The 40-year-old was not at the ceremony to receive the Golden Stallion award, but his work beat 16 other African films to the top prize. The films in competition were made by directors from 15 different African countries.
This year’s international jury was led by Mauritanian producer Abderrahmane Sissako, who won France’s coveted Cesar in 2015 for “Timbuktu”.
The Golden Stallion, said Sissako, was “for any African film-maker, the best prize you can have, a source of great pride”.
The film received its world premier earlier this year at the Cannes film festival, though not as part of the main competition. It is Ahmed’s first full-length feature.
Ahmed grew up in Somalia before moving to Finland, and his film received Finnish, French and German funding.
The festival, first staged in 1969, is held every two years in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou.
The event is closely followed by the US and European movie industries, which scout the event for new films, talent and ideas.
Its top prize is named after the Golden Stallion of Yennenga — a mythical beast in Burkinabe mythology.
The event was originally set for February 27-March 6 but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.