Overview

  • Burundi is a small, landlocked country with a surface area of 27,830 km2 and 10.8 million inhabitants in 2017. It is one of the poorest countries in the world with a poverty rate of 74.7%. It is also the second most densely populated country in Africa with 470 inhabitants per square kilometer. Burundi’s economy is heavily reliant on the agricultural sector, which, despite the paucity of arable land, employs 80% of the population. Poverty overwhelmingly affects small rural farmers.

    Political Context

    Burundi’s history has been marked by huge political instability and many episodes of violence since the country’s independence. In 2015, the country was plunged into a new political crisis by President Pierre Nkurunziza standing for and winning a third term of office. The UNHCR estimates that more than 400,000 Burundian refugees and asylum seekers have fled the country since 2015, most of them heading for Tanzania. Although there has been some voluntary repatriation, 348,000 people remained registered refugees on December 31, 2018.

    In October 2017, Burundi decided to withdraw from the International Criminal Court and rejected UN Resolution 2303, which authorized the deployment of 228 UN police officers in the country. The Government also refuted the findings of reports from the UN’s Special Envoy to Burundi with their allegations of serious human rights abuses and deterioration in the socioeconomic and humanitarian situation.

    On May 17, 2018, the president took advantage of a disputed referendum’s “yes” victory to amend the Constitution and remain in office through to 2034. However, Nkurunziza has said he will not be standing in the 2020 election.

    In August 2018, the final report from the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi found serious human rights violations. A new report from the same commission reiterated the same findings, which were rejected by the Government and the two Burundian chambers of parliament.

    In October 2018, 140 foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were suspended and subjected to new registration obligations. Only 93 of them have returned to work following their acceptance of the Government’s new requirements.

    Social Context

    Most Burundians, especially those living in rural areas, live in poverty. Food insecurity is almost double the average in Sub-Saharan Africa. Some 1.8 million people are food insecure, with over half the children (six in ten) suffering from stunting in 2017.

    Although agriculture employs roughly 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 (of which 52.1% are urban households and 2% are rural households).

    Poverty reduction in the country is constrained by obstacles such as a weak rural economy, heavy reliance on international development aid, and a poor distribution of wealth. However, the country has made progress with reining in demographic growth as the fertility rate posted a downturn from an average of 6.4 to 5.5 children per woman between 2010 and 2017.

    Economic Context

    After two years running of recession in 2015 (-3.9%) and 2016 (-0.6%), the economy is slowly recovering. The economic upturn sharpened in 2018, with a growth rate of 1.6% compared with 0.5% in 2017. Nevertheless, this recovery is fragile in view of the many challenges facing Burundi, especially a lack of budgetary resources to finance public investment, persistent foreign exchange shortages with the drop in international reserves, and the vulnerability of the financial sector. Inflation, which soared to 16.1% in 2017, plummeted to 2.6% (deflation) in 2018 as a good harvest drove down food prices. The latest estimates predict growth of 1.8% in 2019, with the political and economic instability preventing the economy from returning to its pre-crisis level.

    The country’s external accounts remain vulnerable, with a sharp rise in the current account deficit estimated at 19.2% of GDP in 2018, up from 11.3% in 2017. This deterioration is due to a downturn in exports, an increase in imports, and cuts in international transfers to NGOs.

    Foreign exchange pressures have continued, with a sharper drop in foreign exchange reserves and negative repercussions on imports. International reserves covered just 0.9 months of imports in December 2018. The parallel market premium remains high, at 50% at end-December 2018. The banking sector’s soundness has improved with capitalization and liquidity ratios above regulatory standards and profitability indicators on the rise. However, bank portfolio quality remains a concern, with the level of non-performing loans reaching 11.8% in October 2018.

     

    Last Updated: Jun 06, 2019

  • World Bank Group Engagement in Burundi

    The International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for poor countries, is providing $712.68 million in financing for 11 national projects ($484.03 million) and four regional projects ($228.45 million) in a wide range of areas covering health care, agriculture, education, infrastructure, electricity, environmental protection, social protection, governance, competitiveness, and job creation.

    In FY16, the World Bank conducted a Systematic Country Diagnostic for Burundi and an impact assessment on its latest country assistance strategy (FY13-16). These analyses are being used to develop the next Country Partnership Framework between the Bank and Burundi for the FY19-23 period. The objective is to kickstart GDP growth in order to halve the poverty rate by building up human capital and fostering social inclusion.

     

    Last Updated: Jun 06, 2019

  • Agriculture and rural development. Over the past decade, the World Bank has coordinated donor support to agriculture and rural development in Burundi, in particular with the Agro-Pastoral Productivity and Markets Development Project (PRODEMA) ($43 million), which was granted an additional $25 million in 2017. The $55 million Coffee Sector Competitiveness Project approved in 2016 is helping 300,000 small farmers to improve their yields and the quality of their produce. Burundi also participates in the $75 million Regional Great Lakes Integrated Agriculture Development Project approved in 2017. A total of 129,000 persons, about 50% of them women, are direct beneficiaries of the project, while 645,000 persons benefit indirectly.

    Public sector management and governance. IDA is providing technical assistance ($22 million) to modernize, reorganize, and build the capacities of the ministries of Finance and Mining, and the Burundi Revenue Authority to support the public finance management reforms and increase domestic revenue mobilization. The Bank is preparing a Public Expenditure Review to assess the impact of macroeconomic imbalances on public spending, budget management, and public health services.

    Environment. Burundi’s natural resources are key to its socioeconomic development, but land degradation is an acute environmental problem with an estimated one-third of the country’s land seriously degraded. The Bank helped Burundi implement a Global Environment Facility-financed Sustainable Coffee Landscapes Project completed on October 30, 2018. The Bank has also been funding the Landscape Restoration and Resilience Project ($30 million) since April 2018 to restore land productivity and provide an immediate and effective response in the event of a crisis or emergency situation. The World Bank has also provided support to the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project (phase 2) to reduce pollution in this region.

    Local development and employment. The 2015 political crisis has hampered the delivery of essential public services in rural and urban areas, and further inhibited the development of the private sector, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The $50 million Local Development for Jobs Project, approved in 2017, is fostering opportunities for short- and medium-term job creation, particularly in urban areas.

    Roads. With the Infrastructure Resilience Emergency Project for Burundi  ($25 million), the World Bank is supporting the rehabilitation of the road network and bridges damaged by the February 2014 flooding, and the development of rivers crossing the north of Bujumbura.

    Energy. Under the Jiji and Mulembwe Hydropower Project, the Bank is helping Burundi generate and distribute an additional 49.5 MW of hydropower to bring affordable, clean energy to inhabitants. Burundi is also among the three beneficiary countries of the regional Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project.

    Health. IDA, the single largest source of financing for Burundi’s health sector, has allocated $50 million to the KIRA Health System Support Project approved in February 2017 in addition to the $25 million allocated to the free maternal care program over the past five years. Burundi is also participating in two regional projects to improve and develop laboratory diagnostics, maternal health, and sexual and gender-based violence prevention. These programs are supplemented by a $2.7 million pilot project set up to fund the Maternal Child Nutrition Enhancement Project coordinated by World Vision in the provinces of Rutana and Makamba.

    Social protection. In 2017, IDA provided $40 million to Burundi for the Merankabandi Social Safety Nets Project to set up a national social protection and cash transfers system for 49,000 households in four provinces.

    Education. In May 2018, IDA provided $40 million to the Early Grade Learning Project (PAADESCO-SHISHIKARA) to reform the entire education system in order to improve the school completion rate and quality of education with the creation of a nine-year cycle of primary education.

    Last Updated: Jun 06, 2019

  • Although the World Bank’s budget support series and the IMF’s economic and financial program are on hold, both international institutions are working closely together to assess the macroeconomic impact of the current crisis.

    The World Bank and UN agencies are working on promoting joint humanitarian and development aid approaches, including at the regional level.

    The World Bank also partners with specialized NGOs and development agencies to design and support investment programs in health, agriculture, rural development, social protection, and energy.

    Last Updated: Jun 06, 2019

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LENDING

Burundi: Commitments by Fiscal Year (in millions of dollars)*

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments


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Additional Resources

Country Office Contacts

Main Office Contact
3 Avenue de l'Aviation
Bujumbura
Burundi
+257-22-20-6200
For general information and inquiries
Innocent Nsabimana
Communications Associate
+257-79-74-4944
+257-22-20-6240
insabimana@worldbank.org
For project-related issues and complaints
burundialert@worldbank.org