Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Friday landed at the Melchior Ndadaye International Airport in Bujumbura for a two-day official visit in which she is expected to market her country as an investment destination and sign bilateral trade deals.
This is her first visit to Burundi as president, after attending the funeral of former president Pierre Nkurunziza last year. The Tanzanian leader was received by Burundi’s Vice-President Prosper Bazombanza.
The two presidents held a closed-door meeting at the Ntare House, Bujumbura, before addressing the press in the afternoon. President Évariste Ndasyihsimiye said they agreed on exchange programmes in the fields of agriculture and livestock, and in services, mainly in teaching of Kiswahili and French.
Burundian fertiliser company Itracom is said to be in the process of opening a plant in Tanzania, where it has invested $180 million.
President Samia touted the two countries’ trade ties, noting that bilateral trade increased from $35 million in 2015 to more than $86 million in 2019.
“This is not enough, as we wish to increase trade between the two countries,” she said.
Burundi heavily depends on the Dar es Salaam port and the Central Corridor for imports and export of goods. Last year, 476,000 tonnes of Burundian goods passed through the port of Dar es Salaam. President Samia said that her country already allocated 10 hectares for a dry port in Kwala in the Tanzanian Coast Province for Burundians to use to move cargo.
In September last year, when President Ndayishimiye made his first official visit outside the country, he met with the late president John Magufuli in Kigoma in Tanzania, where they agreed to build a narrow gauge railway to transport nickel from Burundi. The railway is expected to run from Uvinza to Gitega via Musongati. The largest deposits of nickel are found in Kabanga, Ngara district in Tanzania and Musongati in Burundi.
The two governments set up a permanent commission that was to meet and study the modalities of implementing the project.
“We agreed on the construction of roads and railways from Uvinza-Musongati and Gitega, so we have told our finance ministers to find funds to conduct these operations,” said the Tanzanian president, adding, “With these minerals in both countries we can come together and build a bigger market.”
Burundi has 231 metric tonnes of proven Nickel reserves countrywide in Nyabikere (46MT), Waga (35MT) and Musongati (150MT). Last year, the two governments agreed to build a refinery for nickel. Burundian mineral traders were granted access to utilise the Kigoma mineral market in western Tanzania.
President Samia also celebrated the entry of the Tanzania National Fibre Broadband Backbone in Burundi, with the capacity of 100GB. In 2019, Tanzania and Burundi signed an agreement to use the system, but the use is still low at 26GB.
President Ndayishimiye has prioritised mending relations with neighbouring countries and the international community.
The Tanzanian government has called for the lifting of sanctions on Burundi that were imposed in 2015 when the late president Pierre Nkurunziza contested a third term in the office sparking protests and a political crisis.
President Samia also pledged her support for Burundi’s bid to join the Southern African Development Community.