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Bujumbura: City in the Heart of Africa

alexandra buxbaum | Burundi

The Kamenge neighborhood is one of the most economically disadvantages neighborhoods in the city proper, and is densely populated. The urban population makes up 14.4% of the total countrywide population. The demand for potable water has not been met, and there are very limited sanitation services. The water supply and sanitation endured years of sabotage and destruction during the civil war and its aftermath.

Burundi, is a densely populated, landlocked country in East Africa and ranks as the poorest country worldwide, with 70% of the population living in poverty and just $272 GDP per capita.

The lingering effects of colonialism have led to a permanent state of political instability which has not allowed the country to focus on economic development, and there are high levels of corruption and mismanagement within the government which has affected the amount of foreign aid coming into the country.

There is a big divide between the ruling elites and rural farmers that provide almost all of the resources to the party-state, yet they are for the most part powerless. After gaining independence in 1962, there were a series of political assassinations, coups, bouts of ethnic cleansing and two civil wars has contributed to the country being underdeveloped as any economic progress achieved became undone by the next conflict.

The history of Imperialism teachs a larger lesson of how racism has been deliberately used to divide and rule the exploited masses, and what can happen if these tactics are not stopped in their tracks before they gain a foothold.


Burundi is the world’s poorest country and has a travel advisory of Level 3: Reconsider Travel, and this place would be my first introduction to the African continent. During my brief time spent there, I only experienced the warm hospitality Burundians are famous for, had more than once been met with the curious gaze, friendly smiles, and intrigue from the children who approached me for a rare opportunity to see firsthand for themselves a ‘Muzungu’, which is a Bantu word for a white person.

On a few occasions I was asked why the west always looks down on Africa, to which I had no answer for. People would point out all the mass shootings that happen in the US and then ask how could we could then possibly consider their country to be more dangerous. Everyone I encountered took great pride in their country, which has rich cultural traditions, and the young people I met wanted to engage in meaningful work that would in some way help out their country or uplift some of their fellow citizens out of the cycle of poverty.

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