BUJUMBURA March 25th (ABP) – The Cabinet met on Tuesday, March 22, 2022 in an extraordinary session, in Bujumbura, under the chairmanship of His Excellency the President of the Republic, Mr. Evariste Ndayishimiye, with two bills on the agenda.
The first was the support project for the foundations of the digital economy in Burundi, presented by the Minister of Communication, Information Technologies and the Media. The importance of information and communication technologies is undeniable today in all sectors of life in the country.
Currently, the goal set by the government is to allow Burundi to benefit from a real technological leap likely to improve its economic growth, by allowing the development of activities in a secure legal framework, using information technologies and communication.
It is in that context that the World Bank has just initiated a project which aims to lay the foundations of the digital economy in Burundi. The project is of crucial importance as it will increase access to high-speed internet, especially for unconnected rural populations, the higher education sector and improve the government’s ability to provide public services through the use of digital technology.
Indeed, the digitization of public services would not be possible as long as all the communes of the country are not broadband-connected and have easy access to terminals.
Likewise, education being a fundamental basis on which the peoples of the whole world rely for socioeconomic development; it is essential to provide university circles in general and those of the rural world in particular, with broadband connectivity.
The source of funding for that project is a grant from the World Bank in the amount of eighty million US dollars with the possibility of mobilization of private capital by the World Bank to the amount of eleven million US dollars, intended for the subsidy of the private sector operating in the information and communication technology sector.
To ensure the effective implementation of the project, there are prerequisites that must be met, in particular, the establishment of the legal framework on data protection, since the project will generate numerous and large data, the restructuring from BBS to the public-private partnership model so that during the implementation of the project, the public and private sector can navigate.
After exchanges and debates, the following observations and recommendations were made. There was initially a public administration computerization project called “Digital Burundi” which was changed without consultation with the government to become “Project to support the foundations of the digital economy in Burundi”; some project components are not aligned with the National Development Plan and the priorities of the sector ministry.
They need to be aligned with government programs and priorities. Moreover, Burundi already has the foundations of the digital economy, in particular optical fiber throughout the national territory, as well as other tools. It is therefore necessary to draw up a plan to operationalize the existing one. Reading the document shows that it was written or influenced by people who have a direct interest in it.
The Cabinet recommended that the document should be purged of all pejorative terms that give an incorrect image of the country, as well as false data that shines through. All the conditionality imposed on the government must be removed from the text.
The project coordinator should be remunerated by the project, as is customary. The minister in charge of information technology has been asked to address a request for an explanation to the executives who participated in the preparation of the document and who allowed terms denigrating to the country to pass.
A commission composed of technicians from the Office of the President, the prime minister’s office and the ministries responsible for ICTs, Finance, Education and the Public Service, will be set up to rework the document which will be brought back to the Cabinet Meeting for reanalysis. It is the reworked document that will be discussed with the development partner.
Ministries were reminded to always have ready projects awaiting funding and not to wait for their preparation when funding is announced.
Secondly, the Cabinet analyzed the memorandum of understanding between the government of Burundi and East African Region Projects in relation to the investment project for the exploitation of Musongati nickel and associated minerals, presented by the Minister of Hydraulics, Energy and Mines.
The East African Region Project Group has expressed a desire to invest in the mining sector to exploit Musongati nickel and associated minerals.
In 2018, the Government of Burundi agreed to sign a mandate with that company to mobilize funding for that project aimed at exploiting those deposits. Currently, this company confirms that the necessary funds are available and it is ready to allocate a package of 1.5 billion US dollars per year as a financial subsidy for a period of ten years, i.e., 15 billion US dollars.
Those funds will be distributed as follows: – East African Regional Group will pay annually for ten years an amount of 500 million US dollars, or 33.3% to the State of Burundi, which must be accounted for as budgetary revenue of the State at Musongati Nickel Royalty; – 15% of those funds will be used for public benefit projects initiated by the parties; – 51.7% will be used for nickel mining.
That memorandum of understanding relates to the implementation of the project. Among other things, it specifies the methods of financing the project and operating the deposit, as well as the commitments of the parties. That memorandum of understanding will have a duration of two (2) months.
Exceeding the deadline without transfer of the funds of the first installment to the Central Bank, the memorandum will become null and void. After analyzing the bill, the Cabinet passed it.