Burkina Faso is seeking a new direction for economic development. Its president, Blaise Compaoré, who attended the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC, in early August 2014, told journalists at the National Press Club that greater co-operation by the US government and investment by US private companies would “show that Africa and America are working together”.
He insisted that such efforts would benefit his country and other African countries more than aid by creating jobs, boosting production and reinforcing security. “African people think we came here to bring back suitcases full of bank notes,” said Mr Compaoré. But, he revealed that instead he had secured some “financial commitments”.
One came from US agriculture company Monsanto, which began a partnership with Burkina Faso in 2008, when the country, one of the poorest in the world, approved the use of Monsanto-produced genetically modified (GM) seeds by cotton farmers. Burkina Faso – along with Egypt, South Africa, and Sudan – is one of only four African countries that have permitted fully commercialised GM crops. Today, it produces some 800,000 tons of cotton per year, an eight-fold increase since first partnering with Monsanto.
Mr Compaoré also signed a deal with Reston, Virginia-based machinery manufacturer, MIC Industries, to purchase equipment that can be used to build durable steel buildings quickly. The equipment will be used to build houses and schools, as well as possibly military barracks and other social institutions.
Meanwhile, Mr Compaoré reported interest in investment in the energy sector, particularly given Africa’s vast coal, gas, oil, uranium and water resources. “Africa is always quoted as the continent with the highest growth rate,” he said. “But if we had electricity, we could do more.”
He stated that the African Growth and Opportunity Act signed by former US president Bill Clinton has benefited Africa and created jobs on the continent. Nevertheless, despite the act, he said that it was difficult to go back to his country with finalised deals. One of the prime concerns of potential investors is the ongoing armed conflict in neighbouring Mali.