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Rural Poverty in Burundi

Two civil wars and genocides in the 1970s and 1990s destroyed Burundi’s economy and increased poverty from 33 percent in 1993 to 67 percent in 2000. Burundi’s poverty rate remains at 65 percent today. At $700 in 2017, its GDP per capita is the lowest in the world. The agricultural industry, which makes up about 80 percent of the workforce, weakened during the civil wars. The most affected people are those in rural areas, where about 1.77 million are food insecure. The Burundi government, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and NGOs are working together to address rural poverty in Burundi. The goal of these efforts is to bring the economy back to its pre-war state.

IFAD’s Programs

IFAD — which has worked in the country since 1980 — has funded nine projects in Burundi totaling $141 million. Rural and agricultural development, as well as food security, are two main areas the IFAD focuses on. Almost 500,000 households directly benefit from these projects. Many of the initiatives began around 2009, several years after Burundi’s economic reconstruction gained traction.

Value Chain Development Program

The Value Chain Development Program began in 2010 and ends in 2019. The program benefits more than 77,000 households and costs $73 million. The main focus areas include reduced poverty and increased food security through agricultural value chain development and increased income for rural farmers. To date, 5,761 people have been trained on value chain development, seed multiplication and better animal husbandry techniques. Also, more than 6,400 acres of anti-erosion ditches have been dug.

Agricultural Intensification and Value-enhancing Support Project

Another program that addressed rural poverty in Burundi is the Agricultural Intensification and Value-Enhancing Support Project. This program began in 2009 and ends in 2019. It has helped more than 30,000 households in six provinces in the north and east of the capital city, Bujumbura.

After 450,000 refugees returned after political instability and violence lessened, the need for jobs increased. Rapid population growth, small land allotments and soil degradation made it difficult to sustain an income for rural farmers. Some of the results of the project include constructing 1,210 modern sheds for livestock, building 32 miles of roads to rehabilitated marshlands, providing more than 1,290 goats to poor households, planting more than 6 million trees and constructing 11,567 acres of anti-erosion ditches. The project also reduced the number of households living in extreme poverty by 7 percent and direct beneficiaries have enjoyed a 64 percent increase in income.

Vision 2025

Although rural poverty in Burundi is still a major issue, the government created Vision 2025 to set goals on addressing its high poverty rate. The government’s objectives are to reduce the poverty rate to 33 percent by 2025 and increase its GDP per capita. While the country’s dependence on agriculture and its heavy reliance on financial assistance pose threats to sustainable growth, with the help of the IFAD, NGOs and other organizations, Burundi could reach the goal of cutting its poverty rate in half by 2025.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Ethiopia's Economy
Ethiopia is the second-most populous country in Africa with an estimated population of 112 million people. Ethiopia also has the fastest growing economy on the continent and is located on the east coast. In 2015, the World Bank reported 23.5 percent of Ethiopia’s population to be living under the national poverty line, however. As of 2019, its GDP is expected to grow between seven and eight percent in the next year in large part due to Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali, who proposed large scale economic reforms in June 2018, two months after assuming office. The following facts about Ethiopia’s Economy give a closer look at the country’s development in recent decades.

7 Facts About Ethiopia’s Economy

  1. Prior to 2018, the state primarily controlled the Ethiopian economy, which was in line with the beliefs of its dominant political coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). In 2018, however, Prime Minister Dr. Ali, chairman of the EPRDF, announced that it would allow private investors into some of its monopolies, beginning with select airlines, electricity and telecommunications. Ali and the EPRDF found this shift necessary to spur economic growth according to the government.
  2. Agriculture, textiles, minerals and metal processing are the largest industries in Ethiopia. According to the CIA World Fact Book, the country can trace 40.5 percent of its GDP to the export of coffee, vegetables and sugarcane. Recently, foreign investment in flower, wine and textile industries have become major contributors to the Ethiopian economy as well.
  3. Despite this, Prime Minister Ali has declared his intention to move Ethiopia’s agriculture-based economy into manufacturing, which he announced in a national plan titled Vision 2025. The goal of the plan is to create more than two million jobs and grow the manufacturing industry to 25 percent of Ethiopia’s economy. The idea is for Ethiopia to position itself as a viable contender for low wage jobs to foreign companies in need of labor.
  4. Infrastructural development is also an integral player in the expansion of the Ethiopian economy. Vision 2025 also details the timeline for the creation of 10 new public industrial parks as well as six others to be completed by private developers, bringing at least 60,000 jobs to the area. The sites will receive supplementation in the form of free water, subsidized rent and electricity. To this end, the government has created the Industrial Parks Development Cooperation to oversee the project, and communicate with potential investors. This initiative has been rather controversial to date, however. Strikes erupted at Hawassa Industrial Park, which opened in 2016, due to low wages and unsafe working conditions.
  5. Another significant infrastructural development has been the light rail, the first transportation system of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. Since its completion, the metro has allowed more than 60,000 people easier access to urban centers where they are more likely to find work or able to attend school for $.027 a ride.
  6. Ethiopia’s potential as an energy provider superpower can not only be seen by its light rail, which relies on hydropower, but also by its large stake in the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which once completed, will be largest in the continent. It has been under construction since 2011 but will be able to generate 6000MW of electricity, serving not only Ethiopia’s water and hydropower needs but those of 10 other countries as well.
  7. As a rising global economic powerhouse, Ethiopia also has a great interest in expanding its tourism industry. With multi-billion-dollar investments spread across industrial parks and transportation, Prime Minister Ali announced his intentions to no longer African citizens require visas to enter the country. The plan to expand the Bole International Airport so it can serve 22 million people, more than triple the number it accommodates today, accompanied this.

The economic reforms and rapid, large scale infrastructural development happening in Ethiopia today are a promising start to reducing its poverty levels worldwide. Internationally, others recognize Ethiopia’s efforts too; the World Bank pledged $1.2 billion of support in 2018. These seven facts about the Ethiopian economy highlight the government’s rightfully ambitious initiatives— sure to result in a more advanced country supported by the creation of hundreds and thousands of jobs it requires to continue to thrive.

– Jordan Powell
Photo: Flickr