Burundi Industry

The manufacturing industry in Burundi is relatively small and accounts for about one tenth of the country’s GDP. Most small factories process agricultural products such as coffee, tea and cotton.

In the country there is a large brewery as well as industries that make soap, vegetable oil, shoes, textiles and cigarettes and building materials such as cement. There is also a small timber industry.

There are several reasons why the industry is limited. It is difficult to start and run industrial companies because the country’s banks are doing poorly. Many of the banks have lost a lot of money in granting loans to government companies that have gone bankrupt. Private entrepreneurs find it difficult to get the loans they need.

In addition, the relatively high wage situation in the state sector makes it difficult for private industrial companies to get staff. The domestic market for industrial goods is small because most Burundians cannot afford to buy so much.

Until the middle of the 2010s, construction was extensive. However, after the political crisis in 2015 (see Modern history) with the subsequent economic downturn, the construction sector has shrunk to a couple, three percent of GDP.

  • COUNTRYAAH: List of top trading partners of Burundi. Includes countries that imported most shipments from and exported most goods to the country.




Imprisoned MR activists are released

December 27

Three human rights activists sentenced to ten years in prison each for planning actions to disrupt public order (see March 2018) are released by an appeals court . The three belong to the Parcem group. The judges were based on seized documents for a human rights workshop.

Dispute with AU about troop retreat

December 23

Burundi’s army opposes a request by the AU to take 1,000 of its 5,400 troops into the organization’s peacekeeping force in Somalia (Amisom) by February 28, 2019. Burundi’s military let AU know that it should ask President Nkurunziza to require all countries in The AU force will take home an equal proportion of soldiers. Amisom consists of 21,500 people. Burundi’s squad contribution is second largest after Uganda’s 6,200 men. The force also includes Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia. Amisom is supposed to be gradually reduced as Somalia’s own army can take control of the security situation in its own country.

New capital

December 22

The government announces that the small town of Gitega in the middle of the country is Burundi’s new capital, while Bujumbura on the northeastern shore of Lake Tanganyika should only be the country’s economic center. The government will meet in Gitega and five ministries will be moved there in 2019. The change of capital is in line with a promise made by President Nkurunziza in 2007. The decision must be formally approved by Parliament before it can take effect. Gitega has 30,000 inhabitants, while Bujumbura has 1.2 million inhabitants with suburbs. The reason for the change of capital is reported to be Gitega’s central location in the country. The opposition says it is because Bujumbura is a strong opposition stronghold, where Nkurunziza spends less and less time. The decision also gets criticism for being too expensive.

Burundi expels UN Councils

December 6

The Nkurunziza government orders the UN Human Rights Council to leave Burundi within two months. It cites sources within the UN and the Burundian Foreign Ministry for the AFP news agency. Earlier in the year, a group of UN experts reported on human rights violations in Burundi and criticized President Nkurunziza (see September 2018).


Buyoya called

November 30

Burundi issues an international arrest warrant against former President Pierre Buyoya for questioning him about his possible role in the 1993 assassination of Melchior Ndadaye, Burundi’s first democratically elected president of the Hutu people. At the same time, eleven formerly senior officials at the Ministry of Defense and five civilians in Buyuya’s immediate circle are being called for. The Tutsier Buyoya came to power in 1987 with the help of the military. He resigned in 1993 when Ndadaye was elected new president. But Ndadaye was assassinated a few months after his entry into a coup attempt by militant Tutsis (see further Modern History). Buyoya is currently the regional cooperation organization AU’s representative in Mali and in a commentary describes the arrest warrant as “politically motivated” to hide “painful, unresolved” problems.


Organizations are prohibited from operating

October 1st

The majority of the approximately 130 foreign NGOs located in Burundi are ordered to cease their operations in the country, as the government believes that they do not comply with the law of January 2017 that gives the state greater control over the organizations administration and finances and the ethnic composition of the staff. . Among other things, the organizations must have their money deposited in foreign currency at the central bank (Burundi suffers from lack of capital in foreign currency). They must also employ 60 percent Hutus and 40 percent Tutsis. The ban on operations applies from 1 October and three months onwards. Thereafter, the organizations that comply with the law will resume their activities. The organizations work with, for example, help in healthcare, education and agricultural development.


UN criticism of Nkurunziza

September 10

The UN Human Rights Council, in a report, accuses President Nkurunziza of inciting hatred and violence in the country. The Burundi parliament condemns the report the following day, which it believes is intended to undermine the government and create “chaos”. Another day later, the government declares three of the report authors for “persona non grata” and organizes demonstrations against the UN report in several cities. An estimated 1,000 people attend Bujumbura. Since 2015, Burundi has often been accused of violating human rights, but it is rarely criticized directly against Nkurunziza. Most of the abuses have been perpetrated by the police, the military, the intelligence service and the ruling party CNDD-FDD’s youth association Imbonerakure, which the UN designates as a party militia.


Burundi accepts the AU’s free trade agreement

July 2

Burundi and four other countries join the African Union (AU) free trade agreement AFCFTA at the summit of the organization in Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott. Before the free trade area can become a reality, the agreement must be ratified at the national level.


New constitution, Nkurunziza promises to resign

7 June

President Nkurunziza puts his signature under the new constitution, which thus comes into force. The constitution gives the Hutu increased political influence, and opens up opportunities for Nkurunziza to remain in office until 2034. After signing, the President announces that he does not intend to stand for re-election but resign when his current term expires in 2020. The opposition dismisses the president’s proposal and says it will can’t be trusted.


Yes to constitutional amendments

May 21

The Election Commission announces that 73 percent of Burundians vote for the constitutional changes while 19 percent vote against. The turnout is stated to be as much as 96 percent. The Constitutional Court must approve the amendments before they can take effect.

The opposition rejects the result

May 20

The opposition announces that it will not accept the outcome of the referendum on constitutional amendments due to the fact that the opposition has been apprehended and retained before the vote. Preliminary election results show a clear victory for the yes side.

The Burundians vote to change the constitution

May 17

The referendum on the proposed constitutional changes is carried out. The changes are adopted if over 50 percent of voters vote yes. According to human rights organizations, the holders’ pressure on the no-advocates in the form of threats, violence and harassment has been so strong that the yes-side is most likely to win. If that happens, President Nkurunziza may remain in office until 2034.

BBC and VOA receive broadcast ban

May 4th

Authorities prohibit the etheric media companies BBC and Voice of America (VOA) from broadcasting locally before the referendum on constitutional amendments on May 17, 2018. The ban comes into force on May 7 and lasts for six months. The BBC, according to authorities, violates the press law by “damaging President Nkurunziza’s reputation”, while VOA disseminates “very trendy” information and hires a journalist called for by the Burundian judiciary. The French radio company RFI is also shut down for similar reasons. Both the BBC and VOA have many listeners in Burundi, especially in the countryside.


Protester is sentenced to 32 years in prison

26th of April

Burundian Germain Rukuki is sentenced to 32 years in prison for his role during the protests that led to violent riots in the spring 2015 elections (see May 2015). Neither Rukuki nor his defense lawyers are present when the verdict is handed down. Rukuki has been in custody since July 2017. The riots erupted in connection with protests against President Nkurunziza’s controversial decision to run for a third term. The political crisis triggered by the re-election of Nkurunziza has claimed at least 1,200 lives and made over 400,000 homeless. The verdict falls just a few weeks before the May 17 referendum. Then it is decided whether Nkurunziza can be allowed to remain until 2034.

The government is being reformed

April 19

President Nkurunziza dismisses four ministers, including the Foreign Minister, and appoints five new members of government. The government now has 21 ministers.

HRW accuses the government of violence against no-voters

April 17

Government soldiers and members of the ruling party CNDD-FDD harass, abuse and kill people whom the government suspects will vote no in the May 17 referendum that will allow President Nkurunziza to remain until 2034. Human Rights Watch writes in a new report. CNDD-FDD’s youth militia Imbonerakure goes especially hard against suspected opponents.


Referendum in May

March 18th

President Nkurunziza calls for a referendum on May 17 on constitutional amendments that give him the right to be re-elected for two terms from the 2020 elections. Police begin to arrest people suspected of working for the no-side.

Hundreds of prisoners are released

March 16

Burundi releases 740 pardoned prisoners. Most of them were jailed for participating in the protests against President Nkurunziza in the summer of 2015 (see Current Policy).

Prison for MRI activists

March 9

Three human rights activists are sentenced to ten years in prison each for planning actions to disrupt public order. The three belong to the Parcem group. The judgments are based on seized documents for a human rights workshop.


“Millions need emergency aid”

February 20th

UN development agency UNDP warns that one-third of the country’s population, 3.6 million people, will need emergency relief in 2018. The proportion of those in need has increased by 20 percent compared to 2017, the UNDP states in a statement. Especially women and children are vulnerable according to the UNDP, which points out that malnutrition is eroding among children under 5 in 8 of the country’s 18 provinces.

Burundi Industry

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