Burundi follows in footsteps of South Africa and Mexico in the fight against poverty

Oct 17, 2014

Photo: UNDP Burundi/Aude Rossignol/2014 - Small businesses in Burundi require support and knowledge to grow. The success experienced in terms of the development of SMEs in South Africa and Mexico could provide solutions to Burundi.

Bujumbura - In Burundi, two people out of three live below the poverty line and almost 80 per cent of the population earn less than 1 US dollar a day. Unemployment is one of the most serious problems and particularly affects young people. As a result, what initiatives could be put in place to bring about hope for a better future?

Aware of the problem, the Burundi Government has made the diversification of the Burundian economy and the creation of new non-agricultural jobs one of the priorities of the second-generation strategic framework for growth and poverty reduction (SFGPR II). UNDP is committed to supporting the government’s efforts to improve the conditions of a favorable environment for the private sector, job creation and reviving the local economy.

Convinced that the fight against poverty cannot be won alone, the UNDP office in Burundi arranged for experts from Mexico and South Africa to visit in order to share the success they have had in stimulating the SME sector with stakeholders - i.e. government representatives, the private sector and donors. The purpose of this meeting was to inspire and encourage the establishment of new job creation initiatives in Burundi.

The Mexican and South African projects are part of a UNDP pilot programme entitled Supplier Development Programme (SDP). It supports SMEs in the process of value chain productivity.

Supporting SMEs in their development

The aim of the SDP in South Africa is to offer technical assistance to SMEs. To this end, UNDP has trained 40 specialists to support the management of newly established companies and to encourage the participation of the poor in the growth process by creating jobs for young people and encouraging rural development. The purpose of this technical assistance is to create a win-win situation for both large companies and their suppliers while increasing the volume, quantity and quality of customer sales.

In order to illustrate this programme, Ms Manqindi, Communications and Partnerships Adviser to the UNDP, presented the success of food micro-enterprises (Household Food Security Programme) in South Africa. This pilot project creates small family farm units occupying an area of 80m2. These units work together to offer the market enough food to meet demand. This cooperation among small production units has strengthened the capacity of small businesses, and streamlined transportation, logistic and marketing costs. Participating households have improved their diet by consuming 10% of their production: a model applicable to Burundi.

Mr Garcia Rivera, a consultant in business development, also presented the SDP initiatives developed in Mexico, including the creation of a training center and a business incubator to support early stage entrepreneurs, and the development of organic farming production units. The interest of these SMEs is to successfully operate on restricted farmland while increasing production through the use of greenhouses in a chemical free environment. These companies pay their employees a daily salary of 2.5 times more than the average salary in the traditional agricultural sector.

During their one-week mission to Burundi, the SDP programme experts met with many public and private stakeholders involved in the economic development sector. There is keen interest to start applying such methods to the Burundian situation. Everyone agrees that the private sector must be involved from the outset in the development of such projects. However, to turn ideas into actions, value chains that reflect local realities should be carefully defined to allow the poor to be integrated into a virtuous production cycle. The aim is to identify the areas in which Burundi has a comparative advantage.

[1] A value chain is the set of procedures used to determine the ability of an organization to gain competitive advantage. The procedures correspond to the services of the company or, in an arbitrary manner, to the interdependent complex activities that make up the organization.


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