copper, and limestone, are found in Burkina, but most
have yet to be found in large enough quantities to justify
Burkina Faso suffers from a chronic trade imbalance because it
imports most of its consumer and manufactured goods. Despite its
trade imbalances, adjustment programs (generally initiated at the
prompting of the IMF and World Bank) and the inflow of unilateral
transfers have helped reduce the deficit in the balance of payments.
Burkina receives substantial commodity aid and technical assistance
from many international donors, especially in the areas of
infrastructure improvement, health, education, and agricultural
Automobiles Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:22 AM
Although Ouagadougou is a comparatively compact city, employees
will almost certainly want a personal vehicle, as public
transportation tends to be inconvenient and unreliable. To ensure
you have the best possible vehicle (given your driving habits and
plans for traveling in and around Burkina), consider the following:
Principal roads in Ouagadougou as well as most of the major
inter-city routes are paved and in good condition. The majority of
your time will be commuting from a USG residence to the Embassy,
thus practically any vehicle will do.
However, if you have a taste of adventure, you may drive on
unpaved, poorly maintained roads (even in Ouagadougou). Given the
generally rough road conditions off the beaten path, vehicles with
high ground clearance and all-wheel or four-wheel drive are
generally preferable, as they will enable you to travel more widely
with greater confidence, especially during the rainy season.
As with many developing countries, traffic is chaotic and streets
are often crammed with cars, mobylettes (mopeds), bicycles,
pedestrians, and animals and animal carts. With these conditions,
smaller SUVs are an increasingly popular option with many of the
Burkinabé mechanics are most familiar with Toyota, Mitsubishi,
and Peugeot and parts for these cars tend to be most available
(although not necessarily cheaper). Peugeot, Renault, Volkswagen,
Mercedes, Fiat, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Toyota have dealerships in
Burkina Faso.epair facilities are significantly less sophisticated
than in the developed world — it will be difficult and expensive to
repair many of the sophisticated electronic options that are
available on many new and late-model vehicles.
If you plan on extensive traveling in Burkina or the region,
seriously consider a 4x4 equipped for off-road use (heavy duty
shocks, skid plates, brush guards, extra fuel tanks, diesel, etc.).
Given the small size of the diplomatic community and overall poverty
in Burkina Faso, the resale market for vehicles in Burkina is
limited. If you hope to sell your vehicle on departure from
Ouagadougou, please bear in mind the following:
You can sell a car on the local market, but individuals without
duty-free status must pay a 46.25% tariff if they buy your vehicle.
The small diplomatic community, as well as long-term expatriates,
prefer European or Japanese vehicles that are made for this market.
4x4s of choice include Toyota Landcruiser Prado, Nissan Patrol,
Nissan Terrano, and Mitsubishi Pajero; sedans tend to be small
Peugeots or European model Toyotas.
Among local Burkinabé, the ultra-rich tend to buy high-end 4x4s
and luxury sedans (BMW and Mercedes) direct from importers. The few
other Burkinabé who can afford cars tend to view most mid-range
American cars (cars with a resale value from $7,000–20,000) as too
expensive, especially given the problems repairing and maintaining
them and with getting credit.
Currently, less than 15 American families with duty-free
privileges arrive in Burkina each year (and there are <40 American
families total in the country with these privileges). While there
are ~150 American missionary families here, most of them buy locally
available vehicles (for ease of service and reliability).
As a result, the demand for most American-made vehicles is
minimal. Should this change your decision about a vehicle?
If you have a car that you trust, don’t be afraid to bring it,
especially if it would be attractive to other diplomats.
Be aware, however, that you may not be able to capture full
resale value when you go to leave.
If you’ve removed the catalytic converter, ship the parts to
Burkina, as this may make it easier to ship the car to your next
assignment (if you can’t sell your car for as much money as you’d
like) If you plan on buying a car specifically for Burkina and would
prefer not to ship it to your next post, keep the following in mind:
Unless you are arriving during the regular diplomatic rotation
cycle (most departing diplomats put their used vehicles on the
market in late spring/early summer while most incoming diplomats
arrive in late summer/early fall), you will have a very limited
choice of vehicles and will likely have to (a) pay full value at a
dealer and/or (b) settle on a car that may be older, have more
mileage, and fewer amenities than you would like.
Consider using one of the European car import services, as they
may be more likely to locate a vehicle that would appeal to
residents of Francophone Africa.
Be open to European models; consider buying what the expatriate
If you decide to buy a .model, choose one with the greatest
appeal to incoming Americans (among small SUVs, Toyota Rav-4s are
currently the most desirable; 4x4s will be more popular than
sedans). Choose those amenities that are the most rugged and the
likely to have appeal to other potential buyers. Getting Your
Vehicle Ready for Burkina
Regardless of whether you buy a new vehicle for this assignment
or ship your current vehicle, anyone shipping a car to post is
Remove the catalytic converter prior to shipment, as unleaded
fuel is not available in Burkina. Removing the catalytic converter
from newer model vehicles (post 1998) has become more difficult than
in the past. Consult the Overseas Briefing Center for contractors
that perform this service. Although most fuel intakes will
accommodate the local nozzles at gas stations, you should
double-check with your mechanic to see if you need to make any
additional adjustments to prepare your vehicle for leaded fuel.
Bring a stock of extra tires and commonly used spare parts in
your HHE, as parts for most foreign cars are expensive here. You
will definitely need extra fuel and air filters. Hose and belt sets,
spark plugs, wiper blades, motor oil, fuel injector cleaners and gas
treatment mixtures, extra jerry cans for gas and water, etc. are
also worth considering.
If your car is not equipped with a full-size spare, consider
buying an additional full-size wheel for extra peace of mind on
trips outside of Ouagadougou.
Most employees purchase collision, fire, and theft insurance in
the U.S. The Embassy coordinates a group liability policy (since
local third-party-liability insurance is compulsory) and then bills
participating employees on a regular basis. A valid U.S.-issued
drivers license is sufficient, although it doesn’t hurt to obtain an
international drivers permit from AAA. Shipping Instructions:
If you decide to ship a vehicle to post, you are encouraged to
ship it as soon as possible, as transit time can be as long as three
From the U.S. or other non-European posts, post recommends
containerized consignment on a through-bill of lading for delivery
directly to Ouagadougou via the port of Tema in Ghana (ELSO is the
most appropriate transit point for POVs from Europe). We strongly
urge that detachable vehicle accessories be sent with UAB and/or HHE.
Pilferage, though rare, has occurred in the past.
Vehicles should be marked: CONSIGNEE: AMERICAN AMBASSADOR
(owner’s initials) AMERICAN EMBASSY OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO
MARKS AND NUMBERS: AMERICAN EMBASSY OUAGADOUGOU BURKINA FASO VIA
PORT OF TEMA IN TRANSIT
NOTIFY PARTY: AMERICAN EMBASSY RING ROAD EAST ACCRA, GHANA
If routed through Europe, add VIA ANTWERP (ELSO)
For POV, please fax or send us a copy of ownership documents,
including original invoice for new cars, certificate of origin for
second-hand cars, and title or registration papers showing make,
model, type, year, engine number, VIN, engine size, etc. to
facilitate customs clearance along with estimated declared value for
customs purposes. Burkina has no special restrictions regarding
type, origin, or age of vehicle to be imported. Fax numbers and
mailing addresses are as follows:
Fax: (226) 30 67 23 or (226) 33 02 40 IVG line 770 ext. 4006
Mailing address (via international mail or DHL): American
Embassy, Ouagadougou GSO Shipping Department 602 Avenue Raoul
Follereau 01 B.P. 35 Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Mailing address (for official Department of State correspondence
via pouch): American Embassy, Ouagadougou Attention: GSO Shipping
U.S. Department of State Washington, DC 20521–2440
In addition, employees should hand carry the originals of these
documents with them to post.
While your vehicle is in transit, you will be authorized home to
office transportation until your POV arrives at post and after your
POV leaves post. If a vehicle has not been shipped, the Mission
provides up to 30 days home to office transportation.
Once your POV arrives in Ouagadougou, GSO will assist in vehicle
registration. For information on customs clearance for automobiles,
see Customs and Duties.
Local Transportation Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:22 AM
Taxis provide local transportation in Ouagadougou. The Embassy
recommends using radio-dispatched “white taxis” whenever possible.
Although “green taxis” are ubiquitous, they tend to operate on fixed
routes and are likely to stop anywhere along the route to pick up
additional passengers. White taxis operate like standard taxis in
the developed world. Fares are based on distance and should be
settled before starting the journey. A trip within the city starts
at the CFA equivalent of about $1. Rates double after midnight.
Tipping is not customary. Should you desire, you can make individual
arrangements with local taxi drivers for daily transportation.
Regional Transportation Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:22 AM
Only about 20% of all roads in Burkina Faso are paved, and the
driving conditions are less than ideal even in good weather. Given
the uncomfortable and inconvenient nature of local transportation,
most members of the Embassy community drive their own vehicles when
making tourist trips within Burkina as well as to its neighbors. It
is possible to rent a vehicle in Ouagadougou, although this service
is currently running more than $100/day for a small SUV (and drivers
are often required); it is also possible to work with a local tour
agency to create your own tour itinerary.
For longer trips, Air Burkina, Senegal Air, and Ghana Air offer
service to some of the neighboring countries. For direct travel to
Europe and the U.S., Air France is currently the most commonly used
carrier for official travel, offering 5 flights a week via Paris.
Recently, some smaller North African and European outfits have begun
offering direct (or one-stop) service to Europe as well; fares tend
to be cheaper, but service and routings generally don’t match Air
Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:23
All government leased houses are equipped with a telephone,
although phone service is the occupant’s responsibility.
Direct-dial, long-distance service is available to most countries
and to the U.S. — direct dialed calls costs about $2/minute to the
U.S. Service quality can vary widely, although connections are
generally good. Embassy Fax is available for personal use, at a cost
of about $5 per three-minute fax to the U.S.
Wireless Service Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:23 AM
All direct hire Americans are issued cellphones for official use,
and cell phones for personal use are readily available with both
full-service and per the minute plans and calling cards. Although
cellphones are ubiqutious, cellphone service is generally of a lower
standard than in the U.S. In addition, network coverage is limited
to the immediate vicinity of Burkina’s largest cities only, and call
drops increase in frequency when attempting to call from the urban
Internet Last Updated: 4/28/2004 4:13 AM
Ouagadougou has several fairly reliable (by developing country
standards) local Internet Service Providers; FASONET, CENATRIN, and
LIPTINFOR are the three most commonly used services by members of
the Embassy community. Each service has its strengths and
weaknesses; the Embassy Information Program Office staff can assist
you with choosing a provider. In addition, a number of these
services require a one-year subscription. As a general rule when you
use these, you should expect service that is significantly slower
and less reliable than the U.S. Unlimited access currently costs
about $30/month plus the cost of the duration of the call. The
Embassy has recently installed OpenNet Plus, so speedy Internet
access is available at the Embassy to employees and their spouses.
Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:23 AM
Direct-hire U.S. Government employees assigned to Burkina Faso
may use the diplomatic pouch to receive personal letters, magazines,
catalogs, and packages. Shipment of liquids, except prescription
medication, is prohibited. Personal pouch mail is limited to parcels
that do not exceed 17x18x30 and must not weigh more than 45 pounds.
U.S. Postal Service regulations prohibit sending registered or
insured mail via diplomatic pouch — advise correspondents and
mail-order companies accordingly.
Direct-hire employees may send letter mail and audio,
videocassettes and DVDs weighing no more than two pounds per
shipment to the U.S. via the diplomatic pouch as well. Items must be
clearly marked, e.g., “Video Cassette.” Merchandise purchased via
mail order/internet while at post may also be returned to the
retailer, provided they are clearly marked “Return Merchandise.”
Applicable U.S. postage (first class) must be used for all mail.
U.S. postage stamps are normally available from the American
Recreation Center, and forms are available from the U.S. Postal
Service, for purchasing stamps by mail. However, employees are
advised to bring a good supply of postage stamps.
The Embassy receives 2 pouch shipments each week (usually on
Monday and Friday). Pouch shipments generally take 4–7 days from the
Department of State’s mail facility. Outgoing pouch shipments are
sent each Friday; these shipments generally take 5 to 10 days in
transit. The address for personal pouch mail is:
Name 2440 Ouagadougou Place Dulles, VA 20189–2440
Local postal facilities are reliable for airmail letter service;
letters to/from the U.S. typically take 10–14 days. Burkina stamps
are available in the mailroom. International airmail for packages,
however, is quite expensive and not always reliable. Surface mail is
even less reliable. Expect to spend one to two hours at the main
post office completing paperwork and waiting in queues should you
need to ship packages through the Burkina postal system. The address
for international mail is:
Name Ambassade des Etats-Unis 01 B.P. 35 Ouagadougou 01 Burkina
Radio and TV Last Updated: 12/2/2003 2:05 PM
Radio is the most common form of mass communication. In addition
to the state-run station, there are a number of independent stations
that offer everything from religious and local programming to the
BBC, Voice of America, and the French-language services, RFI and
Africa #1. Outside of Ouagadougou, short wave receivers are
necessary to listen to foreign broadcasts. Currently each residence
has satellite receivers that provide access to the Armed Forces
Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) which operates on a North
American television sets (NTSC format).
Other options are on the European format PAL (see below) that
include Burkina’s government-owned color TV station, Télévision
Nationale du Burkina (TNB), which carries programming daily from
12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., and from 6:00 p.m. to midnight, and on
weekends from 8:00 a.m. until midnight. News is offered three times
daily with the remainder of the airtime filled with French or
French-dubbed films and music videos. Some local documentaries are
carried, but production costs largely limit the locally produced
programs to “talking heads”, including regular programming in six
local languages. TV5, a French channel that has tailored its
programming to West Africa, is also available. A special antenna
must be purchased to receive these channels.
For international programming, a number of employees have had
satellite dishes installed and subscribe to international DSTV
programming services based out of South Africa. English language
programming is the most popular choice at around $50 a month. This
service includes three movie channels, CNN, BBC News, a series
channel, Cartoon Network and the Discovery Channel. Full
programming, which includes both English language channels and
French language channels, is available for approximately $78 a
month. The initial cost of acquiring and installing the dish and the
decoder is around $550.
Burkina Faso uses PAL/SECAM and BETACAM transmission systems that
are not compatible with American TV sets. You should plan on
bringing either a multi-system TV or a multi-system/multi-speed VCR
(or comparable DVD) system. Given the large amount of dust in the
air, it is a very good idea to bring cleaning equipment for any of
your sensitive electronics.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated:
12/3/2003 10:23 AM
The government-owned and managed daily newspaper, Sidwaya (“Here
is the Truth”), is the newspaper of record and has a daily
circulation of 6,000. It is also available on the Internet at
www.sidwaya.bf. Independent local newspapers include
l’Observateur-Paalga (“the New Observer”), Le Pays, Le Journal du
Soir, as well as two weekly newspapers, L’Indépendant , and Le
Journal du Jeudi , a satirical weekly. International papers,
including the International Herald Tribune, Le Monde, and Figaro are
available at select bookstores in town.
The Burkinabe Movement for Human Rights publishes a quarterly
journal on human rights, and a number of political organizations
publish newsletters dealing with a wide range of issues. A selection
of foreign magazines is also available locally, including Time,
Newsweek, le Point, and Jeune Afrique.
The American Cultural Center Information Resource Center and the
Community Liaison Office (CLO) have English-language books,
magazines, and newspapers for borrowing. In addition, the American
Cultural Center has a small video collection for lending, with
titles (mostly documentaries) in English and French. The American
Recreation Center has a large collection of English-language books
and videos that can be borrowed by paying members. The International
School of Ouagadougou’s library has English-language children’s
books and magazines. The French Cultural Center’s library has
variety of French-language books and periodicals for both children
Health and Medicine
Medical Facilities Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:24 AM
Ouagadougou has a health unit currently staffed by one part-time
European-trained physician, one registered nurse (FSN), one nurse
practitioner (Peace Corps), one part-time nurse (Peace Corps) and a
laboratory technician. A regional Foreign Service Health
Practitioner (RFSHP) based in Niamey visits post monthly and the
Regional Medical Officer (RMO) based in Bamako schedules quarterly
visits. The Health Unit provides preventive, routine, and emergency
medical care. This includes treatment of minor ailments and
injuries, laboratory work, immunizations, and dispensary services.
It has 2 examination rooms, a recovery room, a laboratory and a
pharmacy. The Health Unit is open, Monday through Friday, for
routine medical services, with an “on-call” system for after hour
emergencies. Services are available to all U.S. contract employees
whose contracts specify such services. The Health Unit maintains a
list of local physicians available to treat U.S. personnel. Most
health unit recommended doctors have been trained abroad.
Dental Care is limited. Although simple or temporary work can be
handled in Ouagadougou, more complicated work must be done in Europe
or the U.S. A complete and thorough dental checkup and all dental
work should be accomplished before departing for Burkina Faso.
Optician: A few different clinics are available. But the service
is expensive and the selection of frames is limited. Bring an extra
pair of prescription glasses. Plastic lenses are not recommended due
to the blowing sand that will scratch them. If you wear contact
lenses make sure to bring plenty of extra lenses and cleaning
supplies. Contact lenses and supplies are not available locally.
Pharmacies: Supplies of standard medications and common drugs are
available, although these medications are usually French or European
brands. Familiar American medications are not stocked. The Health
Unit pharmacy does not dispense over-the-counter supplies or
medications for chronic conditions or general first aid supplies.
Bring a generous supply of routine medications and arrange to get
refills of prescription medicine sent from a U.S. pharmacy or other
Community Health Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:24 AM
While Ouagadougou makes a strong effort at maintaining public
sanitation and cleanliness standards, local health and sanitation
measures do not meet American standards. Local water supplies are
considered unsafe. Water must be filtered and boiled for drinking
and cooking. Water distillers are provided in each residence. Fruits
and vegetables must be cleaned and soaked in an iodine or chlorine
bleach solution before eating, cooking or freezing.
Insects such as flies, mosquitoes, and other insects are
prominent in Ouagadougou, especially during the rainy season. Bring
a large supply of mosquito repellent for both topical use and for
living areas. Good household insecticides cost more than similar
products in the U.S. and are strongly scented. Should you need to
purchase insecticides on the local market, it is a good idea to
check with GSO for their recommendations.
Local bottled beverages and processed foods are generally
satisfactory. Expect to purchase imported UHT long life milk as
fresh milk is unsafe unless you pasteurize it. Meat purchased in
local stores and butcher shops is considered safe, but should be
cooked thoroughly. Many local food items are often scooped from
communal containers into used cans for sale, with the exception of
local products sold at supermarkets that cater to the expatriate
community. However, if well cooked, these items are generally
Preventive Measures Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:02 AM
General: Disease prevention and treatment practices in Burkina
are not fully developed. Among endemic diseases in Burkina Faso,
malaria is one of the most serious. It affects almost everyone and
is a major cause of infant mortality. Also, endemic are
shistosomiasis (bilharzia), which causes liver and intestinal
damage, trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), onchocerciosis (river
blindness), tuberculosis, and rabies. Other diseases present in
Burkina are meningitis, yellow fever, and cholera. Intestinal
diseases such as amoebas and bacterial dysentery are also common.
While in Ouagadougou, the effects of most diseases and illnesses
can be minimized by following preventive practices, maintaining
immunization and booster shots, and using Embassy medical services.
Illnesses Americans suffer here are usually those found to be common
throughout the world. Diarrhea and minor intestinal problems, colds
and respiratory infections, and skin irritation periodically spread
through the community. It takes time to adjust physically to the
semi-tropical heat. Therefore, more rest, more fluids, and more salt
intake is essential. Lightweight cotton clothing, hats, protective
glasses, sunscreen, and moderate exercise will help in the
While in Ouagadougou, the effects of most diseases and illnesses
can be minimized by following preventive practices, maintaining
immunization and booster shots, and using Embassy medical services.
Illnesses Americans suffer here are usually those found to be common
throughout the world. Diarrhea and minor intestinal problems, colds
and respiratory infections, and skin irritation periodically spread
through the community. It takes time to adjust physically to the
semi-tropical heat. Therefore, more rest, more fluids, and more salt
intake is essential. Lightweight cotton clothing, hats, protective
glasses, sunscreen, and moderate exercise will help in the
Before leaving for post, you should receive necessary
immunizations, start malaria suppressants, and complete dental work.
American personnel are immunized against typhoid, meningitis, yellow
fever, tetanus, diphtheria, polio, infectious hepatitis and rabies.
More than one injection is required for several of the
immunizations, and a specified time must lapse between them. Malaria
is endemic to Burkina Faso: a prophylaxis should be taken for at
least one week prior to arrival; during the entire stay in country;
and for four weeks following departure. The medication recommended
for all mission personnel and family members in Burkina Faso is
weekly doses of mefloquine, although other options are available for
those who cannot take mefloquine. The Health Unit can advise you on
these options. Additional Malaria precautions include keeping your
house well screened and well-sprayed, using mosquito netting
(available from GSO on request) around beds, using insect repellent,
and wearing appropriate clothing.
Hepatitis, typhoid, and gastrointestinal disorders are usually
related to contaminated foods and water. While different members of
the Embassy community have different thresholds for what they will
eat and drink in country, all personnel and family members are
encouraged to exercise common sense when it comes to food and
drinks. At home, most Embassy families use distilled (filtered)
water for drinking, making ice, and brushing teeth. In addition, the
Health Unit recommends soaking fruits and vegetables for 30 minutes
in an iodine or chlorine bleach solution before eating, as well as
cooking meat thoroughly. When dining out, the Embassy community
generally avoids unbottled water and ice cubes in local restaurants,
although bottled water, bottled sodas, hot coffee, and tea should be
safe. Ouagadougou has a wide range of restaurants that cater to
expatriates; at most of these, members of the Embassy community are
comfortable eating salads and other uncooked foods. As a general
rule, however, if you are unfamiliar with the restaurant, you may
want to avoid uncooked foods.
The Embassy community is encouraged to exercise other common
sense precautions as well. Wear hats, limit exposure to the sun,
avoid going barefoot whenever possible (to avoid parasites), and use
moderation when exercising to avoid sunburn and heat stroke. Drink
plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration, especially in the dry
season. Since local water is not sufficiently fluoridated, children
(up to age 9) should receive supplemental fluoride drops or tablets.
These items can be obtained from the Health Unit. The Health Unit
provides a helpful handbook containing this and other health-related
information upon arrival at post.
For domestic help, employers should educate household help in the
areas of food preparation, cleanliness, and personal hygiene
standards. Household help should receive annual medical examinations
in addition to an initial medical examination before employment.
Although unable to treat household help, the Health Unit can advise
you on this process. See also the section on “Domestic Help” in
“Supplies and Services” below.
Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 12/3/2003
Ouagadougou offers limited, mostly part-time, employment
opportunities for spouses or dependents. Although spouses and
dependants with strong French are welcome to explore employment
opportunities with international organizations or local employers,
most spouses who work in Ouagadougou are employed by the Embassy or
teach at the International School of Ouagadougou (ISO), as there are
limited employment opportunities for non-French speakers. Depending
on availability of funds, the Embassy often has PIT (part-time,
intermittent, and temporary) positions. Present positions include
the Community Liaison Officer and the Administrative Assistant for
the Management Officer and the GSO. Position vacancies are posted
and announced in the Ouaga Kibe (the post’s publication). Other
short-term personal service contracts are developed based on Mission
Outside the Embassy, spouses, especially those trained as
teachers, can sometimes find employment at the International School
of Ouagadougou or as a part-time instructor at the American Language
Center or at another one of the English language programs in town.
For those interested in teaching English, taking a course in
teaching English as a Second-Language at the National Foreign
Affairs Training Center before departing the U.S., is good
preparation. Tutoring is also a possibility. In addition, the
American Employee Association has employed qualified Americans as a
part-time manager for the Embassy’s Recreation Center.
Job opportunities for children of employees are available through
the Embassy Summer Employment Program. Dependent children aged 16 to
24 may participate. Dependents who are interested in employment are
encouraged to write to the Embassy Personnel Office or the CLO for
information on available openings. It is helpful if you include a
resume. Volunteer opportunities are available for those who speak
The United States and Burkina Faso have a de facto arrangement
for work permits. As such, any eligible family member who finds
employment locally will need to obtain permission from the Foreign
Ministry. The administrative office will assist with this process.
American Embassy - Ouagadougou
Post City Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:24 AM
Ouagadougou (pronounced WHA-GAH-DOO-GOO), Burkina Faso’s capital
and largest city, has a population of about 1 million with about
3,500 expatriates. Ouagadougou is a truly African city, although an
increasingly modern one. The city is compact and its streets have
been laid out on a relatively logical plan. Most members of the
diplomatic community find Ouagadougou to be one of the cleanest and
most secure cities in all of sub-Saharan Africa.
Ouagadougou’s business district is centered on the Grand Marche,
a two-story, concrete structure that houses the central market where
one can find everything from food and household sundries to clothing
and a wide range of tourist goods. (NOTE: A major fire in the spring
of 2003 has forced the closure of the Grand Marche; its future
reopening date remains uncertain.) Nearby are bookstores,
pharmacies, photography shops, gold shops, European-style grocery
stores, smaller outdoor markets, and street vendors. The Embassy is
located on the edge of the business district.
Most residential areas are located on the periphery of the
downtown area; the expatriate community tends to be clustered in
three or four of these neighborhoods all located within 10-15
minutes drive of the downtown area. Despite its climate, Ouagadougou
is a relatively green city — gardens and plant nurseries surround
all three of the reservoirs (“barrage” in French) located on the
edge of town. In addition, Ouagadougou boasts a large urban park
complete with several miles of walking trails, a botanical park, and
an amusement park for children.
The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 4/28/2004 4:16 AM
The U.S. established its Embassy in Ouagadougou in 1961. Today,
the Embassy is one of the smaller missions operated by the
Department of State. In addition to State Department employees, the
official American presence in Burkina includes the Peace Corps and
Treasury Department. No other U.S. government agencies are currently
present in Burkina.
The Embassy occupies several single-story buildings in Koulouba,
a quiet section of the city, along Avenue Raoul Follereau and Avenue
John F. Kennedy. Office hours are Monday to Thursday: 7:30 AM to
5:00 PM and from 7:30 AM to 12:30 PM on Friday. Phone numbers are
(226) 50-30–67–23 for normal duty hours and 50-31–26–60 or
50-31–27–07 for after duty hours. Local nationals provide security;
the Embassy does not have a Marine detachment.
The Public Affairs Section maintains the American Cultural Center
and the Information Resource Center. In addition, the Embassy
supports the American Language Center that is located about 5 miles
from the embassy, within the downtown area of Ouagadougou. The
Public Affairs program includes educational, professional, and
cultural exchanges, library and information services, film and VTR
presentations, and cultural programs such as lectures and concerts.
Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:05 AM
To the extent possible, incoming employees are assigned to
permanent quarters immediately upon arrival. In rare instances,
employees may be assigned to another government-leased temporary
house. Temporary duty personnel generally stay at the Hotel Silmande,
although there are several other options.
Permanent Housing Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:05 AM
Embassy quarters are relatively simple but comfortable. The
houses are generally located in two clusters — one group about a ten
minute walk from the Embassy and the other about ten minutes by car
in the neighborhood around the International School of Ouagadougou.
Nearly all of the houses are single story and most have terraces and
good-sized yards and gardens. A typical house has a combination
living room/dining area, kitchen, two to three bedrooms and
bathrooms, a climate-controlled storage area for consumables, and a
laundry area, often located separately from the house. All State
Department houses have swimming pools.
The Ambassador’s residence is located one block from the Embassy.
It is a four-bedroom two-story structure with a large terrace area
on the second level. The representational area consists of three
interconnecting rooms. The garden area is shady and well landscaped
and contains a large swimming pool. The Deputy Chief of Mission’s
residence is located about a five-minute drive from the Embassy.
Furnishings Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:06 AM
All Embassy housing includes American-style furniture and major
appliances, typically including the following:
Living Room: sofa, loveseat, chairs, coffee table, end tables,
lamps, bookshelf, area carpet, desk, and desk chair, T.V. cabinet;
Dining Room: dining table, 8–10 chairs, china cabinet, and
Bedrooms: queen-size in master and twin beds in others; dresser,
chest of drawers, nightstands, lamps, and mirror;
Terrace: tables with umbrellas, chairs, and chaise lounges;
Appliances: refrigerators (2), upright freezer, stove, washing
machine, dryer, vacuum cleaner, humidifier(s), and air conditioners
for each living area and occupied bedroom;
Miscellaneous: water distiller, generator, fire extinguishers,
smoke detectors, transformers (3), portable communications radio,
outdoor trash can, ladder, lawnmower, garden hose, garden tools,
pool cleaning equipment, and drapes.
Cribs: The Embassy has one crib available for use. Families with
small children are advised to ship their own cribs, highchairs, and
playpens whenever possible. Families with infants are authorized a
layette shipment to ensure adequate supplies for infant
The post does not provide the following: clothes hangers,
wastebaskets, lightweight cotton blankets, bathroom rugs, shower
curtains and hooks, bathroom accessories, scatter rugs, pictures and
decorative items, bedspreads, or bed covers.
The following small 220v appliances are useful in Ouagadougou:
iron, electric mixer, blender, hair dryer, curling iron, toaster,
non-electric clocks, and additional transformers. A high quality
juicer and ice cream maker are nice extras when you’re searching for
ways to beat the heat. A bread maker can bring variety to your diet.
There are a limited variety of breads available.
Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:06 AM
Electrical current in Ouagadougou is 220v, 50-cycle, AC.
Municipal power is dependable most of the year, but voltage
fluctuations and short-term power outages are still common,
especially in the dry season. Bring voltage regulators and surge
protectors for sensitive electronic equipment, such as VCR’s and
computers. Circuit breakers may trip if several appliances are used
Transformers are needed to operate 110v American appliances.
Three transformers are provided, but additional transformers need to
be shipped from the U.S. If possible, convert record players and
tape recorders to 50-cycle before leaving for post, as 110v 60-cycle
appliances may overheat, even with a transformer. The Overseas
Briefing Center can provide more information and a list of suppliers
for equipment and servicing. Don’t forget to get plug adapters to
ensure your 220v appliances will fit in the round outlets found in
Food Last Updated: 4/28/2004 4:17 AM
Good food is readily available in Ouagadougou. Open-air markets,
grocery stores, neighborhood “boutiques”, and street vendors all
offer fresh produce and a variety of packaged goods. Stores and
“boutiques” generally have fixed prices, but market and street
vendors bargain. Items may also be sold door to door. Many stores
are open between 8:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and again from 4:00 p.m.
to 7:00 p.m. Some shops stay open until 8:00 p.m. or 9:00 p.m.
Local vegetables and fruits are inexpensive and usually of good
quality, although many are seasonal in variety and availability.
Potatoes, onions, garlic, parsley, celery, leaf lettuce, cucumbers,
tomatoes, carrots, squash, radishes, green peppers, hot peppers,
green onions, eggplant, plantain, okra, peanuts, and cabbage are
generally available year-round, as are bananas, limes, mangoes, and
papayas. Other items, including avocados, broccoli, cauliflower,
spinach, turnips, peas, sweet potatoes, coconuts, pineapples,
oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, tangerines, strawberries,
watermelons, cantaloupes, and apples are seasonal. It is possible to
find many other imported fruits and vegetables (including mushrooms,
artichokes, lemons, peaches) at the local supermarkets (although at
substantially higher prices). Fresh herbs and spices, including
basil, bay leaf, cilantro, dill, ginger, lemon grass (citronella),
and many local herbs and spices, are available at local vegetable
markets. Other imported spices are available in grocery stores at
All of the European-style grocery stores and butcher shops that
cater to expatriates carry a plentiful supply of beef, poultry,
veal, lamb, and pork. Prices range from $3 to $7 per kilo, and most
of the cuts tend to be European-style. As a general rule, the meat
tends to be lean and tough, so meat tenderizers and marinades are
quite helpful. Bacon, ham, sausages, pates, and luncheon meats are
also available. You can find imported poultry of good quality at
local supermarkets at very high prices. Eggs are in good supply for
most of the year, although both eggs (and the chickens that lay
them) become more scarce during the peak of the dry season in April
and May. Some fresh fish is sold here (Capitaine is especially good)
but most seafood, including shrimp, is frozen and imported. Costs
are about $8 to $14 a pound.
Fresh milk is not marketed locally, but UHT long-life milk is
available in skim, demi-crème (similar to 2% milk) and whole.
Powdered whole milk is also available. Local and imported yogurt,
salted and unsalted imported butter, margarine, crème fraîche
(similar to sour cream), and long-life cream are available. Cheeses
are European types (Roquefort, Camembert, Brie, Gruyere, Gouda,
Edam, and Parmesan); American cheeses are not available. Local
dairies also produce excellent goat cheese. Cottage cheese is rarely
In general, the grocery stores catering to expatriates offer a
large variety of packaged goods and canned items. Although most of
these items are European brands and the price tends to be higher
than comparable goods in the U.S., it is usually possible to find a
close substitute for many of the food items you might crave.
Although baby food and supplies are available, families with young
children generally ship these items from the U.S., as local prices
tend to be higher and the brands are unfamiliar. In addition, many
families rely on online grocers or their consumables shipment for
baking supplies (whole-wheat flour, oatmeal and specialty grains,
confectioner’s sugar and brown sugar, etc.), as local supplies tend
to be limited and lower quality than U.S. equivalents.
Popular soft drinks (Coke, Sprite, Fanta), soda water, tonic, and
beer are sold at local beverage stores. These products are bottled
locally, reasonably priced, of good quality, and are generally in
good supply. Diet sodas are occasionally available at the
supermarket, although they tend to cost about $1 a can. Wine and
liquor are available at grocery stores as well as at specialty
stores; price and variety tend to be reasonably good, though
generally familiar U.S. brands are not available.
Local bakeries carry French-style bread, pastries, and “pain de
mie,” a loaf-style bread similar to, but heavier than, American
bread. Sweetbread dough may be purchased from a local bakery for
rolls or coffeecake baking. Vacuum-packed dry yeast is sold in
grocery stores and is quite reliable, while fresh yeast is available
at bakeries. Baking powder, vanilla extract, brown sugar, molasses,
and confectioner’s sugar are only occasionally available in stores.
Pet products, including pet food, kitty litter, flea collars,
worm medicines, shampoos, and toys should be brought to post as they
tend to be expensive and/or less readily available here.
Employees posted to Ouagadougou have a consumable allowance
intended to offset difficulties caused by shortage, expense, or
unavailability of items at post. With high prices and irregular
supplies here, the consumable allowance should be used to maximum
weight and maximum benefit. Many employees ship only part of the
allowance before arrival and the rest later when they know local
availability and prices. Check favorite recipes for special
ingredient needs, and request catalogs from mail-order grocery
outlets for ideas for consumable shipments. Catalogs from
international firms are available at post for additional ordering up
to allowance limits.
Clothing Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:09 AM
Given the climate, the fashion here is business-casual. Washable
cotton and cotton-blend fabrics are preferable to synthetics. Be
sure to bring an adequate supply of sturdy shoes — shoes tend to
deteriorate in the rough conditions. Sandals are practical
There is a limited, and expensive, selection of ready-to-wear
clothing and shoes available in the local economy. As a result, most
families order clothes and shoes from catalogs (traditional and
internet). Some Americans have had great success with local tailors
reproducing clothes by looking at pictures; local tailoring rates
are reasonable and the quality is good. A good selection of local
(including colorful batiks) and imported fabrics is available.
Patterns are not available, however, and the supply of sewing
notions — thread, buttons, zippers, and trims — is limited, so bring
Lightweight jackets or sweaters are needed occasionally during
cool weather; heavier garments are only needed for trips to colder
climates. Used or outgrown clothing is very much in demand, and
greatly appreciated by household staff. If your weight allowance
permits, consider shipping your “old” clothes (even winter clothes).
Bring sports attire, lightweight hats for sun protection, and
several bathing suits, as chlorinated water wears them out quickly.
Men Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:09 AM
Business dress is informal and more casual than in the U.S.
Short-sleeved button-up shirts worn without a tie, sport shirts, and
casual slacks are generally acceptable. Dress at informal evening
functions is casual: sport shirts, casual slacks. For official
receptions and cocktail parties, men wear a suit, sport coat and tie
or long sleeve button-up shirt and tie. A few formal affairs may
require suits or tuxedos, although these tend to be very rare.
Shorts are generally worn for sports activities only.
Women Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:09 AM
Business dress is informal and more casual than in the U.S. Women
wear summer weight suits, dresses, skirts, slacks and blouses. Most
women wear skirts or dresses knee length or longer. Nylon stockings
are very rarely worn given the climate. Open-toed shoes are
considered appropriate for the office. Dress at informal evening
functions is generally casual: summer dresses, skirts, pants, etc.
For official receptions and cocktail parties “cocktail” dresses are
appropriate. A few formal affairs may require cocktail or evening
dresses, although these tend to be very rare. Shorts are worn for
sports activities only.
Children Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:10 AM
For children, bring a good selection of sturdy summer clothes,
including plenty of hats and bathing suits. School dress is informal
and shorts are allowed. During the cool season, you will want
lightweight jackets/sweaters. In addition, a small selection of
winter wear is useful for travel to cooler climates. Bring several
different sizes of clothing and shoes for children, as local clothes
and shoes are generally not up to U.S. standards. Some families have
had success using local tailors and seamstresses to fashion certain
items of clothing. For infants and toddlers, ship disposal diapers
and wipes for your infants and toddlers as these are expensive
locally. Also, bring baby towels, washcloths, crib sheets, and
cotton baby blankets.
Supplies and Services
Supplies Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:11 AM
Although the price may be higher and/or the quality lower, you
can find most household items you might need in Ouagadougou. While
local supplies will cover almost any emergency, Mission personnel
should ship their favorite American consumer goods to post,
including a supply of toiletries (including anti-bacterial soaps and
hand cleansers and disposable wipes), cosmetics, hair products,
sunscreen, insect repellant, first aid supplies, and a full range of
cleaning products (including laundry and dishwashing detergents,
sponges and scrub pads, and household cleansers).
To help make your new residence your home, remember to bring your
favorite decorative and household items. Bring your own linens,
shower curtains (and hooks), bath mats, wastebaskets, shelf paper,
hangers, vases, and wall hangings. You’ll want a small toolkit,
complete with hammer; screwdrivers; pliers; drill; assorted drill
bits (include masonry bits); masonry nails, picture hooks, and other
supplies for hanging pictures (stick-on hooks or putty tends to dry
out rapidly and are not recommended); masking, duct, and electrical
tape; super glue, and the like. Don’t forget holiday decorations and
supplies. For those who celebrate Christmas, it is possible to find
live Christmas trees here, although they tend to have a “Charlie
Brown” look; consider shipping an artificial tree. Note: For
holidays occurring within the first three months of your arrival at
post, it is a good idea to ship any needed holiday supplies with
Bring all your usual cooking and baking equipment and kitchen
utensils, as well as place settings and serving dishes. In addition,
you may want to bring an oven thermometer, a meat thermometer,
kitchen scale (with both metric and English measurements), knife
sharpener, rubber sink stoppers, and a kitchen timer. Also bring
food storage items and accessories — airtight containers, resealable
storage bags, aluminum foil, waxed paper, and plastic wrap. A large
supply of kitchen towels and dishcloths is important, as they wear
out quickly; paper towels are quite useful as well. Disposable
plates, cups, and napkins make informal entertaining much easier.
Cookbooks, especially those with colored pictures are useful for
kitchen help. Don’t forget your barbecue grill and related equipment
— if you bring an American propane grill it will require a bit of
ingenuity to fit the European-style propane tanks, but Mission
members do use (and very much enjoy) their propane grills here. With
the heat, you will also want to bring plenty of beverage pitchers
and containers, ice cube trays and ice buckets, and portable
Mission members have the standard complement of audio and video
equipment (increasingly including both MP3 players and DVDs) that
one would use in the U.S. A multi-system TV or VCR/DVD is necessary
for watching local television. A short-wave radio for international
news programs might be a nice addition to your home entertainment
system. The American Recreation Center runs a VHS video club (using
American NTSC format), and Mission members regularly swap both
videos and DVDs. For photography, plan ahead and bring extra film,
specialized batteries, and film mailers (to ship film back to the
U.S.). Many Americans have used local film developers with mixed
results. Don’t forget to ship cleaning supplies for your electronic
equipment (CD, VCR, and DVD cleaning kits), as the dust will find
its way into your equipment. A variety of extra batteries will come
Although European-style office products are available, most
Mission personnel ship their own home office supplies. Envelopes of
various sizes, U.S. postage stamps, computer paper and supplies
(disks, CD-ROMs, ink cartridges), notepads, scotch tape, paper
clips, a stapler and a hole punch are quite useful. In addition, you
may want to include both a small filing cabinet and a personal
For children, you will want to bring their favorite games and
toys for both inside and outside (don’t forget pool toys), as well
as plenty of birthday and holiday gifts both for your own children
and their friends. If you intend to give your child a large gift (trikes/bikes,
playhouses, etc.) you should ship them — you won’t be able to order
online and ship via pouch). Bring the standard supplies for school
(including insulated lunchboxes/bags and thermoses/water bottles)
and arts & crafts materials. Bring birthday party supplies —
invitations, cake decorations, candles, balloons, favors, gift-wrap,
Tennis, softball, golf, basketball, and soccer are all popular
options here — if you play, bring your favorite gear. Lawn games,
such as badminton, volleyball, and croquet and pool toys are great
to have as well. For outdoor enthusiasts, consider bringing
binoculars for bird/animal viewing, and camping and hiking gear.
Although many Embassy families have tents, most have discovered that
the majority of tourist destinations in and around Burkina have
small hotels or ”campements” equipped with bungalows — a lightweight
sleeping bag and perhaps a sleeping pad should be more than
sufficient for all but the most diehard campers. Bikes (both road
and mountain) can be useful. Several Embassy employees bike to/from
work at least occasionally, and there are several active cycling
groups for bicycling enthusiasts. Bring equipment and supplies for
your hobbies (musical instruments, sewing patterns, small gardening
tools, etc.) along with a list of Internet and mail order sources.
Pool chemicals and supplies are available in Ouagadougou,
although you may choose (if your packer permits) to ship chlorine
tablets in your HHE. A floating chlorine dispenser that can hold
granulated chlorine makes pool maintenance easier (local chlorine
tends to be granulated, so the standard chlorine floats sold in the
U.S. for tablet chlorine may not work). Bring pool toys and floats.
For those who have to know just how hot it is, a dual
Celsius/Fahrenheit outdoor thermometer, as well as a pool
thermometer, may come in handy. A pool chemical test kit is provided
by the Embassy.
Basic Services Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:12 AM
Many tailors in Ouagadougou will make simple clothing and do
piecework, such as buttonholes, slipcovers, and curtains. Tailors
make both western and African styles for women and safari-type
suits, pants, and shirts for men. Work is reasonably priced, and
quality is usually good.
Simple shoe, leather, purse, and watchband repairs can be done
locally. Most laundry is done at home, since government-furnished
housing has a washer and dryer. Dry-cleaning is available, but the
results may not be up to U.S. standards. Ouagadougou has barbershops
and beauty shops where the service and quality of work are good.
Ouagadougou has radio and TV repair shops, but parts for U.S.
equipment are not common. Repair service for other types of
U.S.-manufactured equipment, machines, and appliances is generally
A variety of nicely made batik, tie-dye, hand-woven and
embroidered tablecloths, napkins, and placemats can be found in
Domestic Help Last Updated: 4/28/2004 4:18 AM
Most families hire household employees, such as gardeners, cooks,
housekeepers, and nannies. Salaries for domestic help range from
40,000 to 80,000 FCFA ($75–$150) a month, depending on experience
and English language skills. Many of the staff employed by the
Embassy community have previous experience working for Americans.
Even so, English-speaking staff are rare, and even fluency and
literacy in French varies dramatically.
The workweek is a maximum of 6 days a week and up to 10 hours a
day. Household workers rarely live in, but they are usually more
than willing to work evenings and weekends as required. They usually
receive extra pay for these occasions.
Burkina has established a work code for household help that
stipulates working hours, overtime pay requirements, probationary
periods, vacation and sick leave policies, meal and uniform
policies, salary increases, and regulations for termination of
employees. A bonus of one month’s pay is expected at Christmas,
although employers are not obliged to give other holiday bonuses.
Employees are entitled to a month’s vacation each year, although
extra pay may be given in lieu of vacation. In addition, the
employer is required by law to make social security payments that
amount to 21.5% of salary (5.5% from employee, 16% from employer).
Most officers just go ahead with paying their employee’s
contribution. The Embassy assists in preparing the paperwork for
these quarterly payments.
Religious Activities Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:12 AM
Many religious faiths are represented in Burkina Faso and freedom
of religion is honored in law and practice. Ouagadougou has Assembly
of God, Baptist, Catholic, and Seventh-day Adventist
churches/missions that offer services in French. The International
Church of Ouagadougou is an interdenominational Protestant
congregation with Sunday services in English, including Sunday
School. Moslem, Bahai, Jehovah’s Witnesses communities hold services
in Ouagadougou as well.
At Post Last Updated: 4/28/2004 4:22 AM Pre-School: There is a
quality English-language preschool program for children ages three
and older, at the International School of Ouagadougou (contact
information is below). In addition, there is a French-run preschool,
Les Lutins, located in the same neighborhood as many of the Embassy
residences and used by several embassy families, that offers a
French-language program for children ages two and older. Les Lutins
is run by Marie-Cecile Trouillet who can be reached at (226)
50-36-14-61; tuition runs ~$225 per quarter.
Schools: The International School of Ouagadougou (ISO),
originally created by the U./S Embassy in 1976, was founded to
provide a quality education based on an American curriculum. Now the
ISO is a private, nonprofit, fully accredited K through 12
institution that receives some financial support from the Department
of State. Course-work is based on a standard U.S. curriculum and
testing program. In addition to a core curriculum, classes are given
in French, art, music, physical education, and computer science.
With an average student-teacher ratio of about 15 to 1, students
receive individual attention. English as a Second Language (ESL)
classes are available for students not fluent in English.
A new school campus, located in a pleasant residential area, was
completed in 1992. The campus consists of 7 separate buildings,
which house 9 air-conditioned classrooms, a science lab, a computer
lab, an audio-video room, a well-stocked library, a nurse’s room, a
reception area, business office, and director’s office. The campus
offers playing fields for physical education classes and outdoor
activities, as well as a swimming pool, tennis court, basketball/
volleyball court, and squash court.
School is in session Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to
1:15 p.m. Art, physical education, and music instruction, for grades
3–8, is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m. The
academic year, with a total of 180 days, operates on a quarter
system and runs from the beginning of September to mid-June.
Many club-sponsored and school-sponsored activities are carried
out during the school year. These include dance, basketball,
swimming, softball, chess, stamp collecting, art, handicrafts,
computer club, exchange programs, game-ranch visits, and academic
competitions. Direct questions on the International School to the
CLO coordinator or to the school:
Mr. Patrick Meyer, Director International School of Ouagadougou
DOS/Administrative Officer 2440 Ouagadougou Place Washington, DC
20521–2440 Tel: (226) 50-36–31-34 Fax: (226) 50–36–22-28
e-mail: email@example.com Web: http://iso.htmlplanet.com
There is a French-language school, St. Exupery, for children of
pre-kindergarten age through high school (lycee). Secondary studies
are preparatory to the French baccalaureate degree. Entry is based
on space available, which is especially in demand on the
pre-kindergarten and kindergarten levels. The school year starts in
mid-September and ends in mid-June. All children must register
before July. When applying for entry, students should bring samples
of previous work in addition to report cards, especially in math, to
indicate grade level.
Away From Post Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:13 AM
Because of the limited English language secondary school program
in Burkina Faso, the Department of State provides an educational
allowance for high school age children to attend boarding school.
Several publications are available to help in the selection of
schools away from post, including The Educational Register, a guide
to independent schools and summer programs (available free at
www.vincentcurtis.com) and Schools Abroad of Interest to Americans,
(available at bookstores). These publications and other information
are available in the Office of Overseas Schools in the Department of
State or in the post CLO office. Other questions about education may
be addressed to the Educational Counselor of M/FLO at the Department
Special Needs Education Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:13 AM
No formal, English-language training or educational facilities
for handicapped children exists in Ouagadougou, although a
credentialed special education teacher may sometimes be present.
Parents of learning-disabled, blind, or deaf children should check
the current situation when considering this post.
Recreation and Social Life Last Updated: 7/31/2003 10:52 AM
Sports Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:14 AM
Americans in Ouagadougou spend a lot of time outdoors — swimming,
playing tennis, jogging or walking, and enjoying other outdoor
sports and activities. Swimming is a year-round pastime and a good
way to take advantage of Ouagadougou’s warm temperatures and
sunshine. All Embassy houses have swimming pools.
Jogging and walking are popular. The Urban Park of Ouagadougou, a
protected forest since the 1930’s, is within walking distance for
about half of the Embassy residences (and a 10-minute drive for the
others). It features shaded trails for running, cycling, bird
watching or just sitting on a bench and watching the world pass by.
Ouaga has an active chapter of Hash House Harriers who meet twice a
month (on Sunday afternoons) to explore the surrounding countryside.
The “Hash” is open to the entire family (both walkers and runners),
definitely non-competitive, and ends with a cold drink and sometimes
The American Recreation Center (The Rec Center), administered by
the AEA (American Employees Association), is located about 50 yards
from the Embassy. The Rec Center has a large swimming pool, a
tennis/basketball court, a playground, and a gym. In addition, The
Rec Center has a snack bar that offers American dishes. A video
club, lending library, lounge area (with TV, VCR, and pool table),
and a bar are also provided. First-run movies are shown weekly. The
Rec Center provides a pleasant social and recreational environment
for Americans to meet. Special events, such as holiday parties, an
annual tennis tournament, and a weekly basketball game, are also
held at The Rec Center. Annual membership fees are $162 per single,
$252 per couple, and $312 per family. Guests are welcome to use the
center for a daily fee. For more information, feel free to contact
the Rec Center at OuagaRec@state.gov.
ISO also has an athletics center with a swimming pool, two tennis
courts, a squash court, and a snack bar. Membership is open to all
families with children at ISO and others from the community. Area
hotels also offer swimming pools and tennis courts.
Burkina’s biggest spectator sport is soccer, although basketball
is also popular. Softball is popular among the American community;
pick-up games occur most Saturdays at the International School. Some
equipment is provided or you can bring your own. Ouagadougou’s
softball teams — the Sahel’s Angels and the Burkina Bats — sometimes
participate in various West African softball tournaments.
Ouagadougou’s own Softball Fanatics Weekend Tournament (SOFANWET) is
held Memorial Day weekend. Tennis players can join a number of
different clubs around the city, including The Rec Center, the
International School of Ouagadougou, the Tennis Club of Ouagadougou,
or several hotel facilities. Facilities, fees, the quality of
instruction, and court availability vary; tennis players should
visit the different facilities on arrival in Ouaga and talk to
current members to determine the best facility for them.
An 18-hole laterite (dirt) golf course is located about 15
minutes outside of Ouagadougou. The golf club has a clubhouse and
bar and sponsors social events, as well as frequent competitions.
There is a very good pro from Cote d’Ivoire who gives inexpensive
lessons. Bring clubs, a cart, a good supply of balls, and two or
three chipping mats (used at the laterite fairways).
There are several riding stables in Ouagadougou, including Club
de L’Etrier, Oasis Du Cheval, and Cheval Mandinque that offer
lessons as well as trail rides in the surrounding countryside. Club
de L’Etrier, is located a bit closer to most residences, but it
tends to be more expensive and does not offer English-language
You can take flying lessons with a FAA Certified Flight and
Ground Instructor who is approved by the Minister of Transport. You
can charter a private plane for air ambulance, express mail
delivery, or tourism purposes. If you already hold a pilot license,
it is recommended that you take a local checkout flight. The office
of AERO Transport Express is located in the hanger behind the AERO
Club and the rates are very reasonable. Instructions are available
in English or French. The AERO Club has two or three small planes at
its disposal for pilots who want to rent a plane.
Hunting is permitted in special reserves and during certain
seasons. License fees depend upon size of game. Smaller game may
cost $400 and up. If you intend to ship a firearm to post, advance
approval is required from the Ambassador. Contact the Administrative
Officer for details.
Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:14 AM
There are plentiful opportunities for both day trips and longer
excursions from Ouagadougou. Several private travel agencies provide
travel brochures, guided tours, and rental of chauffeur-driven,
four-wheel-drive vehicles. The best time to see the country is
during the cool, dry season from November to February. Given road
and weather conditions, travel is sometimes difficult in Burkina,
but it is usually interesting.
Near Ouagadougou, are the towns of Bassole and Sabou, where one
can visit the sacred crocodiles for a small fee. Kaya, a market town
known especially for its leatherwork and indigo cloth, is located
only 90 kilometers from Ouagadougou. A few kilometers beyond Kaya is
Dodale, where one can see indigo cloth being made.
Several interesting places are close enough to Ouagadougou for
weekend trips. For a more desert-like atmosphere, those with
four-wheel-drive can take a 3-hour drive north past Kaya to Bani and
Dori, home to large scenic mosques. Several of the towns past Dori,
including Gorom-Gorom and Markoye, have weekday markets that attract
tribes from around the Sahel. Whole families dressed in distinctive
robes and jewelry make their way to these markets on camel, donkey,
horse, and by foot (and brush taxi). Although the trip north can be
rough, adventurous travelers will enjoy the markets and the
opportunity to experience life on the edge of the Sahara.
Southwest of Ouagadougou is Bobo-Dioulasso (Bobo), Burkina Faso’s
second largest city. It is a 5-hour drive on good roads and has a
choice of hotels and restaurants. Bobo is known for its music and
crafts, and nearby towns, such as Boni, are famous for wooden masks.
During the March–June period, several villages have festivals that
include masked dancers. Another hour past Bobo is Banfora, which has
an excellent hotel with big pool and a wealth of interesting natural
wonders, including a waterfall and hippo lake. Gaoua, capital of the
Lobi people, in the southwestern part of Burkina, is best left for a
3-day weekend. A side trip to ancient ruins is possible from there,
as are tours of some surrounding villages, known for culture and
During the dry season (late November to March), wildlife safaris
to Burkina’s two biggest game parks, Nazinga and Arly, are popular
weekend trips. Both parks offer camping and lodging facilities
(although Arly’s are a bit more elaborate and more expensive than
Nazinga’s). The wildlife varies somewhat between the two parks, but
visitors will almost certainly see elephants, crocodiles, baboons,
wart hogs, and antelope. Visitors to Arly may also see lions,
hippos, and wild boar. Nazinga is located about 3½ hours south of
Ouaga while Arly is 6 to 8 hours east. Both Niger and Benin also
have wildlife parks worth visiting.
U.S. personnel are encouraged to visit as much of nearby Africa
as possible to gain the most out of their tour in Burkina Faso. Many
people travel to Mali from Burkina Faso to visit Dogon country;
Mopti, an important fishing port at the juncture of the Niger and
Bani Rivers; and Tombouctou (Timbuktu). Dogon country is home to the
animist Dogon people, known for their distinct culture and cliff
dwellings in and along the Bandiagara cliffs. Mopti is famous for
its large mosque and lively market. Special charter flights can be
arranged to the fabled Tombouctou. The beaches of Ghana and Benin
are approximately a 1½ day drive by car, and Niamey, the capital of
Niger, is approximately a 1-day drive as well.
You can fly from Ouagadougou to most major West African cities.
The designated R&R point is London or the nearest port of entry into
the U.S. Also, several direct weekly flights to Paris are available
Entertainment Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:15 AM
Two highlights of Ouaga’s social scene are Le Salon International
de L’Artisanat de Ouagadougou (SIAO) and The Festival Panafricain du
Cinéma et de la Télévision de Ouagadougou (FESPACO). SIAO is a
biennial craft show promoting African artisans. The October 2002
edition of SIAO highlighted the work of nearly 200 Burkinabe
artisans in addition to artisans from 30 other African countries.
The Festival Panafricain du Cinéma et de la Télévision de
Ouagadougou (FESPACO) is a weeklong film festival held during the
last week of February in odd-numbered years. FESPACO is the largest
recurring cultural event in Africa and is among the most important
festivals in the world. FESPACO is designed to assist in the
dissemination of African cinema, promote discussions among
filmmakers, and further the development of African cinema as a means
of expression, education, and awareness. Viewing for the festival is
open to the public, and tickets for each film are reasonably priced.
In Burkina Faso, theater has been traditionally used as a means
of informing, educating, and motivating village populations; Ouaga
hosts fairly regular theater performances by a variety of local
groups. There are a number of air-conditioned theaters in
Ouagadougou, which show French or foreign films, dubbed, or
subtitled in French.
The Centre culturel français Georges Méliès (French Cultural
Center) has activities, such as theatrical presentations
(traditional and modern), musical performances, and expositions, as
well as a good French-language library for adults and children.
Membership is required for library access.
Despite its small size, Ouaga supports a surprising array of good
restaurants that cater to expatriates, offering good-quality and
reasonably priced French, Italian, African, Vietnamese, Lebanese,
and Chinese dishes. There are also several local bakeries that offer
sandwiches for dining in or take-out. Many restaurants are open for
lunch and dinner. Pizza, pasta, and popular African dishes are well
prepared at several local restaurants and available for carry out as
well. Reservations are rarely required.
Social Activities Last Updated: 12/2/2003 3:17 PM
Social activities within the American community in Ouagadougou
are relaxed and informal. Cocktail parties, buffets, informal
dinners, and barbecues are popular ways to entertain. Although the
official Embassy community is about 25 people, the larger American
community in Burkina Faso is made up of almost 400 people. Outside
the American community, there are about 20 resident diplomatic
missions, plus development personnel of France, The Netherlands,
Canada, Germany, Denmark, and representatives of several other
countries, along with Burkinabe, make up the social community.
Burkinabe genuinely enjoy showing foreigners their traditions and
cities and arranging common activities. International clubs, such as
Rotary and the Lions Club are represented. There are active
Diplomatic Women and Young Diplomats Clubs.
Among Americans Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:15 AM
Social activities within the American community in Ouagadougou
are relaxed and informal. Cocktail parties, buffets, informal
dinners, and barbecues are popular ways to entertain. Although the
official Embassy community is about 30 people, the larger American
community in Burkina Faso is made up of almost 400 people.
International Contacts Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:15 AM
Outside the American community, there are about 20 resident
diplomatic missions, plus development personnel of France, The
Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Denmark, and representatives of
several other countries. For those willing to speak French, there
are numerous opportunities to meet and socialize with the other
members of the diplomatic community and Burkinabe in general.
Burkinabe genuinely enjoy showing foreigners their traditions and
arranging outside activities.
Nature of Functions Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:16 AM
The diplomatic community in Ouagadougou is small. Senior officers
are expected to attend several monthly affairs, such as Burkina
Government-sponsored opening ceremonies, cultural events, events
related to official visits, and celebrations of national days of the
various countries represented in Burkina Faso. Large functions are
usually held outdoors, as gardens at most residences are large
enough to accommodate groups ranging from 50 to 100.
Social events in Ouagadougou are generally informal; dress is
generally prescribed by invitation. An ability to converse in French
permits full participation in Ouagadougou’s social life, although
there are expatriates who speak English. The spouses and dependents
of Mission officers are under no obligation to assist in official
entertaining, however, voluntary participation in social and
community activities, as well as on official occasions, is helpful
to the Mission and is one way to make friends and learn more about
Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:16 AM
The American Embassy is an informal place, and most protocol is
courtesy and common sense. Only the Ambassador and DCM are expected
to make formal courtesy calls on Burkinabe officials and diplomatic
colleagues. While it is not necessary to leave calling cards in
Burkina, they can be useful as “business cards” in contacts with
Burkinabe and other diplomatic missions. The mission can make a
small number of cards, with an official seal, after an employee’s
arrival in Ouagadougou. Cards can also be ordered before or after
arrival from various stationery companies in the U.S. that are
familiar with Foreign Service formats. Business cards can also be
created via Intranet. Small, blank note cards are useful for both
invitations and thank you notes. Small note cards with African
motifs are available locally.
Special Information Last Updated: 4/28/2004 4:26 AM
Post Orientation Program
CLO coordinates a voluntary sponsorship program for newcomers.
Sponsors help to prepare the house for incoming families, meet
newcomers at the airport, and help them to settle in and adjust to
life in Ouagadougou. Write the CLO (the generic e-mail account is
firstname.lastname@example.org), well in advance of arrival, with any questions
you may have. The CLO can provide you with more up-to-date
information about Ouagadougou. Post offers free French-language
classes to American employees and their spouses at the Embassy,
provided that funds are available.
Notes For Travelers
Getting to the Post Last Updated: 4/28/2004 4:07 AM
There are no direct flights from the U.S. to Ouagadougou. At
present, personnel travel to Ouagadougou via Paris on Air France
(code-sharing with Delta). Regardless of routing, travelers should
ensure that travel to post complies with the Fly America Act. Notify
your personnel officer or Embassy Ouagadougou of your travel plans
well in advance. Include your flight number, date and time of
arrival, number of dependents, pieces of luggage, and if you are
bringing a pet. This will ensure that you are met on arrival and
assisted through customs and immigration. This information is also
helpful to the GSO for preparation of your living quarters.
Include in your accompanying luggage any personal items that you
might need in those first weeks. Do not forget special medications,
important papers, an alarm clock, mosquito repellent, etc.
Send UAB and HHE by the most direct routing, using U.S. carriers
when possible and as required. We recommend routing via Paris or
Brussels for onward shipment to Ouagadougou. In general, shipments
from the U.S. are transported to the European Logistics Support
Office (ELSO) in Antwerp, Belgium and then onward (via air) to
Ouagadougou. Bill of lading for all shipments should be
marked/consigned as follows:
American Ambassador (employee’s initials in parentheses) American
Embassy Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
HHE and consumable shipments generally take 2–3 months to arrive.
For more detailed information about shipments, refer to your TMTWO
and/or arrival cable or contact your post of departure. For other
information on packing, shipping, and traveling, check the Foreign
Service Assignment Notebook or It’s Your Move available from the
Overseas Briefing Center.
To facilitate customs clearance on all shipments, fax a detailed
packing list or inventory, including an estimate of dollar value of
goods shipped to GSO Shipping Department at:
(226) 50 30 67 23 or (226) 50 33 02 40 IVG line 770 ext. 4006
Other necessary shipping documents (original bill of lading,
packer’s list of contents, and measurements and weight of
containers) are generally sent by GSO at previous post or by the
U.S. dispatch agent. If shipment originates in the U.S., bring an
extra copy of the inventory as a record in case of loss.
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Customs and Duties Last Updated: 4/28/2004 4:07 AM
The Government of Burkina Faso allows duty-free entry of HHE for
all diplomatic personnel for the full length of their assignments.
Nondiplomatic personnel receive duty-free entry of effects for up to
6 months after arrival. Duty-free privileges for contractors vary,
depending upon agreement reached between the Burkinabe Government
and the particular project. Each accredited member of Mission is
allowed one POV duty-free. If a second vehicle (including
motorcycles and mopeds) is imported (at the owner’s expense) or
purchased locally, the vehicle must be registered locally and will
not be assigned diplomatic plates. GSO arranges customs clearance
for HHE, consumables, and vehicle shipments. No restrictions exist
on bringing foreign currency into Burkina Faso. There are no
restrictions on shipping alcoholic beverages in your HHE.
Passage Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:17 AM
Visas are required for entry into Burkina Faso. Visas can be
obtained from the Burkina Embassy in Washington, DC, in any city
where Burkina Faso has a diplomatic mission or from a French embassy
in those nations that have no Burkina consular representatives. The
embassy can obtain an “airport visa” for persons with diplomatic or
official passports who are coming from a country where Burkina Faso
is not represented. Airport visa requests should be made at least 5
working days before arrival and should include full name, date and
place of issue, and the date and flight number of your arrival. Two
small photos of each traveler may be required in order to get an
airport visa on arrival. Before leaving, be sure to obtain visas for
any stopover countries you may visit that require them as well (I.E.
France requires a visa for U.S. Diplomatic passports).
Travelers to Burkina Faso must present a current immunization
certificate for yellow fever. Travelers entering Burkina Faso, by
car, must present original registration papers or proof-of-ownership
documents for the vehicle. After arrival, persons holding diplomatic
or official passports are required to obtain 1-year, multiple-entry
visas. Persons with regular passports must obtain short-term or
resident visas on entry and exit visas on leaving the country.
Official Americans are issued Burkina identity cards. Bring at least
12 extra passport-sized photos for the ID, visa extension and other
official uses. ID photos for visas for out-of-country travel can be
taken locally. A valid driver’s license is required to drive in
Burkina Faso. A U.S. or international driver’s license is
Pets Last Updated: 6/29/2004 7:25 AM
No quarantine is required to enter Burkina Faso. However, pets
must be accompanied by an up-to-date rabies vaccination certificate
that is at least one week, but not more than one year, old and a
veterinary certificate attesting to the good health of your pet
issued not more than 5 days before arrival. Dogs and cats are also
required to have yearly rabies shots.
While Burkina's rules for pet importation are generally less
stringent than many other countries, your pet will almost certainly
have to transit Europe to/from Burkina Faso. As a result, Post
recommends that you ensure that your pet meets all of the stringent
standards for importation into the European Union. If you choose not
to follow the European requirements (spelled out in some detail
below), you will almost certainly encounter headaches and heartaches
trying to get your beloved Fido to/from Burkina.
The European Union is implementing a continent-wide set of pet
importation regulations that also affect animals that are transiting
Paris via CDG airport. If you are transiting Paris, you must get a
specific waiver of these regulations. To obtain a waiver, you must
fax to the onsite veterinary official at CDG in advance a veterinary
certificate attesting to the good health of your pet along with your
flight numbers/itinerary. You should obtain your certificate of good
health not more than 5 days and not less than 3 days prior to your
departure. If your pet’s rabies vaccination is more than one year
old, you will also need to update this vaccination no less than 30
days prior to your departure.
Fax your certificate and itinerary to: Services vétérinaires
Roissy CDG rue du Pélican – zone de fret 1 – BP10111 – 95701 Roissy
CDG cedex Tel: (33)22.214.171.124.22 Fax: (33)126.96.36.199.36
The veterinary official at CDG will fax you confirmation of your
waiver. Hand-carry this confirmation (or the fax confirmation sheet
indicating that your original fax was successfully transmitted to
the CDG veterinary service if you never received a response), along
with the original certificate of good health and proof of an
up-to-date rabies vaccination, with you when you board the flight.
While it is possible that French officials will not insist on seeing
this paperwork for hand-carried animals, we strongly advise that you
complete all the necessary paperwork in advance of your arrival in
Should your pet be traveling as accompanied baggage, you will
need to personally collect your pet upon arrival in Paris and then
recheck your pet prior to your departure. We strongly advise anyone
traveling with pets not to schedule any extended layover in Paris,
as you may be forced to demonstrate compliance with the full set of
pet importation requirements.
While the shipment of pets is not reimbursable by government
agencies, it may be tax-deductible as a moving expense. When
shipping pets, start to plan early as many airlines now have
embargoes on shipping animals during hot summer months. Please
advise GSO ahead of time if you intend to ship a pet.
Veterinary services are available in Ouagadougou but they are not
up to western standards. You are encouraged to bring with you or
ship any medications or treatments, as well as specialized food,
your pet may need.
Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:18 AM
You must request permission from the Ambassador to bring personal
firearms to post. The Burkina government restricts ownership of 9mm
firearms, and firearm permits are expensive. If you intend to ship
personal firearms please send all pertinent information (weapon’s
technical characteristics, copies of purchase documents and copy of
your diplomatic passport data page) to GSO, well in advance of your
arrival. Under no circumstances should weapons be placed in your
Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated:
4/28/2004 4:08 AM
Burkina Faso is part of the West African Economic and Monetary
Union (WAEMU), whose members use the Communauté Financière de
l’Afrique (CFA) franc, a convertible currency tied to the Euro at a
fixed rate of 655.957 CFA to 1 Euro. The WAEMU group of countries
includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali,
Niger, Senegal, and Togo. As of May 2004, the exchange rate was
approximately 550 FCFA to $1 (off from a high of approximately 750
FCFA to $1 in early 2001).
The metric system is used as the standard system of weights and
Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 6/29/2004
Official and diplomatic personnel are exempt from Burkinabe
income taxes or excise levies other than restaurant consumption
taxes. Although the Mission is trying to negotiate a cancellation,
the local government is currently charging a valued added tax (VAT)
on all local purchases.
Employees may sell personal property (including POVs) while at
post. However, the Embassy maintains strict control to ensure that
diplomatic privileges are not abused. Employees wishing to sell
items must inform the Management Officer prior to any sale. Given
the complexity of local customs regulations (especially when selling
to a person without duty-free privileges), as well as the Department
of State’s own requirements, the GSO shipping and customs department
is available to provide additional information and guidance.
The Embassy provides accommodation exchange services for American
employees, their family members and official visitors through the
cashier’s office, located at the Embassy. The office is open for
several hours each day, Monday through Friday. Local currency can be
obtained from the cashier by a personal check written on a U.S. bank
or dollar traveler check or U.S. currency. Checks can be cashed for
CFA francs up to the amount of $500. Dollars are paid out only for
official travel outside of Burkina Faso, depending on availability.
Banking services, such as checking accounts, are available through
several local banks, but Americans seldom use them.
Burkina Faso operates as a cash economy. With the exception of
banks, airlines, and the very large tourist hotels, nearly all local
transactions are done in cash. Credit cards are gaining acceptance
(especially at businesses catering to expatriates) although most
staff choose not to endure the several mintues long process of
requesting and receiving credit card verification. In addition, a
number of the businesses that accept credit cards charge a
transaction fee on top of any bank-related charges that you may
occur. ATM machines are also becoming more widely available in
Ouagadougou and in Bobo-Dioulasso, although one should not expect to
find a working ATM in any of the smaller towns around the country.
Although travelers checks (in Euros or dollars) can be used at banks
and the very large hotels in Ouaga, most members of the Mission have
very little need for travelers checks (given the Embassy’s exchange
facilities). Employees coming to Ouagadougou should maintain a
checking account in the U.S. as dollar checks are needed to obtain
local currency from the Embassy cashier and to make payments to
mail-order companies and creditors in the U.S.
Recommended Reading Last Updated: 12/3/2003 10:20 AM
These titles are provided as a general indication of the material
published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse
Burkinabe are proud of their culture and long history. The
1,000-year-old history of the Mossi of Burkina is of special
interest to those assigned to this friendly country. Former U.S.
Ambassador Elliott Skinner has written extensively on the Mossi.
Personnel in Washington, DC should request a showing of a
20-minute color film (audio in English) on Burkina, available
through the Overseas Briefing Center (FSI). For general reading on
Africa, the Selected Functional Bibliography of the FSI Center on
Sub-Saharan African Studies is recommended. You can learn much about
Africa in general and Burkina in particular, from materials listed
in the following bibliography.
Travel Guides Lonely Planet, West Africa, 1999
Klotchkoff, Jean-Pierre, Burkina Faso, Jaguar Editions (Paris),
History, Politics and Sociology Devilliers, Gerard, Putsch A
Ouagadougou, Plon (Paris), 1984
Englebert, Pierre, Burkina Faso: Unsteady Statehood in West
Africa, Westview Press, 1989
Howorth, Chris, Rebuilding the Local Landscape: Environmental
Management in Burkina Faso, 1999
McMillan, Della, Sahel Visions: Planned Settlement and River
Blindness Control in Burkina Faso, 1995
Riesman, Paul, First Find Your child a Good Mother: The
Construction of Self in Two African Communities, 1992
Riesman, Paul, Freedom in Fulani Social Life, 1998
Sanders, Shapiro and Ramaswamy, The Economics of Agricultural
Technology in Semiarid Sub-Sahara Africa, 1996
Sankara, Thomas, Sankara Speaks: The Burkina Faso Revolution,
1983-87, (translated by Samantha Anderson), 1988
Skinner, Elliott P., African Urban Life: The Transformation of
Ouagadougou, 1974 (out of print)
Skinner, Elliott P., The Mossi of Burkina Faso: Chiefs,
Politicians, Soldiers, 1989 (out of print)
Culture, Art and Tradition Dagan, Esther, Man and His Vision —
Traditional Wood Sculpture of Burkina Faso, 1995
Guirma, Frederic, Tales of Mogho: African Stories from Upper
Volta, 1971 (out of print)
Roy, Christopher D., Art of the Upper Volta Rivers, 1987
Some, Sobonfu, The Spirit of Intimacy: Ancient African Teachings
in the Ways of Relationships, 2000
Some, Sobonfu, Welcoming Spirit Home: Ancient African Teachings
to Celebrate Children and Community, 1999
Wise, Christopher, The Desert Shore: Literatures of the Sahel,
Reference DeCalo, Samuel, Burkina Faso (World Bibliographic
Ewing, Doyle, Youngblood and Kelly, Burkina Faso Country Review,
Rupley, Lawrence and McFarland, Daniel M., Historical Dictionary
of Burkina Faso, 1998
Local Holidays Last Updated: 4/28/2004 4:11 AM
Shops and government offices are closed on local holidays.
Although American and local-hire employees of U.S. Government
agencies observe both Burkinabe and American holidays, as approved
by the Management Officer, personnel need not schedule arrival to
avoid holidays. Airport assistance will be provided. For 2004, the
Burkina holidays are as follows:
New Year’s Day January 1 National Day January 3 Id Al-Adha/Tabaski*
February International Women’s Day March 8 Easter Monday April 24
Labor Day May 1 Mouloud* May 1 Ascension Day May 20 Independence Day
August 5 Assumption Day August 16 All Saints’ Day November 1 Id Al-Fitr/Ramadan*
November Proclamation of Independence December 11 Christmas Day
* Muslim holidays are observed according to the lunar calendar.
Ramadan is about 10 days earlier each year.