Social & Solidarity Economy: Burkina Faso

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The social and solidarity economy (SSE) is made up of organisations that have economic and social objectives with co-operative aspects. Guest blogger Remi Laurent defines it better through an example: alleviating poverty of physically-disabled individuals in Burkina Faso.


Many would characterise Burkina Faso, a small landlocked country in West Africa, to be one of the poorest countries in the world. As of 2011, the World Bank estimated the poverty rate to be at 46.7%, and the country ranked 181st out of 187 countries in the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index.

Poverty affects all levels of society, but particularly disabled individuals. In addition to living in ‘one of the poorest countries in the world’, disabled Burkinabes suffer greater levels of discrimination and social exclusion. From education and employment to health care and family life, inequality is experienced everywhere.

It is in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, that a key factor, focusing on the social and economic empowerment of disabled people, has emerged and developed: the social and solidarity economy (SSE).

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Scattered across different sectors, from agricultural production to artisanal creation, these Burkinabe SSE enterprises have one common objective: to use economic activities as a means to empower disabled individuals. Socio-economic inclusion is an essential element of these enterprises and is endorsed by Djigui Espoire, which employs disabled women to produce tofu, to Tigoung Nonma, which seeks to provide sustainable incomes for physically disadvantaged artisans by participating in the international fair trade movement.

The social and solidarity economy has gained significant ground in development discourse over the years, and its implication is attached to its capacity to adapt and respond to the reality of the local socio-economic context to which it is rooted, described as the ‘local community development’. In Ouagadougou, Dijigui Espoire and Tigoung Nonma represent two local community development actors, whose founders are disabled themselves.

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Being created and run by physically-disabled entrepreneurs not only means that both enterprises emerged as a response to a locally rooted socio-economic issue, but also that they are the direct result of the discrimination and inequality they are fighting against. Therefore, their personal experiences have provided a profound insight into and understanding of how to tackle the discrimination and exclusion experienced by disabled Burkinabes. They have sought to create employment opportunities, raise awareness in the community and create a sense of self-dependency to its members.

The various economic and social programmes of the SSE have translated into greater social visibility and economic autonomy for its disabled employees. Just as the SSE worldwide stresses the importance of collective achievements and collective interests over individual ones, Tigoung Nonma and Djigui Espoire have prioritised collective achievements to the benefits of the wider disabled community. This sense of collectiveness is best encapsulated by the name ‘Tigoung Nonma’, translated as ‘strength through unity’.

The SSE in Burkina Faso is gaining ground and has been further supported after the creation of the “Centre Burkinabe pour l’entrepreneuriat Social” in 2010. Social enterprises have found new ways to provide services that cater to basic human needs that remain unsatisfied by governments and markets.

Despite its innovativeness and expansion, a question remains: is the SSE able to present a new sustainable socio-economic model in light of persisting development issues?


Submitted by Remi Laurent, who studied Political Economy of International Development at LSE and has a particular interest in African development and the role played by the Social and Solidarity Economy in the development process. He has worked in the field in Burkina Faso with social enterprises as a Project Assistant.


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