BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - South Africa plans to invest in tourism, energy and infrastructure in Burundi to help the central African nation which is still struggling to revive its economy after two decades of civil war.
Africa’s biggest economy signed an economic cooperation deal with the landlocked nation during a visit by President Jacob Zuma, who said South African business was keen to invest in Burundi’s financial services, transport and agriculture.
“Our departments responsible for trade and industry have been directed to prepare a program of action that will outline how the two countries will work together to boost investments and increase the volumes of trade,” Zuma told a South African and Burundi business meeting.
“There are various areas of cooperation that our business people are looking into. These include tourism, energy and infrastructures development.”
Zuma served in the past as a chief mediator in talks to broker peace in the small, coffee-producing nation of 8 million people, where a spate of violent incidents have raised fears of a new insurgency in the central African country.
Burundi has enjoyed relative peace since the former Hutu hardline rebel Forces for National Liberation (FNL) laid down their weapons and joined the government in 2009 after two decades of insurgency that claimed the lives of 300,000 people.
But attacks against civilians and soldiers have increased in recent months and Uprona, the main Tutsi party and part of the coalition government led by President Pierre Nkurunziza, has said they bear the hallmarks of a new rebellion.
Burundi’s authorities blame bandits for the attacks.
A coalition of Burundi opposition parties known as the Alliance for Democratic Change (ADC) called Zuma to persuade Nkurunziza to start talks with the opposition. Zuma and his host did not make any public comment on the issue.
Burundi Investment Promotion Authority said private investment by South Africans in the country reached $209.7 million at the end of 2010, resulting from a series of reforms undertaken by the country to improve its business climate.
The bulk of funds went into the country’s tourism and agro-business sectors, the authority said.