The people of Burkina Faso went to the polls on 21 November to elect a president for another five-term year. But eyes were more focused on 2015, when President Blaise Compaoré will finish his second and last constitutionally authorised term, than on the outcome of the 2010 vote. Most analysts viewed Compaoré’s re-election as a mere formality, even though another dozen candidates also ran.
Excluding Bénéwendé Stanislas Sankara, who placed second in the previous elections in 2005 with less than 5% of the votes, and international civil servant Hama Arba Diallo, there were no candidates presenting a serious challenge to the incumbent. Compaoré, who won the 2005 poll with more than 80% of votes cast, is supported by the Congrès pour la Démocratie et le Progrès, the Alliance pour la Démocratie et la Fédération-Rassemblement Démocratique Africain, the Alliance des Partis et Formations Politiques de la Mouvance Présidentielle and several civil society organisations. To stay on beyond 2015, Compaoré would have to revise Article 37 of the constitution, which limits a president to two terms.
Compaoré’s supporters have already started to lobby for him to change the constitution and run again in 2015, a call which has angered civil society groups and opposition parties. The issue eventually came to dominate debate around the 2010 polls. Ahead of the election, Compaoré’s campaign materials emphasised his importance to the region through his role in the mediation of political crises in Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea.
While Compaoré’s peacemaking successes raise Burkina Faso’s profile, most Burkinabe are more worried about the effects of the international economic slowdown, which include higher costs for basic goods, frequent power outages and shortages of natural gas. The lukewarm domestic economy is a remnant from 2009, which was marked by weather patterns that alternated between extremes of drought and flood. That led to poor harvests and a 2% drop in economic growth to 3.2%.
The government is more hopeful for the country’s economic prospects in 2011, even though the situation remains fragile due to the risk of continued sluggishness in international markets and the lack of diversification in the Burkinabe economy. The government predicts a GDP growth rate in 2010 of 6% on the premise of good rains and a strong global market for gold and cotton in addition to a stable oil price. It foresees that inflation will be stable at about 2.7% throughout 2010 and 2011.
The IMF is more reserved in its growth predictions, forecasting 4.4% GDP growth in 2010 and 4.7% in 2011. Rising demand for cotton has led to some optimism. For the 2010-2011 cotton season, the price paid to farmers rose to 182 CFA francs per kg from 160 CFA francs in the 2009-2010 season.
The price rise is a measure to get farmers to sow 80% of the lands planted with genetically modified cotton, with the goal of producing 600,000tn. Farmers are likely to miss that target in 2011 due to the late arrival of the rainy season. Cotton lost its position of national primacy to gold in 2009. Yellow gold has replaced white and brought in 180bn CFA francs ($378m) in export revenue in 2009.
It is unlikely that cotton will make a strong comeback as the main earner because annual gold exports were expected to rise to 300bn CFA by the end of 2010 due to the opening of the Essakane mine in October. The mining ministry predicts that the country will export more than 22tn of gold per year from 2011, marking its arrival as a major natural-resource exporter..