Burundi: context, poverty and ActionAid Burundi's programme

Burundi is located in central Africa with 27834 Km2 and a population of over 8.1 million, with an annual population growth rate of 3.9% against an economic growth rate of 3.6%. Women represent the majority (51.5%) of the population and nearly half (45%) of the population is aged 15 or under (children below 5 represent 19.9%), constraining household and state resources. It is the fourth least developed country in the world with almost 68% of the population living below the poverty line.

Over 94.3% of the population is dependent on small holder agriculture. Agriculture constitutes the basis for the development[1]. Coffee is the main export, accounting for more than 60 percent of export revenues. The share of the secondary and tertiary sectors has been increasing. The secondary sector—which includes manufacturing, processing, construction, and related industries—represents the smallest overall share of the economy (17 percent) with manufacturing and construction as its main subcomponents. The tertiary sector—services, transport, and commerce—represents a relatively large and growing share of economic output, contributing about 37 percent of GDP.

Despite the violent armed conflict which lasted more than 13 years, Burundi counts among post-conflict countries which have made significant progress on economic and social developments.

Since 2000, the Government of Burundi has implemented a program of financial and structural reforms to stabilize the economy and revive economic activity The per capita GNI which was fallen by almost 40 percent during the conflict (US$170 in 1993 to US$100 in 2005) has almost reached its pre-war level of with 160 US$ in 2010[2]. The life expectancy rose from 43 years in 2000 to 51 years in 2010. Vaccination rates have improved to 103 percent in 2009. The government has attempted to increase coverage of health services by announcing in May 2006 free health services to children under five and pregnant women. This measure helped decrease under-five mortality rate by 20 percent from 2005 to 2009. However, the lack of essential medicine and qualified staff is affecting service delivery. To improve quality and coverage while ensuring the sustainability of the gratuity reform, the government has extended the successfully piloted results based financing (RBF) program to the whole health sector.

In education, progress has been made, but further progress is critical to the future growth of the country. Since the “free school” policy was introduced in September 2005, primary education gross enrolment rate has significantly improved from 80 percent in 2003-2004 to about 100 percent in 2005-2006, and more that 130 percent in 2009. However, quality is low and completion rate is around 46 percent. As a result, the odds of reaching the MDG of 100 percent primary completion rate remain slim.

It will be however difficult to increase living standards without both a slow-down in population growth and a significant acceleration of the annual GDP growth rate.

[1] National Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper 2011-2016

[2] World Bank Country brief