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The African continent is comprised of 54 nations, each with its own independent government and sovereignty, GDP, culture, natural resources, language(s), military, and religion. The treasure trove of mineral and raw material wealth has scarcely been touched and the continent's largely untapped fertile lands could feed the world. Herewith is Jewel of Africa, an interactive adventure in the cradle of mankind, an exploration of nations from A-Z in alphabetical order.

 Jewel of

Burundi. Sparkling lakes, arable land, a farmer's Eden


Burundi is a landlocked country of 12.5 million people in the Great Rift Valley where the African Great Lakes region and East Africa converge. It is bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east-southeast, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west; Lake Tanganyika lies along its southwestern border. The capital cities are Bujumbura and Gitega. Bujumbura is the largest city bearing a population of 1 million.

Modern Burundi is named after the King of Burundi, who ruled the region in the 16th century. Ultimately, it derives its name from the Ha people of the region, whose place of origin was known as Buha.

Burundi gained independence from Germany in 1962 and initially forged a monarchy, but established a republic and one-party state in 1966. Bouts of ethnic cleansing and ultimately two civil wars and genocides during the 1970s and again in the 1990s resulted in turmoil that left the economy undeveloped and the population as one of the world's poorest.

The sovereign state of Burundi's political system is that of a presidential representative democratic republic based upon a multi-party state. The president of Burundi is the head of state and head of government. There are currently 21 registered parties in Burundi. On June 6, 1998, the constitution was changed, broadening National Assembly's seats and making provisions for two vice-presidents. Because of the Arusha Accord, Burundi enacted a transitional government in 2000. 

Burundi remains primarily a rural society, with just 13.4 percent of the population living in urban areas in 2019. The country has a population density of 753 persons per square mile, the second highest in Africa. Roughly 85 percent of the population is of Hutu origin, 15 percent Tutsi, and fewer than 1 percent indigenous Twa. The official languages of Burundi are KirundiFrench, and English, Kirundi is recognized officially as the national language.

One of the smallest countries in Africa, Burundi's land is used mostly for subsistence agriculture and grazing, which has led to deforestationsoil erosion, and habitat loss. As of 2005 the country was almost completely deforested, with less than 6 percent of the land covered by trees and over half of that being commercial plantations. Burundi is densely populated and many young people emigrate in search of opportunities elsewhere. The World Happiness Report 2018 ranked the nation as the world's least happy with a rank of 156.


Burundi is a member of the African UnionCommon Market for Eastern and Southern Afri- caUnited Nations, and the Non-Aligned Movement.

Latent History

Burundi is one of the few countries in Africa, along with neighbors Rwanda, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini, to be a direct territorial continuation of a pre-colonial era. The early history of Burundi, and especially the role and nature of the country's three dominant ethnic groups, the Twa, Hutu and Tutsi, is highly debated amongst academics. However, it is important to note that the nature of culture and ethnic groups is always fluid and changing.

While the groups may have migrated to the area at different times and as distinctly different ethnic groups, the current distinctions are contemporary socio-cultural constructs. Initially the different ethnic groups lived together in relative peace. The first conflicts between ethnic groups can be dated back to the 17th century, when land was becoming ever scarce because of the continuous growth in population.

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Burundi’s topography includes the eastern flank of the Western Rift Valley. A chain of mountains and high plateaus formed from ancient Precambrian rock rises to 9,055 feet at Mount Heha, the country’s highest point. In the northwest the narrow Imbo Valley extends southward from Rwanda to Lake Tanganyika and includes the Rusizi River, which separates Burundi from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Visitors to Bujumbura, Burundi are immediately struck by the verdant landscape. Everything is green. The peaceful city is surrounded by beautiful Lake Tanganyika, the deepest in Africa, with majestic hills to the north. Soon, one discovers those steep hillsides,  nearly 3,000 or so “collines” of Burundi, are more than an extraordi- nary landscape; they are home to a patchwork of communities organized around each colline. In many ways, they repre- sent the beauty but also

the pains of the people

who live on it and from it. The collines whisper the majestic legacies of gener- ations of the Burundi peo- ple holding the souls of an- cestors and families long lost. 

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Burundi's legislative branch is a bicameral assembly, consisting of the Transitional National Assembly and the Trans- itional Senate. As of 2004, the Transitional National Assembly consisted of 170 members, with the Front for Democracy in Burundi holding 38 percent of seats, and 10 percent of the assembly controlled by UPRONA. Fifty-two seats were controlled by other parties. Burundi's constitution mandates representation in the Transitional National Assembly to be consistent with 60 percent Hutu, 40 percent Tutsi, 30 percent female members, and three Batwa members. Members of the National Assembly are elected by popular vote and serve five-year terms.

The Transitional Senate has 51 members, and three seats are reserved for former presidents. Due to stipulations in Burundi's constitution, 30 percent of Senate members must be female, elected by electoral colleges, comprised of members from Burundi's provinces and communes. For each of Burundi's 18 provinces, one Hutu and one Tutsi senator are selected to serve a single five-year term.

Together, Burundi's legislative branch elect the president to a five-year term. Burundi's president appoints officials to a Council of Ministers, also part of the executive branch. The president can also pick 14 members of the Transitional Senate to serve on the Council of Ministers. Members of the Council of Ministers must be approved by two-thirds of Burundi's legislature. The president also chooses two vice presidents. Following the 2015 election, the president of Burundi was Pierre Nkurunziza, first vice president, Therence Sinunguruza; and second vice president, Gervais Rufyikiri.

On May 20, 2020, Evariste Ndayishimiye, 55, a candidate who was hand-picked as Nkurunziza's successor by the CNDD-FDD, won the election with 71.4 of the vote, but died on June 9, 2020,  cardiac arrest. Per the constitution, Pascal Nyabenda, the president of the national assembly, temporarily led the government until Ndayishimiye's inauguration on June 18, 2020.

The Cour Suprême is Burundi's highest court. There are three Courts of Appeals directly below the Supreme Court. Tribunals of First Instance are used as judicial courts in each of Burundi's provinces as well as 123 local tribunals.

Burundi is divided into 18 provinces. Provincial governments are structured upon these boundaries. In 2000, the province encompassing Bujumbura was separated into two provinces, Bujumbura Rural and Bujumbura Mairie. The newest province, Rumonge, was created in March 2015 from portions of Bujumbura Rural and Bururi.

Typography and terrain

One of the smallest countries in Africa, Burundi is landlocked and has an equatorial climate. Burundi is a part of the Albertine Rift, the western extension of the East African Rift. The country lies on a rolling plateau in the center of Africa. It lies within the Albertine Rift montane forestsCentral Zambezian miombo woodlands, and Victoria Basin forest-savanna mosaic eco-regions. Burundi’s topography includes the eastern flank of the Western Rift Valley.


A chain of mountains and high plateaus formed from ancient Precambrian rock rises to 9,055 feet at Mount Heha, the country’s highest point. In the northwest the narrow Imbo valley extends southward from Rwanda to Lake Tanganyika and includes the Rusizi River, which separates Burundi from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Farther south and west, along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, the land rises steeply to form part of the Congo-Nile divide, which reaches elevations of 8,500 feet. East of the divide, plateaus slope gently to elevations of 5,000-6,000 feet to the southeast; the Ruvyironza River flows northeast, cutting through the plateaus. A few valleys and shallow lakes occupy the northern frontier near Rwanda.


Burundi is a landlocked, resource-poor country with an un- derdeveloped manufacturing sector. The economy is pre- dominantly agricultural, accounting for 50 percent of GDP in 2017 and employing more than 90 percent of the population.

   Subsistence agriculture accounts for nearly 100 percent of agriculture. Burundi's primary exports are coffee and tea, which account for 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings, though exports are a relatively small share of GDP. Other agri-products include cotton, tea, maize, sorghum, sweet potatoes, bananas, tapioca, beef, milk, and animal hides.         Subsistence farming is highly relied upon, but many peo- ple do not have the resources to sustain themselves due to population growth and no coherent policies governing land ownership. The average farm size is about one acre.

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Burundi's rubescent sunsets and splendid natural surprises like the cool, shaded trail (below) are gentle reminders that the blessed hand of a caring all-wise God rests upon this nation.

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With its unique mix of megalopolis, small towns and villages, arable farm- land and tea plantations, deep blue lakes and lake beachfronts replete with rolling surf, Burundi is a magical kingdom.

   The pictorial view alone stirs the pas- sion for adventure. The view from the human lens is a paradise to behold. Snow-capped peaks overlook fertile lowlands abounding with assorted fruit, coffee, tea, cotton, cascading waterfalls, quiet pristine rivers, and enormous spectacular lakes. 

   Burundi has an equatorial climate and is part of the Albertine Rift, the western extension of the East African Rift. The country lies on a rolling pla- teau in the center of Africa within the Albertine Rift montane forestsCentral Zambezian miombo woodlands, and Victoria Basin forest-savanna mosaic eco-regions. 

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Contrary to what many thought for years, YES IT SNOWS IN AFRICA! Mount Heha is the highest mountain in Burundi and the highest point in the Burundi Highlands mountain range, rising 9,055 feet. In the northwest sector of the nation the narrow Imbo valley extends southward from Rwanda to Lake Tanganyika and includes the Rusizi River, which separates Burundi from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Light, forest-derived soils predominate, forming a thin layer of humus over lateritic (iron-rich) subsoils. The best soils are formed from alluvium, but they are confined primarily to the lower portions of larger river valleys. Soil erosion, caused by a combination of steep slopes and frequent rainfall, is a serious problem and creates a major constraint on agriculture; ironically, erosion is further exacerbated by the clearing of land for agricultural purposes. Elevation is a major factor in Burundi’s climate, greatly moderating its tropical character.

Annual precipitation, which averages 60-70 inches in the highest-lying areas, is only about 40 inches on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. There is a short dry season from May to August. The natural forest vegetation has almost entirely disappeared from the landscape and is limited now primarily to higher mountain slopes. On the plateaus, wooded savanna is found at higher elevations, giving way to more-open savanna on the lower slopes. Poaching has dealt a severe blow to the country’s wildlife. The elephant population has virtually disappeared, leaving only warthogs, baboons, and antelope as the dominant species.

The country’s generally high elevation produces relatively cool temperatures, which average only about 70 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year in the central plateau area and usually drop to below 60 degrees at night. At lower elevations the annual average is only slightly higher—for example, at Bujumbura in the Imbo valley. There are two national parksKibira National Park to the northwest, a small region of rainforest adjacent to Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda; and Ruvubu National Park to the northeast, along the Rurubu River, also known as Ruvubu. Both were established in 1982 to conserve wildlife populations.

Burundi is a landlocked, resource-poor country with an underdeveloped manufacturing sector. The economy is predominantly agricultural, accounting for 50 percent of GDP in 2017 and employing more than 90 percent of the population. Subsistence agriculture accounts for nearly 100 percent of agriculture. Burundi's primary exports are coffee and tea, which account for 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings, though exports are a relatively small share of GDP.

Other agricultural products include cotton, tea, maize, sorghum, sweet potatoes, bananas, tapioca, beef, milk, and animal hides. Even though subsistence farming is highly relied upon, many people do not have the resources to sustain themselves. This is due to large population growth and no coherent policies governing land ownership. In 2014, the average farm size was about one acre.

Burundi is one of the world's poorest countries, owing in part to its landlocked geography, poor legal system, lack of economic freedom, access to education, and the proliferation of HIV/AIDS. Approximately 80 percent of Burundi's population lives in poverty. Famines and food shortages have occurred throughout Burundi, mostly in the 20th century, and according to the, 56.8 percent of children under age five suffer from chronic malnutrition. Burundi's ex-

port earnings and its ability to pay for imports rests primarily on weather conditions and international coffee and tea prices.

The purchasing power of most Burundians has decreased as wage increases have not kept up with inflation. As a result of deepening poverty, Burundi will remain heavily dependent on aid from bilateral and multilateral donors. Foreign aid represents 42 percent of Burundi’s national income, the second highest rate in Africa.

Burundi joined the East African Community in 2009, which should boost its regional trade ties, and also in 2009 received $700 million in debt relief. Government corruption is hindering the development of a healthy private sector as companies seek to navigate an environment with ever-changing rules.

Some of Burundi's natural resources include uranium, nickel, cobaltcopper, and platinum. Besides agriculture, other industries include: assembly of imported components; public works construction, food processing, and production of light consumer goods such as blankets, shoes and soap.

With regard to telecommunications infrastructure, Burundi is ranked next to last in the World Economic Forum's Network Readiness Index (NRI—an indicator for determining the development level of a country's information and communication technologies. Burundi ranked 147 overall in the 2014 NRI ranking, down from 144 in 2013. Lack of

access to financial services is a serious problem for the majority of the population, particularly in the densely populated rural areas; only 2 percent have bank accounts, and fewer than 0.5 percent use bank lending services. Microfinance, however, plays a larger role, with 4 percent of Burundians being members of microfinance institutions — a larger share of the population than that is reached by banking and postal services combined. Roughly 26 licensed microfinance institutions (MFIs) offer savings, deposits, and short- to medium-term credit. Dependence of the sector on donor assistance is limited.

Burundi's currency is the Burundian franc. It is nominally subdivided into 100 centimes, though coins have never been issued in centimes in independent Burundi. Centime coins were circulated only when Burundi used the Belgian Congo francMonetary Policy is controlled by the central bankBank of the Republic of Burundi.


Bicycles are a popular means of transportation in Burundi. Burundi's transportation infrastructure is limited and underdeveloped. According to a 2012 DHL Global Connectedness Index, Burundi is the least globalized of 140 surveyed countries. Bujumbura International Airport is the only airport with a paved runway and as of May 2017 was serviced by four airlines — Brussels AirlinesEthiopian AirlinesKenya Airways, and RwandAir


Kigali is the city with the most daily flight connections to Bujumbura. The country has a road network but as of 2005 less than 10 percent of the country's roads were paved. In 2012 private companies were the main operators of buses on the international route to Kigali, however, there were no bus connections to the other neighboring Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo). Bujumbura is connected by a passenger and cargo ferry — the MV Mwongozo to Kigoma in Tanzania. There is a long-term plan to link the country via rail to Kigali and then to Kampala and Kenya.

Demographics and languages

As of October 2021, Burundi was estimated by the United Nations to have a population of 12.4 million people, compared to 2.4 million in 1950. The population growth rate is 2.5 percent per year, more than double the average global pace, and a Burundian woman has on average five children — more than double the international fertility rate. Burundi currently has the 10th highest fertility rate in the world, behind Somalia. Many Burundians have emigrated to other countries as a result of the civil war. In 2006, the US accepted approximately 10,000 Burundian refu- gees. Burundi remains an overwhelmingly rural society, with just 13 percent of the population living in urban areas in 2013. The population density of around 315 people 753 per square miles is the second highest in the nations south of the Saharan.


Sources estimate the Christian population at 80-90 percent, with Roman Catholics representing the largest group at 60-65 percent. Protestant and Anglican practitioners constitute the remaining 15-25 percent. An estimated five percent of the population adheres to traditional indigenous religious beliefs. Muslims comprise 2-5 percent, the majority of whom are Sunnis.


Burundi has the severest hunger and malnourishment rates of all 120 countries ranked in the Global Hunger Index. The civil war in 1962 put a stop on the medical advancements in the country. Burundi, again, went into a violent cycle in 2015, jeopardizing the citizens of Burundi's medical care. Like many sub-Saharan Africa countries, Burundi uses indigenous medicine in addition to biomedicine.

In the 1980s Burundi's health authorities asked the United Nations Development Program for support to develop quality control and begin new research on pharmaceuticals from medicinal plants. At the same time, the Burundi Association of Traditional Practitioners (ATRADIBU) was founded, which teamed with the government agency to establish the Centre for Research and Promotion of Traditional Medicine in Burundi. The recent influx of international aid has supported the work of biomedical health systems in Burundi. However, international aid workers have traditionally stayed away from indigenous medicine in Burundi. As of 2015, roughly 1 out of 10 children in Burundi die before the age of five from preventable and treatable illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria.


Burundi's culture is based on local tradition and the influence of neighboring countries. Since farming is the main industry, a typical Burundian meal consists of sweet potatoes, cornrice and peas. Due to the expense, meat is eaten only a few times per month. When several Burundians of close acquaintance meet for a gathering, they drink impeke, a brand of beer, together from a large container to symbolize unity.

Crafts are an important art form in Burundi and are attractive gifts to many tourists. Basket weaving is a popular craft for local artisans. Other popular crafts such as masks, shields, statues, and pottery are made in Burundi.

Drumming is an important part of the cultural heritage. The world-famous Royal Drummers of Burundi, who have performed for over 40 years, are noted for traditional drumming using the karyenda, amashako, ibishikiso and ikiranya drums. Dance often accompanies drumming performance, which is frequently seen in celebrations and family gatherings. The abatimbo, which is performed at official ceremonies and rituals and the fast-paced abanyagasimbo are some famous Burundian dances. Some musical instruments of note are the flute, zitherikembe, indonongo, umuduri, inanga, and the inyagara.

The country's oral tradition is strong, relaying history and life lessons through storytelling, poetry and song. Imigani, indirimbo, amazina, and ivyivugo are literary genres in Burundi.

Soccer in Burundi

Basketball and track and field are noted sports. Martial arts are popular, as well. There are five major judo clubs: Club Judo de l'Entente Sportive, in downtown, and four others throughout the city. Association football is a popular pastime throughout the country as are mancala games.

Most Christian holidays are celebrated, with Christmas being the largest.  Burundian Independence Day is cele- brated annually on July 1. In 2005, the Burundian government declared Eid al-Fitr, an a national Islamic holiday.


In 2009, the adult literacy rate in Burundi was estimated to be 67 percent — 73 percent male and 6 percent female), with a literacy rate of 77 and 76 percent, respectively ages of 15-24. By 2015, this had increased to 85.6 percent — 88.2 percent male, and 83.1 percent female). Literacy among women has increased by 17 percent since 2002. Bur-

undi's literacy rate is relatively low due to low school attendance and because literacy in Kirundi only provides access to materials printed in that language, though it is higher than many other African countries. In 2010 a new elementary school was opened in the small village of Rwoga that is funded by the pupils of Westwood High School,

Quebec, Canada. Burundi has one public university, the University of Burundi. As of 2018, Burundi invested the equivalent of 5.1 percent of its GDP in education.

Science and technology

Burundi's Strategic Plan for Science, Technology, Research and Innovation covers the following areas: food tech- nology, medical sciences, energy, mining and transportation, water, desertification, environmental biotechnology and indigenous knowledge, materials science, engineering and industry, space sciences, mathematics, and social and human sciences.

With regard to material sciences, Burundi's publication intensity doubled from 0.6 to 1.2 articles per million inhabitants between 2012 and 2019, placing it in the top 15 for sub-Saharan Africa for this strategic technology. Med-

ical sciences remain the main focus of research: medical researchers accounted for 4 percent of the country's scientists in 2018 but 41 percent of scientific publications between 2011 and 2019.

The focus of the Strategic Plan for Science, Technology, Research and Innovation has been on developing an institutional framework and infrastructure, fostering greater regional and international co-operation and placing science in society. In October 2014, the EAC Secretariat designated the National Institute of Public Health a centre of excellence.

Data are unavailable on output on nutritional sciences, the institute's area of specialization, but between 2011 and 2019, Burundi scientists produced seven articles on each of HIV and tropical communicable diseases and a further five on tuberculosis, all focus areas for the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Strategic Plan has also focused on training researchers. Researcher density (in head counts) grew from 40 to 55 researchers per million inhabitants between 2011 and 2018. Burundi has almost tripled its scientific output since 2011 but the pace has not picked up since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. With six scientific publications per million inhabitants, Burundi still has one of the lowest publication intensities in Central and East Africa. About 97.5 percent of publications involved foreign co-authorship between 2017 and 2019, with Ugandans figuring among the top five partners.

Jarrette Fellows, Jr. / Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License 

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