Burundi builds trade bridge with India over pots and pans

October 27th, 2010 - 12:49 pm ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, Oct 27 (IANS) The little landlocked republic of Burundi in the great lakes region of East Africa is forging an unusual business bridge with India by importing casseroles and cooking pans.

“The price of kitchenware is reasonable in India unlike many developed nations across the world with which the country has business ties,” Burundi’s Ambassador Rubuka Aloys told IANS in a chat here.

The embassy of the Republic of Burundi that set up its diplomatic mission last year stationed its first envoy in the capital this February.

“Cooperation between the two countries has just begun. We are importing casseroles, cooking and kitchen equipment because the prices are good in India,” Aloys said.

The envoy who lives with his wife in India is “gradually adjusting his palate to the spicy Indian food.

“It is very difficult but I am gradually learning to eat it,” he said.

“Our staple cuisine is a combination of beans, rice, potatoes, bananas and cassava. We also grow cotton, tea, coffee and sugarcane which contribute 60 percent to foreign exchange earned from agricultural exports. Burundi has an agricultural economy,” he said.

The independent nation, with a population of about 10 million, has a vibrant Indian diaspora, mostly traders, the envoy said. “The capital Bujumbura boasts of three Indian restaurants, including one which makes tandoor dishes. Indian food is popular in Burundi,” Aloys said.

The country is looking forward to trade with India in “pharmaceuticals and medical equipment”.

“My country is also rich in minerals like nickel, coal tar, cobalt, copper, bit of uranium, gold and petrol. We are conducting feasibility studies whether nickel can be mined commercially. We are talking to American and South African companies to explore prospecting. India is too far,” the envoy said.

“We will study the viability of other minerals later,” he said.

The country rests its economic hope in its minerals. According to geo-chemical studies, the Karonge rare earth deposits make the country a virtual treasure trove of mineral reserves.

Many minerals found in the rare earth deposits are yet to be identified.

The ambassador has issued nearly 500 visas to Indians since he took over the mission in February.

“Most of those who visited Burundi in the last six months were either Indian businessmen or families, who went to meet their relatives in the country,” Aloys said.

“Indian entrepreneurs are keen to invest in tea and textiles. A few want to invest in minerals too, but we want to strengthen cooperation in the agri-sector,” the ambassador said.

“In 1990, we tried to import the Tata cars to Burundi. But the cars did not do well. We stopped importing them. We are trying to import larger Mahindra and Scorpio vehicles - but it is still nebulous,” Aloys said.

A former Belgian colony, Burundi has a turbulent political history. For four decades since the 1950s to the early 2000, the country was ravaged by civil war and political conflict till the United Nations stepped in to broker peace with treaties between the warring ethnic factions.

Reconstruction efforts in Burundi began as late as 2006.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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