Burkina Faso is a poor country. To a large part, there are no streets but dirt roads. Also, there is neither the money nor the expertise to buy and maintain machines as the Western world knows them. Instead, there are donkeys – plenty of donkeys. They help to till the fields and they are used to transport goods and people. Some people even prefer them over a car or plough because they don’t rely on petrol or replacement parts – which can be at best hard, at worst impossible to find.
At the other end of the world, in China, donkeys are however a delicacy and part of the traditional medicine. Accordingly, the number of Chinese donkeys has halved since the 1990s. As donkeys are hard to breed for a number of reasons such as being pregnant for 11 to 14 months, China has started to import them from Africa. In the first quarter of 2015, 1000 donkeys were exported from Burkina Faso. In the fourth quarter of 2015, the number was up to 18,000.
Of course, the demand has driven up the prices, too. Locals find it harder and harder to acquire a new donkey which is a serious problem to Burkina Faso’s economy. Accordingly, the government banned exporting donkeys in 2016. The same is true for Senegal, Mali, Niger, Uganda, Tanzania and Botswana. Since then, donkey theft has soared while most African governments lack the means to find and punish most donkey thieves. Some pessimists allege that donkeys will die out in Burkina Faso over the course of the next five years. Then again, China is now exporting tricycles to Burkina Faso. Unfortunately, they are unaffordable to most Burkinabe and can’t be used on fields and non-roads.