High demand for housing in Burkina Faso: what are the reasons?

Achille Sawadogo
5 min readFeb 26, 2019
House for sale in Ouagadougou: 2 bedrooms + living room + kitchen + toilets built on a plot with an area of ​​260m2. 80% complete. Approx. value: 49,000 USD


In 1954, in his book Motivation & Personality, Abraham Maslow developed the popular theory on hierarchy of needs where he explained that the motivations of people result from the non-satisfaction of certain needs. He then proposed a pyramid including some ‘stages of growth in humans’ to describe the pattern through which human motivations generally move. These stages of needs evolve from “physiological” to “safety,” to “belonging and love,” and to “esteem,” and finally to “self-actualization” which is the highest level expected by every human being. This theory fundamentally explained that individuals’ most basic needs must be met before they become motivated to achieve higher level needs (Abraham Maslow).

The Maslow pyramid has contributed to a great move in developmental psychology. Today, it is one of the most taught motivation theories, especially in management. However, the classification of needs in a hierarchical way, which imposes the satisfaction of a need before reaching the next, is no longer regarded as valid, an individual being able, according to his character, to be more sensitive to a need, independently of satisfaction or not of the lower needs.

In this article, we draw on these criticisms to explain another form of needs classification in the context of Burkina Faso based on a specific target group namely the active population. A focus will be made on the need of housing which tends to be among the first priorities for Burkinabe people rather than a second one as explained by Maslow.

We will explain the reasons why housing is a top priority in active Burkinabe population.

Access to housing: a priority in active Burkinabe population

According to Maslow, priority needs are primarily physiological, such as eating, drinking, dressing, reproducing, sleeping.

Then come security needs such as the security of a shelter (housing, house) income security and resources physical security against violence, delinquency, aggression …; moral and psychological security, family security and stability or, at least, emotional medical / social security and health.

However, in Burkina Faso, owning a house or ‘owning a plot of land’ in local jargon sometimes looks more a security priority than a physiological one. Indeed, most of households with a modest income (monthly average income between 272 and 450 USD) who purchase a serviced land using bank loan would be financially limited for years (depending on the value of the land). They could face challenges such as not being able to meet Maslow’s physiological priorities which therefore become a second priority.

Housing represents a Chinese puzzle for any active person nowadays. It is the top of priorities for them for the following reasons:

On the economic level, the house is an asset, an investment. This is a property whose value increases over time and is relatively very liquid in Burkina Faso. Indeed, the land market in Burkina has been a real success for several decades. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Demography, rent cost represents the largest item of non-food expenditure at 17%. Housing burdens are burdensome and a daily concern for many urban citizens. The aspiration to a clean habitat and the resulting “security” is quite understandable. Indeed, in a poor society living “day-to-day”, the tenant (unlike the owner) of a dwelling is exposed to the expulsion of the latter due to a delay or non-payment of rent.

Investing in a clean home not only saves rent, which is already a great financial and psychological relief, but it also opens the door to bank credit. In fact, a house can be used as collateral with a financial institution. The acquisition of a habitat allows the owner to access all kinds of services for which he is side-lined as a tenant. This process of guaranteeing buildings is also commonly practiced by merchants.

Apart from the economic aspects, it should be emphasized that habitat is an important element in defining a person’s status. Leasing does not exist in the traditional context of the country and the average citizen, still very attached to these values, feels at bottom embarrassed to have to pay for a good which should in principle be his. A “self-respecting” head of the family must at least be able to offer a home to his family.

The house is also one of the rare sources of prestige for many Burkinabe. This observation can already be made in rural areas where some ethnic groups traditionally take special care in the appearance of their house. Let’s quote the examples of the different Gourounsi people or the Songhaï. In an urban environment, in a different environment, the architectural aspect remains a significant element. The choice of a special architecture or a special material shows ostentatiously the wealth of the owner and therefore values ​​it in the eyes of his fellow citizens.

An important thing is also the life insurance, probably the only one, and a good that can be passed on to future generations. In a context fraught with economic and political uncertainties, with uncertain job prospects, where AIDS and other diseases are ravaging, this physical asset lends itself perfectly to the sustainability of income and that of all citizens. In fact, unlike monetary values ​​that may be subject to devaluation, or stock market investments that are only accessible to high net worth individuals or some restricted group of users and given the demographic trend, land and properties are only gaining value and guaranteeing at least one roof for future generations2.

Let us summarize that a policy that aims to provide populations with a specific habitat further enhances their self-development capacities. This is the reason why the Burkinabe governments have been very interested in the promotion of real estate since the 1980s, especially during the revolutionary period.

Nowadays, whether the area is serviced or not yet, the simple fact of owning a lot is already a great satisfaction for the owner.


Basing our argumentation on the high demand of housing in land market in Burkina Faso, we tried to balance the rank of the first two needs priorities in the traditional diagram of Maslow namely physiological and security needs.

We first briefly presented the contradiction between Maslow’s logic and the Burkinabe context. We then explained the reasons why there is a sustained boom of land market, combining socio-economic and cultural aspects.

It’s important to note that the process to invest in land market has also progressively been complexified, extending at the same time the field of opportunities. Some of risks and consequences due to rise of prizes of lands could be the appearance of a crisis in that market which we could investigate in a future article.



Achille Sawadogo

Mandela Washington Fellow, for Young African Leaders — Civic engagement — Development Cooperation, Economist, Project Management skills, Free learner