STRENGTHEN AND DIVERSIFY

Tanzania 2018 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Pierre Nkurunziza, President of Burundi, on widening the scope of trade with Tanzania, working on greater areas of cooperation, and the significance of EAC integration.

HE Pierre Nkurunziza
BIOGRAPHY
HE Pierre Nkurunziza was born in Bujumbura, Burundi in 1963. An educator and former leader of a Hutu rebel group, he became president of Burundi in 2005. He was re-elected in 2010 for a second term, and in 2015 for a third. In November 2006, Nkurunziza successfully ushered Burundi into the East African Community economic bloc, and in April 2007 aided in the reformation of the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries.

Given that an average 80% of all Burundian trade transits through the port of Dar es Salaam, what plans have been laid down to ensure a healthy and balanced trade between your country and Tanzania?

It is true that most Burundian trade effectively transits through the port of Dar es Salaam. This is not only due to the geographical location of Burundi—a landlocked country—but also reflects the close relations and cooperation existing between the United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of Burundi. Both countries understand the importance of this relationship, and constantly endeavor to widen and deepen it. In the framework of the implementation of the East African Community (EAC) Single Customs Territory, Burundi has tasked its revenue authority officers with ensuring that cargo heading to Burundi that transits through Dar es Salaam is swiftly shipped either by road up to Bujumbura through the Kobero-Kabanga One-Stop Border, or by train up to the port of Kigoma and thereafter to Burundian ports (Nyanza Lac, Rumonge, Bujumbura) via Lake Tanganyika. There are further plans to make the Isaka-Musongati-Bujumbura railway line operational in the near future. Burundi has conducted conclusive studies pertaining to safety on Lake Tanganyika, which gives ample room for both Tanzania and Burundi to take the lead in developing the Lake Tanganyika basin to enable the free movement of goods, people, services, and capital in the area to flourish, and through this uplift the standards of living in our region. To this end, Burundi has developed plans to diversify its export capabilities, and Burundian companies such as BRARUDI have started exporting their products to Tanzania.

What makes Burundi in particular an attractive market for businesses in Tanzania and vice versa?

The United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of Burundi have long-standing historical and cultural ties on which to premise multifaceted trading arrangements. Burundians and Tanzanians are close neighbors, both geographically and spiritually, and over the years both our peoples have developed a common understanding, as well as sharing the same vision and destiny. This shared cultural and social knowledge is critical for successful businesses.

What will be the focus of Burundian-Tanzanian relations going forward?

The focus of these is to strengthen and further diversify our areas of cooperation. Everything calls upon the United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of Burundi to effectively implemement the EAC integration agenda, which we strongly support as a complement of what we are doing internally to raise the standards of living of East African citizens in general and the people of Tanzania and Burundi in particular. We would like to see the United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of Burundi take the lead in promoting Kiswahili and French through university-level cultural exchanges between teachers and students, as well as other professionals.

What can be achieved, in real terms, for member states, through streamlined cooperation in the EAC?

The EAC partner states have agreed on the scope of their cooperation in the framework of the EAC integration agenda in terms of political, diplomatic and judicial affairs, infrastructure, economic, social, and productive sectors. In these sectors, there is a wide range of projects and programs, which, as partner states, we need to see implemented. In concrete terms, the EAC is now operating under a single customs territory, enabling the passage of goods with reduced transport costs and travel times. What is more, since partner states now operate in the EAC single market, there is now access to 160 million consumers. Moreover, the partner states have agreed to fast-track the implementation of projects and programs so as to achieve 17 sustainable development goals. Poised both as a single customs territory and a common market that aspires to higher stages of integration—the monetary union in 2024 and ultimately the federation of East Africa—the EAC is also set to pool its higher education resources, creating better mobility for university staff and students within the region.