Volume 37 - Article 5 | Pages 101–128

Union breakdown in West African cities: The cases of Ouagadougou and Lomé

By Bilampoa Gnoumou

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Date received:26 Oct 2015
Date published:13 Jul 2017
Word count:4858
Keywords:Burkina Faso, divorce, men, Togo, union breakdown, urban areas, West Africa, women
Weblink:You will find all publications in this Special Collection on “Separation, Divorce, Repartnering, and Remarriage around the World” here.


Background: Marriage remains a strong institution in Africa, but union breakdown may be frequent, particularly in urban areas. However, this issue is still little studied, especially in West Africa.

Objective: I examine the trends and factors associated with divorce and separation that lead to union breakdown in two West African cities: Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and Lomé in Togo.

Methods: Analyses are based on marital history data from the Economic Activities, Resource- sharing and Management of Spending in Urban Households survey, collected in 2012 in Ouagadougou and Lomé. We use the Kaplan–Meier estimator and Cox proportional hazards model for descriptive and multivariate analysis, respectively.

Results: The probability of union breakdown is higher in Lomé than in Ouagadougou. The celebration of the union and having a son are associated with lower risk of divorce, while infertility or low fertility and education are associated with higher risk of divorce, for men and women in both cities. Socialization in a big town is also associated with higher risk of divorce, especially for women.

Conclusions: The results indicate that even if urban areas represent the ideal of modernization and social change in Africa, family and society still play an important role in union stability.

Contribution: The consideration of both men and women in the analysis is an important contribution to the study of union breakdown in Africa.

Author's Affiliation

Bilampoa Gnoumou - Université de Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso [Email]

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