House of Commons International Development Committee: The Closure of DFID's Bilateral Aid Programme in Burundi



The Government should reinstate its bilateral aid to the fragile African state of Burundi, MPs have recommended in a report out today. The International Development Committee warns that ending the Department for International Development’s (DFID) programme at such a critical time - when the country is making the transition from conflict to stability - is a strategic mistake.

The report warns that there is a regional dimension to the conflicts in the Great Lakes area of Central Africa and that instability in Burundi could undermine DFID’s progress in Rwanda, the DRC and the rest of the region. DFID is providing over £2.5 billion to other countries in the Great Lakes region between 2011 and 2015.

The Chairman of the Committee, Malcolm Bruce MP, said:

“DFID’s decision to end bilateral aid to Burundi is incompatible with the Government’s wider objectives to focus on the poorest countries and to help fragile and conflict-affected states develop into stable and prosperous democracies.”

“Ending our bilateral aid programme to the poorest country in the Great Lakes region sends the wrong political signal and makes it look like the UK is turning its back on the people of Burundi.”

“More worryingly, it could jeopardise our progress in a region that is struggling to develop after decades of conflict. The Secretary of State should reinstate bilateral aid to Burundi.”

Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world and is unlikely to meet most of the Millennium Development Goals. The report argues that funds for an effective and efficient bilateral programme in Burundi could be found by very small reductions in the increases in funding of the other countries in the region.

The UK currently has bilateral programmes with all the countries in the Eastern Africa and Great Lakes Region—Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC and South Sudan The MPs question why bilateral aid to Burundi is being ended when very considerable increases in direct aid are being provided to its neighbours including DRC and Rwanda. In 2010 the UK provided £13.7 million to Burundi. The proposal to double the programme, and make it viable, was rejected by the Government.

DFID argued that the cost of the office in Burundi is too high in relation to the programme. The report argues that this can be addressed by increasing the size of the programme—something which has happened in every other country in the region. A stronger argument would have been that bilateral aid cannot be spent effectively in Burundi, but DFID has not made this case.

DFID says it will still have influence in Burundi through its multilateral programmes and with Trade Mark East Africa – a regional initiative to boost regional trade. However, the Committee notes that Burundi will struggle to match export levels of its neighbours because its agricultural productivity is so low.

Finally, the Committee notes that its ability to assess DFID’s decision to close its bilateral aid programme in Burundi was hindered by the Department’s refusal to provide the committee with all the relevant documents in full – rather than in a redacted form.