BUJUMBURA October 20th (ABP) – “The reopening of foreign exchange bureaus, which were suspended on February 7, 2020, comes at the right time, after the lifting of sanctions from the European Union (EU) and the United States which weighed heavily on the Burundian economy”. These words are part of the statement issued on Tuesday, October 18, 2022 in Bujumbura by the chairman of the Federal Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CFCIB), Mr. Olivier Suguru, during a press conference.
According to him, the CFCIB welcomed the recent measures taken by the government of Burundi through the Bank of the Republic of Burundi on the reopening of foreign exchange bureaus and the lifting of restrictions on funds received from international instant transfers sent from abroad.
These measures, he added, aim to strengthen the country’s macroeconomic stability in the context where the international economy, that of Burundi in particular, has been weighed down for almost three years by Covid-19 and since February 2022 by the Russo-Ukrainian conflict which today has a very negative effect on international trade. “We affirm unequivocally that such a measure on the part of the government will have a positive impact on the foreign exchange market and will have the impact on the household basket in the short and medium term,” he continued to say.
According to Mr. Suguru, the so-called parallel market will be bailed out in foreign currency and gradually an equilibrium exchange rate will be released to get closer to the official exchange rate set daily by the Central Bank. To that end, he indicated that companies or economic operators in general will have a breath of fresh air in access to currencies.
In an economic context where importers were getting 50% of their supplies on the parallel market, the measures taken by the government will bring down the rising prices observed over the past twelve months with an exchange rate of 3,500 BIF against one US dollar.
The chair of the CFCIB has no doubt that the lifting of restrictions on international instant transfers will also have a positive impact on the currency fund: “It is no longer a secret for anyone that since 2020, Burundians have been going to Uvira, Rwanda and Tanzania to collect funds in dollars through Western Union, Money gram and other money transfer agencies,” he said.
In other countries of the continent, he continued to say, currency transfers from the Diaspora to their native country amount to billions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars each year. For this, he noted, it is appropriate to take certain measures, in particular by issuing clear directives in order to encourage all cross-border traders from neighboring countries to flock to the Burundian market.
Vis-à-vis those measures recently taken by the BRB, Mr. Suguru estimates that other accompanying measures are essential, in this case, the removal of non-tariff barriers of various kinds which strain the entire supply chain in cross-border trade. The harmonization of tariffs on Covid-19 tests with the member countries of the East African Community (EAC) is also one of the priorities in order to be able to attract as many cross-border traders as possible.
The easing of measures on road transport agencies to Burundi must also be listed among the urgent matters for improving the business climate, but also and above all the opening of border posts at least until 10 p.m. given that the other EAC countries open the borders round the clock.