Reality Check: Who suffers more between Rwanda and Burundi when Burundi closes her borders?

Pierre Nkurunziza and Paul Kagame

Much has been said this week when Burundi decided, out of retaliation, to close off her borders with Rwanda, about who loses the more between Rwanda and Burundi.

This is not about whether or not Burundi’s actions are justified or NOT; rather, a reality check on the economic implications of Burundi’s actions to both countries.

Contrary to what the government of Rwanda says, statistics show that Rwanda stands to lose the more. According to the official figures from Rwanda National Institute of Statistics, Rwanda’s key destination markets of exports during the first quarter of 2016 were: Kenya (US$ 27.34 million, 29.78 percent share), the United Arab Emirates (US$ 13.74 million, 14.96 percent share), Switzerland (US$ 11.89 million, 12.95 percent share), the Democratic Republic of Congo (US$ 10.31 million, 11.23 percent share), and Uganda (US$ 4.57, 4.98 percent share). Together, these five countries account for US$ 67.84 million or 73.91 percent share of total value of domestic exports in the first quarter of 2016.

On the East Africa Block, Rwanda’s exported to the value of US$ 36.45 million to the East African Community Partner States (EAC) in the first quarter of 2016, accounting for around 39.71 percent of total domestic exports. Of these, about 75.01 percent were destined to Kenya (US$ 27.34 million).

In terms of EAC export shares, Uganda and Burundi followed Kenya and received domestic exports from Rwanda valued at US$ 4.57 million and US$ 3.22 million, respectively.

Now brace for the imports: The total value of imports in the first quarter of 2016 amounted to US$ 456.93 million. In this period, Rwanda’s top five imports originated from the following countries: China (US$ 101.19 million), Uganda (US$ 47.31 million), Kenya (US$ 37.12 million), United Arab Emirates (US$ 27.00 million) and India (US$ 26.83 million).

Seen in the EAC perspective, in the first quarter of 2016, Rwanda’s imports from EAC Partner States totaled US$ 106.24 million, representing 23 percent share of overall imported commodities.
Imports mainly originated from Uganda and Kenya (44.53 percent and 34.95 percent of total imports from EAC, respectively), representing together around 79 percent of total imports from EAC. Tanzania takes after in the third place with 18.94 percent share of total imports from EAC and Burundi last with only a 1.58 percent share. In other words, the net value of Burundi’s exports to Rwanda is one third of Rwanda’s exports to Burundi. And it is worth noting that in the past five years, when Rwanda and Burundi were at relative peace, Rwanda’s net worth from exports to Burundi was four times than it is today while Burundi’s net worth had almost remained the same.

Verdict: By sealing off her borders, Burundi suffers by one third of what Rwanda suffers, in economic terms.


Didas Gasana