Seven years after foreign aid was cut in 2015 ahead of controversial Pierre Nkurundiza’s third term, Burundi has failed to bounce back to stabilize its economy due to shortage of currencies.
Burundi has been coping with the toughest economic crisis due to a shortage of foreign currencies. Importation products such as fuel became scarce for almost two years now.
The country falls into the second year, Burundians experiencing the pressing continuation of fuel scarcity across the country, these two months grew from worse to the worst.
Due to transport problems as a result of lack of fuel, charcoal (the main cooking energy) for cities has rarified.
In addition to this alarming situation, Bujumbura residents are also going through the lack of charcoal supply in almost every corner of the city.
“I don’t understand what’s happening around us. I am not getting charcoal timely. We have to queue as if we are waiting for fuel oil. It’s really disgusting. We don’t have any other alternative way to address the issue”, said a resident of Kamenge, North of Bujumbura.
Lorries which would be transporting charcoals produced in far-flung areas mostly in the countryside, are now on queue desperately waiting for gasoline.
Bujumbura, Burundi’s economic capital, known as a very busy city, is now a dead walking town.
In downtown, roads are vacant. There is a complete absence of vehicle movement almost the entire city. All vehicles are on the queue anxiously waiting for gasoline at the pump.
Transportation, a burnt over citizens
We are on Sunday at 2pm at the bus station downtown. A large number of passengers comprising both public and private workers, businesses, students and school kids are queuing waiting for buses depending upon each one’s destination. Their countenances are frowned with endless complaints, most of them being hit by sun shines.
“We are going through protracted moments. I have been queuing here for more than 2 hours. Car-tax costs have been increased. I still don’t know what to do as I have been late to work”, said a bus customer queuing at the parking lot.
Buses are coming one by one after almost one hour. Once bus stops, people resort to scramble trying to get in, some going through windows.
Transport fees have gone up to exorbitant prices. Taxi drivers charge around BIF 5,000 for one passenger as almost 6 passengers have to share the same taxi all of them bound for the same locality near the city.
Some people met on their way heading to working places as early as possible, were thumbing lift hoping to get or not.
“It really sucks. I am heading to a working place but behold, I don’t see any bus. I fear being late to my appointments. When will such an alarming situation end?”, said Edouard.
People who cannot afford such charges, prefer to go on foot grouping together while striding on roads.
Some private cars such as trucks transport people in case there is bus scarcity.
No foreign currencies to import sufficient gasoline
Asked by the senate chamber on the 20th of December, 2023 the root causes of persistent shortage of petrol in front of the senate members, Marie- Chantal Nijimbere, a trade minister said that the government is grappling with the lack of foreign currencies to purchase gasoline.
“There is a lack of sufficient foreign currencies to purchase various goods including fuel. If there were enough financial means, we would buy extra fuel for the entire country and stocks of reserves for up to 6 months”, said the minister of trade.
Vehicles are used to consuming petrol and fuel oil. So far both categories are unavailable on the pump.
The trade minister’s rhetoric conveys a controversial message that the fuel issue wouldn’t be resolved soon.
However, the senators implored the government to work tirelessly to address the issue despite the country’s past repercussions.
Government needs an emergency loan
Faustin Ndikumana, an economic pundit and a director general of Parcem, a civil society which aims to call upon people for changing their mindset and combat corruption, has been voicing up, warning the government about early warning economic signs and the strategies to curb the situation.
“The government of Burundi should request for an emergency loan from neighboring countries and Non- governmental organizations (NGO) to expand the foreign currencies into the governmental treasury”, said Ndikumana.
Ndikumana goes on urging that bad governance and corruption are the main barriers to the fuel supply.
“The constant pressing fuel scarcity across the country is due to corruption among suppliers. We harvest according to what we sowed”, urged Faustin.
According to him, Burundi used to be classified among the first Africa’s leading nations in 1980’s to vigorously fight against corruption. Now the situation is entirely both paradoxical and at sixes and sevens to the extent that basic needs are still a burden to import.
Most people , especially observers, are pessimistic about the future of the country if nothing is nothing.