The United States and European Union lifted aid-focused sanctions in the past year on Burundi. After six years, the U.S. removed trade sanctions on the African country in 2021, and as of Dec. 12, 2022, the EU also lifted sanctions. Enacted during Burundi’s political crisis, the sanctions perpetuated poverty levels in the country, according to The Citizen. Burundi’s leaders look forward to accelerated economic growth and poverty relief in Burundi with sanctions lifting.
In 2015, former President Pierre Nkurunziza bid for a third consecutive term, and Burundi underwent a political crisis resulting in 1,200 deaths and 400,000 people fleeing their country. In response, the U.S. and EU imposed sanctions on Burundi to bar the corrupt allocation of relief funds and work more directly with nongovernmental agencies in the country. At the time of Nkurunziza’s third run, Burundi experienced major social disparity and political instability.
Political Instability in Burundi
At Burundi’s height of political corruption, government officials had tried to take NGO funding and inhibited meetings with donors. The U.S. and EU implemented economic sanctions to suspend direct aid to the Burundi government as a preventive measure. In the face of sanctions, the Burundi government chose a policy of confrontation over compromise, according to the International Crisis Group. External aid accounted for more than 50% of the funding for Burundi’s development projects. Once the sanctions cut foreign direct investment, life in Burundi became drastically more expensive.
Burundi’s Costs of Living Rose
Once sanctions occurred, everyday expenses and essentials sharply rose, according to the Crisis Group. Fuel shortages made commutes expensive, with bus tickets doubling and fish prices tripling to cover diesel costs. Burundians struggled with rising food and transportation costs, working multiple jobs and living off credit lines. From 2004 to 2016, Burundi’s annual growth rate fell from a gross domestic product average of 4.2% to −0.6%. Burundi’s inflation rates soared from 4.4% in 2014 to 16.4% in 2017. The Crisis Group estimates Burundi lost a decade of health and education advancements.
Poverty Reduction in Burundi
Burundi officials see the road to economic recovery and hope to boost bilateral trade ties with the reopening of the country’s borders. Burundi plans to revamp the Bujumbura trading port and two more trading posts with neighboring countries to further encourage the flow of imports and economic growth.
Poverty relief in Burundi with sanctions lifting show promise. Burundi’s inflation rates are stabilizing, dropping to 8.4% in 2021. The African Development Bank Group projects GDP growth of 4.6% in 2023, with poverty rates on track to improve.
– Micaella Balderrama