Small and landlocked, Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world: close to 74.7% of its population of 10.8 million (2017) live below the poverty line. It is also the second most densely populated country in Africa with about 470 inhabitants per square kilometer. Burundi’s economy is heavily reliant on the agricultural sector which, despite the extreme paucity of arable land, employs 80% of the population. Poverty overwhelmingly affects small rural farmers.
Burundi’s history is marked by instability and violence. The reelection of President Pierre Nkurunziza in 2015, however, triggered a political crisis that claimed hundreds of lives and sent tens of thousands of Burundians into exile. The UNHCR says there are more than 400,000 Burundian refugees and asylum seekers in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and other countries.
Otherwise, the past few years have seen Burundi withdrawing from international engagement: it opted out of the International Criminal Court in October
A referendum for a revision in Burundi’s constitution took place in May 2018. The amended constitution extended the duration of Burundi’s presidential term of office from five to seven years, though Nkurunziza has said he will step down in the 2020 election.
Most Burundians, especially those living in rural areas, remain afflicted by poverty. Food insecurity is alarmingly high: almost one in two households (around 4.6 million people) are food insecure (WFP, 2014 and 2016). About 56% of children suffer from chronic malnutrition. Burundi suffers from low agricultural productivity: though agriculture employs about 80% of the population, the sector contributes only about 40% of GDP. There is very limited access to water and sanitation, and less than 5% of the population has electricity (World Bank, 2016).
Burundi’s efforts at poverty reduction are constrained by myriad challenges, such as a weak rural economy; a heavy reliance on development aid;
After three years of contraction, Burundi’s economy continues to recover slowly. These pushed annual growth to 0.5% in 2017 from 0.6% in 2016. Based on estimates from the World Bank, Burundi’s growth rate is at 1.9% for 2018. Headline inflation averaged 16.1% in 2017 but began declining in 2018, with the latest estimate much lower at 6.5% in June 2018, thanks to a good agricultural harvest and the decline
The current account deficit was high but stable in 2017 (11.3% of GDP in 2017 against 12% of GDP in 2015). The good performance of exports in 2017 and the increase in international transfers to NGOs helped contain the deficit in 2017.
Foreign exchange pressures have continued, with shortages constraining the import of essential goods. The decline in external support after 2015 has resulted in the depletion of international reserves with limited other sources of foreign exchange (exports, foreign direct investment, and remittances).
Central Bank interventions, including liquidity injections and restrictions on foreign exchange transactions, limited the depreciation of the official exchange rate to 5% in 2016 and to 4.6
Last Updated: Nov 27, 2018