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Burundi Launches Ambitious Infrastructure Development Plan

  • Michael Onyiego

A $5.8-billion economic growth plan has been launched to connect Burundi to the growing east-African economy. The plan, which will be implemented during the next 20 years, hopes to lure investors to one of Africa's poorest nations.

The African Development Bank, at the request of the government of Burundi, released the "Infrastructure Action Plan for Burundi" last week to overhaul and expand the central African nation's infrastructure and tap into its economic potential. If fully implemented, Burundi expects its GDP growth to reach approximately seven percent annually, nearly double its expected growth of 3.9 percent.

According to the African Development Bank Report released in support of the plan, transport costs account for nearly half of export prices, making trade with other nations costly. Ninety percent of Burundi's population lives in rural areas with little or no access to all-weather roads. The lack of transport infrastructure has driven up prices in the impoverished nation.

The action plan aims to pave all 2,000 kilometers of existing roads while adding 1,000 kilometers to the urban centers by 2020.

A key component of the plan is the establishment of a national power grid by 2015. Burundi hopes to provide 40 percent of its population with regular access to power by 2030. Only two percent of Burundians have access to electricity, far behind the average of 16 percent in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.

The infrastructure action plan is part of a government effort to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, established by the United Nations in 2001 to combat poverty and improve living conditions in developing nations.

According to the Vice President of Operations for the African Development Bank, Aloysius Ordu, the development of infrastructure will raise the standard of life for Burundians.

"Burundi, like many countries in the world, is still struggling to meet the Millennium Development Goals, and it is never too late," Ordu said. "But it requires a determined attention focusing on key areas: to create jobs, grow the economy. We believe that the most important aspect of all this is infrastructure"

Despite its price tag, the government of Burundi will not seek additional aid to fund the plan. Of the $5.8 billion, Burundi will provide around 27 percent of the funding, with another 56 percent coming from foreign donors.

Burundi already receives about $450 million in foreign aid annually. According to the report, foreign investment, spurred by the projects, will provide the remaining funds needed to complete the plan.

Burundi is recovering from a 12-year civil war that ended in 2005. A 2005 peace agreement calls for the country to hold elections in the coming months to complete its transition to democracy.