Burkina Faso is the only African country to have carried out two migration surveys which are representative at the national level, one in 1974-1975 and another in 2000. Given that both surveys are retrospective and entirely comparable, it is possible to use migration histories to reconstruct the past. The first survey allows us to go back as far as the beginning of the 20th century (see Cordell, Gregory and Piché, 1996) while the second survey fills the gap between 1975 and 2000 (see Ouédraogo and Piché, 2007; Kabbanji, 2008). Using these two surveys, we intend to synchronize the changes in migration patterns and characteristics between Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire between 1900 and 2000 and link the changes to their parallel migration policies, at both the national and regional levels. In summary, we distinguish three grand historical periods, each with its migration and policy specificities. The first one covers the colonial period (1900-1960) and is characterized basically by a circular migration system between Burkina Faso (then called Upper Volta) and Côte d’Ivoire induced by “development” policies geared towards the needs of the French imperial power. The first sub-period covers migrations in the years 1900-1946, an era associated with colonial penetration and the creation of the colony of Upper Volta. This period has historical coherence: it covers the years from the imposition of colonial rule through the foundation of Upper Volta in 1919, the colony’s suppression in 1932 and the annexation of a large part of the colony to Côte d’Ivoire, the abolition of forced labor in 1946 and terminates with the reestablishment of the colony in 1947. In the second sub-period, from 1947 to 1960, still remaining colonial, “free contract labor” replaced forced labor in imperial policies aimed at recruiting labor for its Côte d’Ivoire development projects.
The second long period covers the years around independence (1960-1975), still characterized by circular migration but with important changes such as increased female migration and longer stays in Côte d’Ivoire. Migration policies shifted to the national level and were associated with important bilateral efforts. Finally, the third period covers the later quarter of the twentieth century when the circular migration model experienced increasing strain. Migration management became a regional concern although it will be argued here that there is a wide gap between migration strategies and needs of the population, on the one hand, and, migration issues as elaborated in regional treaties, on the other.