Citizens of Burkina Faso, regardless of their ethnic origin, are collectively known as Burkinabé. French is the official language, although it is not widely spoken. Moore , the language of the Mossi, is spoken by a great majority of the population, and Dyula is widely used in commerce .
Mande languages , which also form a branch of the Niger-Congo family, are spoken by groups such as the Samo, the Marka, the Busansi, and the Dyula . Other groups of Burkina Faso include the Hausa and the Tuareg , whose languages are classified as Afro-Asiatic , and the Fulani , whose language (Fula) is a Niger-Congo language of the Atlantic branch .
The major ethnolinguistic group of Burkina Faso is the Mossi . They speak a Niger-Congo language of the Gur branch and have been connected for centuries to the region they inhabit. They have absorbed a number of peoples including the Gurma and the Yarse. The last-mentioned group has Mande origins but is assimilated into the Mossi and shares their language (called Moore). Other Gur-speaking peoples are the Gurunsi, the Senufo , the Bwa , and the Lobi .
More than half the population is Muslim. About one-fifth of the Burkinabé are Roman Catholic, and one-sixth follow traditional religions. Most of the remainder are Protestant or nonreligious. The seat of the Roman Catholic archbishopric is in Ouagadougou , and there are several bishoprics throughout the country.
The population as a whole is unevenly distributed among the different regions. The eastern and central regions are densely settled and contain about half the total population. In the remaining regions the population is scattered.
More than two-thirds of the people are rural and live in villages, which tend to be grouped toward the centre of the country at higher elevations away from the Volta river valleys. For several miles on either side of the Volta rivers, the land is mostly uninhabited because of the prevalence of the deadly tsetse fly, which carries sleeping sickness, and the Simulium fly, which carries onchocerciasis, or river blindness.
Ouagadougou, the administrative capital and the seat of government, is a modern city where several companies have their headquarters. It is also the residence of the morho naba (“great lord”) of the Mossi and an important regional centre for international aid programs.
Apart from Ouagadougou, the principal towns are Bobo Dioulasso, Koudougou, Banfora, Ouahigouya, Pouytenga, and Kaya. Bobo Dioulasso, in the west, was the economic and business capital of the country when it formed the terminus of the railroad running to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on the coast. Since 1955, however, when the railroad was extended to Ouagadougou, Bobo Dioulasso has lost some of its former importance, although it remains a commercial centre.