Issa Ngendakumana, Minister of Good Governance and Privatisation, discusses his ministry’s key goals.
European Times: What are your ministry’s priorities?
Issa Ngendakumana: Following many years of war and unrest, the government of Burundi realised that promoting good governance was essential in ensuring stability, peace and economic development. For these reasons, the Ministry of Good Governance and Privatisation was created in 2002 and I am the country’s fifth Minister of Good Governance and Privatisation.
European Times: What are some of your recent projects to promote good governance?
Issa Ngendakumana: We have three main priorities. The first is to promote democracy through ensuring a multiparty system, free speech, freedom of the press, and the right to form associations. The second is to improve the business climate, which includes promoting good governance in the private sector. Burundi has already greatly reduced the time it takes to start a new business and we now have a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs and investors. The third priority is to ensure good governance in the public sector through improving the performance of public officials, fighting corruption and promoting transparency. One very successful initiative was the creation of our new Office of Burundian Revenues. Tax revenues increased by 30% between 2011 and 2012 alone and the state’s revenues grew by 15%. Another important project was to consolidate all of the state’s accounts into one main account, which has facilitated controls on expenditures. We have also established a new regulatory authority to reassure investors that their interests will be protected. In other words, Burundi has created a climate of confi dence and has become famous in Africa for its reform efforts.
European Times: What role does your ministry play in attracting foreign investors to Burundi?
Issa Ngendakumana: In addition to promoting good governance, this ministry and other government offices are working to make the world more aware that Burundi has achieved peace and security. It is hard for people to change a negative image they have of a country, so we must make a big effort to communicate to people outside this country that Burundi has evolved and has made great progress over the past few years. The ball is in the government’s court concerning sending a message to our partners and potential investors. Every quarter I file a report with our development partners concerning the progress being made on current projects, and we have regular discussions with the EU’s Ambassador to Burundi concerning Burundi’s relations with the EU. I am also trying to encourage the private sector to work more closely with the public sector to help us improve the business climate.
European Times: What progress is being made in Burundi’s privatisation programme?
Issa Ngendakumana: While privatisation in Burundi officially began in the 1980s, the programme really did not get off the ground until around three years ago. We began with the coffee sector, privatising 41 plants by May 2012, which brought around €2.4 million (BIF 5 billion) to the state treasury. Two Swiss investors have now entered the coffee sector. We also awarded a concession to Mauritius for the Bujumbura Textile Complex, and this project will support around 1,000 jobs, which makes it very important for Burundi’s economy. We are currently looking into privatising the sugar industry, and Burundi has already attracted FDI in the hotel sector; the Serena group will build a five-star hotel here. For all privatisation initiatives, we announce tenders internationally in the press and through diplomatic missions and other outlets. We welcome investors from around the globe, particularly ones who can bring in new technologies and create jobs for Burundians. One of our tasks is to help make sure Burundians understand the benefits of privatisation and are not afraid of it.
European Times: Can you highlight sectors which offer particularly strong investment potential?
Issa Ngendakumana: Agriculture, food processing and infrastructure are all high-potential sectors. Concerning infrastructure, we are building new roads and rail connections to facilitate export activities and we are planning a new airport in Gitega and a modern business centre at the location of Bujumbura’s public market which was destroyed by fire. We have created a new investment code to protect investors and we are particularly encouraging public-private partnerships. A public-privatepartnership bill is currently being prepared.
European Times: What is your message to potential foreign investors?
Issa Ngendakumana: Burundi has made impressive progress and I think that anyone who visits our country today and comes back six months from now will see even more improvements. Burundians are listening to our president’s message that we must all work together to rebuild our country. In Kayanza province where I am from, for example, we will open a new university next year. This is part of the government’s drive to make sure that every province has a university. We should all have faith in Burundi!