Gervais Rufyikiri, Second Vice President of Burundi since 2010, was named President of Burundi’s Senate in 2005. He holds a Ph.D in Biological, Agricultural and Environmental-Engineering Sciences from Belgium’s Catholic University of Louvain and often represents his country in meetings abroad.
European Times: What are some of Burundi’s accomplishments since you became Second Vice President?
Gervais Rufyikiri: As Second Vice President I am committed to improving governance, promoting transparency and fighting corruption through regularly monitoring all the institutions for which I am responsible. Burundi has in fact made great progress in recent years. A report published by the East African Community (EAC) in September 2012 noted that Burundi is now ranked second in the EAC in its efforts to combat corruption. The current government has zero tolerance for corruption, and we have taken great steps forward in achieving transparency and a true open market. I also launched an initiative in 2010 to improve Burundi’s ‘Doing Business Report’ ranking, which was 181 out of 183 countries in 2011, and through our reform measures we managed to improve the ranking to 172 in 2012 and to 159 in the ‘Doing Business Report 2013’ published in October 2012. In fact, the latest report ranked Burundi number five among the world’s top ten reforming countries. The improved business climate has led to more investment, more job creation, and more growth for the formal economy as opposed to the informal one. This achievement has greatly improved Burundi’s image among international investors.
European Times: What else is the government doing to attract more international investment to Burundi?
Gervais Rufyikiri: A year ago it took an average of 11 procedures and 32 days to start a business in Burundi, but since May 2012 it has taken less than a day and now involves only one procedure. In addition, we have created a one-stop shop for investors, both local and foreign. These two initiatives have also helped to reduce corruption.
One of our current priorities is to increase our supplies of energy in order to support new investment projects. We are working on various energy initiatives, including the construction of a dam for hydroelectric power production in a partnership with the government of India, a dam to be built by an Indian company, and another dam for which a Chinese company is now doing a feasibility study. Burundi produces around 40 MW of energy and we hope to increase this to 100 MW or 150 MW in the next four to five years with the help of foreign investors and development partners like the European Investment Bank and the World Bank.
European Times: What are some other upcoming FDI projects?
Gervais Rufyikiri: An Indian-American investor aims to build a large shopping and mixed-use complex which will include office space, a hotel and the first 15-story building in Bujumbura. There are many other big projects being planned.
European Times: How would you describe Burundi’s relations with the EU?
Gervais Rufyikiri: The EU is a top market for us as well as a key source of development support. Our relations with the EU are outlined in the Cotonou Agreement, through which the EU is promoting poverty reduction and sustainable economic development in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. In a recent meeting with EU representatives, we discussed EU support for a development to take the place of Burundi’s central market, which was destroyed by fire.
European Times: What is Burundi doing to improve its international image?
Gervais Rufyikiri: The current government is working very hard to make the world aware that Burundi is at peace and achieving great progress in many areas. Burundi was shaken by crisis in the past, but international investors should know that we have achieved stability. Burundi is even a force for peace in the region. Our constitution guarantees a democratic system, transparent and free elections, free press, and includes measures designed to ensure peaceful coexistence among the different groups that make up our population.
Today, Burundi is one of the most peaceful countries in the region. Burundi has also made significant progress in protecting human rights, including rights for women. Women now hold around 30% of all government and private-sector management posts in the country, and we are providing equal educational opportunities for girls and boys as well as severely punishing gender-related crimes. While Burundi is still a poor country, it has the potential to eliminate poverty, particularly through developing its high-potential agriculture sector.
We also have mineral wealth, including nickel deposits, that we have not yet exploited, and Burundi offers exceptional tourism attractions which have not yet been developed, from Lake Tanganyika to chimpanzee reserves. Burundi has a young workforce, great tourism appeal and rich natural resources, so we are certain that with education, investment and support, this country can achieve sustainable economic growth.