Tradelinks, an operational partner of Trade Mark East Africa recently held a workshop on Bujumbura, Burundi to equip Burundian producers and manufacturers with the tools necessary for exporting to the EAC and beyond. Burundi’s ambassador to Uganda, Amb. Jean Bosco Barege invited East African Business Week to cover the event during which time he gave an exclusive interview to the Editor-In-Chief, Walter Isenged. Below are excerpts of the interview
A: Nowadays the world is driven by the market; one would think it strange to see an ambassador in such a setting; I am here in a seminar with entrepreneurs who produce different products here in Burundi.
It is very important for me to be here because our diplomacy is diplomacy for development. The market is driving the driving force of world and the market is in the private sector and that is why you see me here among people who are working in the private sector.
In this world there are two very important actors: these are consumers and producers. Producers are there what to produce what consumers will consume. The world is evolving very fast with this ICT, infrastructure.
Burundi is the furthest country from the service Ports of Dar-es-Salaam and Mombasa. Fortunately there is a new dynamic in this region working to shorten the distance that is why I am here as someone who is representing Burundi because we represent the interest of Burundi which is to develop the private sector.
If this is developed, Burundi will develop. That is why I am here with Traidlinks, TMA and Agence De Promotion Des Investissements (API) (Burundi’s Investment Promotions arm) to try and sensitize all Burundians who are working in the private sector to produce and export to the region because Burundi has a lot of products that are very good and are appreciated by the whole region, but we think that some Burundians do not know this.
So, I am here as an ambassador ready to work for the development of Burundi to talk with Burundians. This is not my first initiative. Last year in Kampala, we had a business conference in which we were talking about the opportunities in Burundi.
It was during that conference where one person from Traidlinks attended, we met and now we are here to sensitize Burundians to produce for the region. That is the raison d’être for my being here.
Qn: How did you get in contact with TradeMark Africa (TMA) ?
A: On May 21st 2013, the Embassy of Burundi in Uganda organized a business conference where we invited more than 500 participants among those was Robert Moody, the Deputy Country director of Traidlinks.
After that meeting, he was interested to see if what was presented was true. He spoke to the Burundian business community in a program he was involved in whilst in Kigali. He later visited Burundi, after which he got into contact with API and TradeMark Africa (TMA) Burundi (TradeMark has branches in all the EAC countries) and they decided to conclude an MOU so that they can help Burundi to export. That MOU was signed on 14th May 2014.
This MOU was signed in the presence of Uganda’s High Commissioner to Burundi. After this, Robert Moody came to the embassy and we concluded that we will hold this workshop. The purpose is to sensitize Burundians to be able to export within the region, because Traidlinks works to support enterprises to export in the EAC and beyond.
Qn: What are your expectations from this workshop?
A: I have big expectations. We have already identified some products from Burundi that can be exported within the region for instance juices like ‘Fruito’ (a drink made from the local marakuja (passion fruit)).
Samples taken to Kampala were highly appreciated. There are other samples of products that have been identified and that are currently being analysed and tested.
We are here to tell Burundians that they have products that are appreciated and can compete within the EAC. What we lack here in Burundi for our entrepreneurs is new thinking and strategies. We are now trying to sensitize and awaken them to show them that they are able and their products can be competitive.
With the assistance of TradeMark Africa (TMA), Traidlinks and the support of the government of Burundi through API and the participation of Burundi’s embassy in Uganda and other embassies a lot is being done.
Qn: What is the role of Government in this?
A: The role of government is paramout. It should make laws which can allow the private sector to work in a conducive environment for business. In this, Burundi is doing well, a programme of the World Bank shows that Burundi is scoring well in the Doing Business Report.
As long as Burundi continues improving the environment, foreign investors will continue to be attracted and the local investors will also be given an enabling environment.
You have been with Traidlinks, TMA and API, but have you been interacting with the business community.
Until now, I have not been interacting directly with the business community. Last year, however, we brought some tour operators in the tourism sector to come to Burundi, but in terms of the production and export sector, this is my first interaction, but I hope many entrepreneurs will be interested to interact with us so that we can work together to create a synergy between the embassy, Traidlinks and TradeMark Africa (TMA) and API to see how we can facilitate business more specifically those that are producing for export.
Qn: What other products have potential for export to the greater EAC apart from Fruito?
A: There are other products available and being produced in Burundi. Brasseries et Limonaderies du Burundi (BRARUDI) the largest and main Brewery in Burundi produces Amstel Bock, a dark beer which is product unlike any other in the region.
We also have some products from SAVONOR (makers of soaps, packaging materials and bottled water). They produce a kind of sparkling water called Aquavie which is one of very few manufactured in the region.
There is a new product in Burundi it is a kind of Pasta (macaroni). Burundi grows wheat and barley from which many products like this pasta are made. We shall continue searching for other products that would be competitive
Qn: Any other remarks?
A: I wish to thank East African Business Week, the only newspaper focused on business. We always read your newspaper and you have a broad scope in that you are the only newspaper that talks about Burundi especially the development and business issues.
Burundi is the weakest link, but with the assistance of the Media, Burundi can be lifted up. East African Business Week has been of great assistance to Burundi in this regard and I really thank you. Other newspapers have regularly ignored Burundi and Business issues in general.
Certain information is ignored, yet it is available. Other media agencies reported recently about Africell, a communications company, having bought shares from Orange, and cited branches in Gambia, DRC and Sierra Leone. They forgot to mention the nearest branch in Burundi. It got to such a state that when the media was invited to my office in Uganda, one of them was shocked that Burundi had an embassy in Uganda and even asked when it was established! I corrected them that this embassy has been in existence since Colonial times.
Source: East African Business Week
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark Africa.