HomeFeatures/AnalysisExclusive interview with Donat Niyonzima, Director General of the Electricity Regulatory Agency...

Exclusive interview with Donat Niyonzima, Director General of the Electricity Regulatory Agency in Burundi

Donat_NiyonzimaAt the upcoming EAPIC’s Country Spotlight sessions, Mr Niyonzima is part of a high-level delegation that will address the conference on the investment opportunities in Burundi.

1) Background on the Electricity Regulatory Agency in Burundi and your role there?
In 2015, Burundi enacted the electricity sector regulator and liberalized the generation market (2015), with other aspects of the sector remaining under the purview of the monopoly utility. The legal framework is attracting private investment and strong regulatory establishment is an added value to balance stakeholders’ interests.

Briefly, the Regulatory Agency in Burundi has the role to monitor the process of power projects development and implementation with regards to the legal framework and customer interests‘ protection, to set regulation framework, to set tariffs for grid and off grid connected projects, etc.
I am the Director General of this regulatory Agency from its creation till now.

2) What are the challenges to getting power projects off the ground in Burundi?
The main challenges include the regulatory framework which has not been completely set due to lack of technical and financial support. The other one closely linked to the first one, is that the main law has not been covered with decrees and other legal instruments in order to become well applicable. The third one which is perceived by the investors is the off-taker risks and insufficient tariffs.

3) What are the opportunities in renewable power in particular?

In Burundi, the legal framework gives access to private and public investors. For renewable energy, the isolated areas are not covered and it’s interesting to get those areas covered. Even the procedures are easier to get official permission for off-grid project according to the new legal framework. The government has the policy to promote the industrial sector (small factories) in the rural areas (agriculture). The renewable energies are relevant and necessary for a sustainable development of the country.

5) How investor friendly is Burundi?
Burundi has made significant progress to improve the doing business score. An investment promotion agency was created and the process to create a new company has been changed to be finalized within a half-day. The investment code comprises various facilities related to taxes and others.

6) What regional projects is the agency involved in – how crucial is regional cooperation for the region’s energy future?

The regional interconnection projects and cross-border sharing of energy and power projects. So far we are still building the agency.

7) What is your vision for the energy sector?
To build a regulatory roadmap for a sustainable development with all stakeholders interests well balanced. We will build a regulatory framework which will work as an incentive to the stakeholders. The next decades, we will try to do whatever possible to allow private investment (PPP, Concessions) in distribution.

8) You are a panellist in the programme at EAPIC during the Country Investment Focus session on Burundi. What will be your message at the event?
My message will be focusing on the new sector legal framework and the opportunities.

9) What are you most looking forward to at EAPIC?
At EAPIC, we expect to attract investors to create factories and other investment projects which can increase the demand because in the near future, we will not be facing the deficit. The other investment may be directed to infrastructure upgrades and extensions. We are looking forward to informing the regional and international community that, the sector is now open to private investment and everything is under preparation to set a good environment for investment.

More about Donat Niyonzima:
Donat Niyonzima is the first Director General of the Burundi electricity regulatory Agency, a new entity in Burundi that has been functioning since 2014. This regulatory Agency – “Agence de Régulation des Secteurs de l’Eau Potable, de l’Electricité et des Mines” in French – has regulatory responsibility for the water, electricity and mining sectors in Burundi. Prior to being appointed as the Regulator in Burundi, Mr. Niyonzima worked in the telecommunications sector with a worldwide Chinese equipment provider with operations in Burundi. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of Burundi, and Mr. Niyonzima has consulted for more than a dozen international organizations over the past 10 years, including the World Bank, EU, UNDP, Trade Mark EAC, UNESCO, Belgian Development Agency, and GIZ.