Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world , with nearly 85% of Burundians living below the poverty line . The country is also facing severe climate change related challenges, including a worsening food security situation for its vulnerable rural population . The current production structure, dominated by subsistence agriculture, makes the economy very vulnerable and fragile due to its dependency on climate conditions .
Over the past decades, Burundi’s natural environment has been substantially degraded. The main driver of this environmental degradation has been rapid population growth. In particular, to feed the growing population, substantial areas of forest have been cleared for agriculture, and poor agricultural practices have harmed soil fertility and integrity . Burundi’s agriculture sector is, therefore, characterized by a low level of productivity, limited availability of arable land, and loss of fertility. As agriculture is the main source of income and food for the population, the degradation of natural resources significantly undermines the stability and development of the country .
Further, energy is considered as a catalyst for socio-economic growth , , but only about 11% of the country’s population have access to electricity (in 2020) . Meanwhile, almost all households in the country use wood and charcoal as the only source of energy for cooking, which contributes to environmental degradation through deforestation and pollution .
Episodes of political instability in Burundi have not supported the country to lay the groundwork needed for sustained economic growth. The major constraints that have been identified as hindering the structural transformation of the country’s economy include: low agricultural productivity, high vulnerability to external shocks, inadequate power supply, rapid population growth, inadequate ICT structure, low human capital, insufficient transport infrastructure and the failure to mainstream climate change into all social and economic development sectors .
Key policies and governance approach
Although the green economy is not yet a reality in practice, Burundi’s resolve to move towards a green economy is enshrined in the county’s Vision 2025 and in its Nationally Determined Contribution, which aims to achieve low carbon development , .
The Vision Burundi 2025 aims to achieve an economic growth rate of 10% by 2025, and describes the actions and goals that the government will take to ensure the sustainable development of Burundi. To achieve this goal, Burundi intends to broaden and diversify the productive base by, in particular, increasing the capacities that contribute to the sectors promoting growth while enhancing the participation of the private sector and the diversification of employment and income opportunities. Regarding the energy sector, the Vision aims to reduce wood burning for heating and cooking in households; and promote and deploy renewable technologies to provide the population with better quality of energy, minimize health hazards and reduce the deforestation process .
In support of Burundi’s Vision 2025, the country’s National Development Plan (NDP) 2018-2027 aims to structurally transform the Burundian economy for robust, sustainable, resilient, inclusive growth, creating decent jobs for all and leading to improved social welfare . It provides a cohesive development framework for all sectoral policies and strategies and reflects the Government’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development . In addition, it is also the document on which the development of the Energy sector is based .
Successes and remaining challenges
There has been significant national and international efforts to improve Burundi’s economic position, including through the implementation of the country’s NDP. However, Burundi’s economy remains weak, though the country has been able to achieve some results in terms of basic social services and women’s political participation.
Despite these results, the country still faces many challenges related to the transformation of its economy, including corruption and a weak legal system, limited economic growth depressed by unproductive agriculture, lack of diversification, minimal fiscal space, limited access to energy and finance, skills shortages, the small formal labour market, and an underdeveloped private sector which lacks organisation .
Initiatives and Development Plans
KAZE Green Economy (KAGE) Ltd is a social enterprise promoting green economy in Burundi. KAGE produces innovative eco-friendly charcoal mainly from corn stalks and other biodegradable waste, with the aim of reducing deforestation. The team collects maize stalks from households, dumps, and other such areas, to produce the Kabiof Charcoal, which is an odourless coal that does not emit smoke. With six employees, the company now produces between 300 and 400 kilograms of coal per day. But founder Delphin Kaze, hopes that with the arrival of modern machinery and access to electricity, his company will be able to increase production to ultimately satisfy the entire demand of the Burundian market , .
Burundi has set the target to increase the national rate of access to electricity to 30% by 2030, which will require the development of the renewable energy sector, particularly solar and hydroelectric. In 2019, the European Union committed funds to facilitate the development of energy projects in Burundi, supported by the private sector. As part of this commitment, GET.invest Burundi was officially launched in October 2021. It builds on the services of the broader GET.invest programme for unlocking financing for sustainable energy projects and businesses, tailored to the national context. GET.invest Burundi works closely with the EU-funded impact investment facility EDFI ElectriFI and with the national association Burundi Renewable Energy Association – BUREA .
- By strengthening its private sector and improving its business environment, Burundi has the opportunity to create more jobs, accelerate economic growth and attract more foreign direct investment. Burundi's economic potential could be unlocked through a series of key reforms that provide the foundations for private sector-led investment, according to a new report by IFC and the World Bank .
- Burundi needs to diversify agricultural production and increase agricultural productivity and food security through the adoption of more sustainable and resilient agricultural practices.
- Invest in electricity production, including electrification in rural areas and the repair and modernization of existing equipment.
- Improve energy efficiency for cooking and promote alternative fuels to wood/coal.
- Improve the country’s access to renewable energy. Burundi has many assets including significant hydroelectric potential, abundant sunshine, geothermal resources to be developed, and biomass resources.
- Strengthen environmental governance, including the sustainable management of the country’s natural resources.
- Lake Tanganyika offers the country significant opportunities. The development of port activities could make Burundi an inter-regional trade hub.
 Green Climate Fund (2022). Projects & Programmes SAP017: Climate proofing food production investments in Imbo and Moso basins in the Republic of Burundi. [Online]. Available: https://www.greenclimate.fund/project/sap017.
 Green Climate Fund (2022). Readiness Proposal with CSE for the Republic of Burundi: Increasing Private Sector Involvement in the Transition towards a Low-Carbon and Climate Resilient Economy in Burundi.
 World Bank Group. 2017. Burundi Country Environmental Analysis : Understanding the Environment within the Dynamics of a Complex World—Linkages to Fragility, Conflict, and Climate Change. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/28899 License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
 The World Bank (2022). Access to electricity (% of population) – Burundi. [Online]. Available: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.ELC.ACCS.ZS?locations=BI.
 The World Bank Group (2022). The World Bank in Burundi: Overview. [Online]. Available: https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/burundi/overview.
 Rénovat NDABASHINZE, InfoNile (2021). Green charcoal to save forests in Burundi. [Online]. Available: https://infonile.org/en/2021/02/green-charcoal-to-save-forests/.
 Equator Initiative, Global Programe on Nature for Development (2022). KAZE Green Economy (KAGE) Ltd. [Online]. Available: https://www.equatorinitiative.org/2020/04/24/solution11021/.
 GET.invest (2022). GET.invest Burundi. [Online]. Available: https://www.get-invest.eu/about/country-windows/burundi/.
 IFC (2022). New Report Finds Burundi Could Create More Jobs and Grow its Economy Through Increased Private Sector Investment. [Online]. Available: https://pressroom.ifc.org/all/pages/PressDetail.aspx?ID=27258.