Burundi is a landlocked, resource-poor country with an underdeveloped manufacturing sector. The economy is predominantly agricultural, accounting for 50% of GDP in 2017 and employing more than 90% of the population. Subsistence agriculture accounts for 90% of agriculture. Burundi’s primary exports are coffee and tea, which account for 90% of foreign exchange earnings, though exports are a relatively small share of GDP. Other agricultural products include cotton, tea, maize, sorghum, sweet potatoes, bananas, manioc (tapioca); beef, milk and hides. Foreign Policy reports, Subsistence farming is highly relied upon, however due to large population growth and no coherent policies governing land ownership, many people do not have the resources to sustain themselves.
In 2014, the average farm size was about one acre. Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries, owing in part to its landlocked geography, poor legal system, lack of economic freedom, lack of access to education and the proliferation of HIV/AIDS. Approximately 80% of Burundi’s population lives in poverty. Famines and food shortages have occurred throughout Burundi, most notably in the 20th century, and according to the World Food Programme, 56.8% of children under age five suffer from chronic malnutrition. Burundi’s export earnings – and its ability to pay for imports – rest primarily on weather conditions and international coffee and tea prices.
The purchasing power of most Burundians has decreased as wage increases have not kept up with inflation. Burundi will remain heavily dependent on aid from bilateral and multilateral donors – foreign aid represents 42% of Burund is national income, the second highest rate in Sub-Saharan Africa. Burundi joined the East African Community in 2009, which should boost Burundi’s regional trade ties, and also in 2009 received $700 million in debt relief. Government corruption is hindering the development of a healthy private sector as companies seek to navigate an environment with ever-changing rules.
Studies since 2007 have shown Burundians to have extremely poor levels of satisfaction with life; the World Happiness Report 2018 rated them the world’s least happy in 2018. As a result of deep poverty, Burundi is dependent on foreign aid.
Some of Burundi’s natural resources include uranium, nickel, cobalt, copper and platinum. Besides agriculture, other industries include: assembly of imported components; public works construction; food processing and light consumer goods such as blankets, shoes and soap.
In regards to telecommunications infrastructure, Burundi is ranked 2nd to last in the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index (NRI) – an indicator for determining the development level of a country’s information and communication technologies. Burundi ranked number 147 overall in the 2014 NRI ranking, down from 144 in 2013.
Lack of access to financial services is a serious problem for the majority of the population, particularly in the densely populated rural areas: only 2% of the total population holds bank accounts, and fewer than 0.5% use bank lending services. Microfinance, however, plays a larger role, with 4% of Burundians being members of microfinance institutions – a larger share of the population than that reached by banking and postal services combined. 26 licensed microfinance institutions (MFIs) offer savings, deposits and short- to medium-term credit. Dependence of the sector on donor assistance is limited.
Burundi is part of the East African Community and a potential member of the planned East African Federation. Economic growth in Burundi is relatively steady but Burundi is still behind neighbouring countries.