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Putting Burkina Faso ‘on the Map’

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29 July 2013

The EU is funding a project to update the maps of Burkina Faso, using the latest technology. With existing maps dating back to the colonial era, experts from l’Institut Géographique du Burkina felt that an update was urgent.

With most maps being more than forty years old, their use in the planning and management of development sectors, particularly infrastructure and rural development, was no longer appropriate.

“Reliable maps are both a factor of peace and of development. They help resolve territorial disputes and provide precise data for development partners to set up projects,” explained Claude Obin Tapsoba, General Manager of l’Institut Géographique du Burkina.

The new maps, based on satellite technologies, are set on a 1:200.000 scale and will allow the erection of boundary stones every 5 kilometres, instead of one every 100 kilometres as in colonial era maps, or one every 25 kilometres seen in post-Independence, partially drawn maps. 

The new maps are drawn from satellite data that is complemented with research and verification in the field.

The project includes aerial observation using data collected by a plane flying at low altitude, and observations made by teams on the ground, explained Oumar Sanon, Project Officer of the 1:200.000 scale maps at l’Institut Géographique du Burkina.



This project also aims to standardise the names listed on the map. “This will be a major change, as many village names in Burkina Faso have several spellings. It has been a factor of confusion,” explained Claude Obin Tapsoba.

He said that some of the confusion over the names came from the fact that under colonial rule, people used to give fake and different names to visiting officials in order to escape the poll tax system.

The drawing of precise maps is also seen as a factor of peace in a country that had faced long-standing border disputes with some of its neighbours.

For instance, the placement of kilometre stones along the 1,000 kilometre border of Burkina Faso with Mali has marked a final point to a territorial dispute that even led to a war in 1985 and was eventually settled by international justice.

Burkina Faso’s long-standing territorial dispute with Niger has still to be settled by the International Court of Justice, and once this is done, kilometre stones will also mark the border.

Being a land-locked country, road infrastructure and the collection of data on its topography are crucial to its economy.

L’Institut Géographique du Burkina requested EU assistance to draw the maps. This led to a three-year partnership starting in 2011, with a total budget of 2,4 million Euros.

The partnership also involves the National Geographic Institute in France, which provides relevant technical expertise.

The project involves 70 staff members of the l’Institut Géographique du Burkina, two thirds of whom are technicians and the remainder are support staff.

Marcello Mori, Head of Infrastructure at the EU Delegation to Burkina Faso said that the project was split into three parts:

-  Technical assistance to provide the satellite images and train the technicians to use the appropriate software to process the information, to help develop sustainable national capacity.

-  Setting up the programme and hand-over of budget to the beneficiary, per se l’Institut Géographique du Burkina, that manages local expenditures up to a certain amount.

-  Supply contracts for more important amounts, using the rules of the European Development Fund such as public tenders.

 “A key element of this project is the high level of professionalism of the technicians who work in the institute," Marcello Mori added. "Their fine and precise attitude, required in their daily work, shows in that they have also mastered the quotes and procedures related to project implementation, assessment and public tenders.” 

This collaborative piece was drafted with input from Oumar Sanon, Claude Obin Tapsoba, Ahamadou Bolly and Marcello Mori, with support from the Coordination Team.


DISCLAIMER: This information is provided in the interests of knowledge sharing and capacity development and should not be interpreted as the official view of the European Commission, or any other organisation.

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