Burkina Faso Wins! (Polygamy Edition)

Emmanuel Todd has gathered some interesting data on polygamy (actually polygyny) rates.

The world champion is Burkina Faso! Over half of its married women have co-wives. (What do all the leftover men do?)

Arab and African Polygamy Rates

(% of married women with co-wife)


Jordan 2002 6.8
Yemen 1997 7.1
Morocco 2003-04 4.7


Sudan 1978-79 20.2
Sudan   (North) 9.3
Sudan   (Darfur) 37.9
Mauretania 2000-01 11.6


Chad 1996-97 39.2
Chad   Muslims 35.6
Chad   Catholics 46.8
Chad   Animists 51.4
Mali 1996-97 44.3
Burkina   Faso 1998-99 54.7
Ivory   Coast 1994 36.6
Ivory   Coast Catholics 24.7
Ivory   Coast Muslims 44.5
Ivory   Coast Animists 47.2




In Arab countries 5-10% of women are in polygamous marriages. In black Africa, 30-55% of women. The highest levels are in interior West Africa.

Another difference: Arab-style marriage of parallel cousins [father’s brother’s daughter] is uncommon in Africa. Instead cross-cousin [between the children of brother and sister] or exogamous marriage is the norm.


Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd, A Convergence of Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies (Columbia UP, 2011) p. 44.



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5 responses to “Burkina Faso Wins! (Polygamy Edition)

  1. I knew Nigeria had high polygyny rates, but I figured it was in the Muslim North, not with the Igbos in the South. But if the Ivory Coast is anything to go by, up to 1/4th of the Christians could be marrying multiples as well.

    Very interesting.

    • Todd mentions that it is a bit higher in N Nigeria than S: 30-40% in the S, compared to 40-50% in the North. (Hence the overall average of about 40%).
      Neither Christianity (officially opposed to polygamy of course) nor Islam would seem to be the main influence. Note Sudan: both the N and Darfur are Islamic, but the N has more Arab influence.
      I have no idea why interior W Africa has the highest rates.

  2. Does he break it down by ethnicity by chance? Igbo, Husani, Yoruba?

  3. AAB

    “In Arab countries 5-10% of women are in polygamous marriages. In black Africa, 30-55% of women.”

    That’s a phenomenal rate. It makes you wonder why the MSM in the West fails to report it, and fails to report the fact that men are the ones who suffer because of it.

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