The 8 Qualities of a Burkinabe

Burkinabe … what is this? Well, a citizen of Burkina Faso is called a Burkinabe. Let’s review a little history to know what is Burkina Faso. From 1850, the French started their second colonial expansion in the world. In 1853, this expansion in Subsaharan Africa shifted from the merchants, to the missionaries and then to the military. They established the French West Africa in 1895 and continued the military expansion. In August 1896, they conquered the powerful brother kingdoms of the mosses and the neighbours democratic-like communities around (gurunsi, senufo, marka, samo, bussanga, etc). This new territory has been called “Haute Volta” (Upper Volta), in reference with the 3 big rivers they discovered and named: Volta Noire - the black volta, Volta Blanche - the white volta and Volta Rouge - the red volta. Later on, the Upper Volta and the other colonial territories got their independence in 1960, leaving the population impoverished after the long period of forced labor under the colonial times. In 1983, a military coup brought the captain Thomas SANKARA 1 on the power. One year later, in 1984, he started a huge cultural revolution which led to the change of the country’s name: it became Burkina Faso, meaning the land of the upright men, the land of our fathers. This revolution even refused the rules of the french language grammar (and even english language), and required the world to call the citizen of the country by Burkinabe (instead of Burkinese or Burkiner or Burkinan or whatever).

image image image
Former colonial territories in Africa at the left, French West Africa in the middle and Thomas Sankara, the father of the nation at the right

Burkindi, the art of being irreproachable

Burkina may also be translated as the country of honest men. However, honesty is not the appropriate word to use. Burkindi (word from which Burkina come from) is in moore language (spoken by around 50% of the people). It is a word to express being irreproachable in your attitude: someone who does not lie, does not steal, does not abuse … a set a values that the Burkinabe should learn at school (which is not the case). If the burkindi was practiced by everyone in Africa, corruption would have been something unimaginable.


In all west Africa, the Burkinabe are known for their hard working mentality. Even the French during the colonial times used this factor to develop the colonies of French Soudan (now Mali) and Cote d’Ivoire. In 1932, the French dissolved the colony of Upper Volta to divide the people between their others colonies. But thanks to the traditional monarchies, mainly the king of Ouagadougou, the Mogho Naaba Koom II, the country has been reconstituted in 1947.

Optimistic everyday states in one of their articles that “The World’s most optimistic people live in Africa”. And guess the rank of the Burkinabe ? Top 2 after Nigeria and before Ethiopia which is not surprising at all. One of the most famous sentences in Burkina Faso is “everything’s gonna be alright”, in French “ca va aller”, in Moore “nan zems’amin”.

Humility, maybe too much

Probably due to the burkindi attitude, Burkinabe are extremely humble people. Some people may see this as a weakness because nowadays the world seems to praise proud people, people who show off, who talk a lot, talk about themselves, celebrities, but still, humility remain a valuable virtue to consider and Burkinabe are “proud” to be humble.


If we had to choose 2 words to exemplify the father of the nation, Thomas SANKARA, these words would be “people” and “dignity”. One of his most famous quotations was pronounced in July 1987 where he said “we must accept to live as African, that is the only way to live free and dignified”. According to him, we must first be ourselves before we can be respected in the world; we must know our potential and use it to solve our problems by ourselves. This is what he tried to teach the Burkinabe and the Africans in general during the revolution period.

Generosity and sharing

It is a cultural norm in Burkina Faso to share everything. A Burkinabe is neither a socialist, nor an individualist, he is on the middle ground . He works hard to have his own (individualism), but when he succeeds, he thinks about the others (socialism). It is easy to see this during the different celebrations: generally, when people cook, they don’t invite others to their home, instead, they share the food to other families directly. However, they can still receive other people to enjoy the food together.

The foreigner is the king

When you go to a house in Burkina Faso, the master of the house (generally a woman) comes with some water to welcome you. Out of pure respect, you have to drink the water, at least a little bit. Of course, you can drink all the water if you are thirsty, lol. Hospitality is sometimes so exaggerated, there is a saying that a Burkinabe is able give you his own bed and sleep on the floor to illustrate how welcoming they are.

Very friendly

The Burkinabe do more than welcome you and treat you like a king, they will make you enjoy your stay with them. website placed Burkina Faso at the top 10 of the friendliest countries in the world. Forget about the “best friend status” a bit and note this: if you have the chance to meet a Burkinabe somewhere, there is a high probability that he or she becomes your “friend for life”.

Generality vs specificity

Generally, many Burkinabe are this way, but not all of them. Like everywhere in the world, some individuals don’t match with the positive stereotypes of their races and cultures. This is a reason why I would like to use this article for the Burkinabe themselves first, as a way to correct their attitude in case they are going out of the way, lol. So guys, remember … a Burkinabe is honest, hardworking, optimistic, humble, generous, friendly, welcoming and hungry of dignity. So, being Burkinabe is just like living the secrets of success.

Corrected by Asif Bailey and Esthelle Some
1. Here is one of the most famous website about Thomas SANKARA

comments powered by Disqus