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Burundi has strong commodity resources which give good potential opportunity to attract inbound investment. The landlocked country is historically known for its agricultural sector, where its exports include coffee, tea and cotton. It also has underexploited nickel, gold and platinum reserves.

However, it is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a faltering economy and ongoing conflict which has left many inhabitants suffering food shortages; the government recently introduced an export ban in an attempt to combat the issue. The recent re-election of President Pierre Nkurunziza for a controversial third term prompted widespread protests, violence and a failed military coup.

The EU suspended direct aid to the Burundian administration in 2016 after concerns that the government was not doing enough to end the ongoing conflict, which has caused many businesses to close and residents to flee the country. In addition, the government has also voted to withdraw from the International Chamber of Commerce, prompting international concern.

Unsurprisingly, the recent troubles have caused a slowdown in legal work, but a small number of law firms remain active in the country.

Mabushi Chambers has a strong profile in Burundi’s legal market and its expertise spans corporate, commercial, disputes, IP, banking, finance, employment, construction and real estate mandates. Its client base includes international clients, as well as entrepreneurs and SMEs, and it often advises on foreign direct investment. Augustin Mabushi has particular expertise in international arbitration and corporate matters; Edouard Ngendakumana specialises in employment, family and criminal law; and Ambroise Niyongabo is well versed in commercial matters, as well as real estate and litigation.

Rubeya & Co – Advocates is a leading firm in the market and benefits from the international links drawn from its membership of the DLA Piper Africa Group. Recent work includes advising on a loan agreement between a public real estate company and Biz Planners and Advisors to finance a social housing project. The IFC, PTA Bank, Kobil Burundi and Toyota are also clients. Firm chairman Willy Rubeya is ‘brilliant’, particularly for projects work, and managing partner Claver Nigarura heads the corporate department. Yves Ntamashimikiro leads on restructuring and employment advice; Ida Djuma is noted for litigation; Anatole Nahayo advises on tax-related mandates; and Claudine Mukerabirori handles IP and technology work.

Tanzania-headquartered Mkono & Co. Advocates has a branch office in Bujumbura, which is noted for its strengths in corporate, commercial and financial matters, as well as dispute resolution.

Ncuti Law Firm & Consultancy is active across contract, corporate, insurance, employment, real estate, technology and IP-related instructions. It is also noted for its disputes expertise, having acted in several high-profile cases in the region. Naraguma Jean Marie and managing partner Horace Ncutiyumuheto are recommended.

Shonubi, Musoke, Gilbert & Partners advises on M&A, banking and project finance, energy, IP, telecoms, real estate and public-private partnerships. Eric Ngendahayo is a name to note along with founding partner Gilbert Nibigirwe, who is experienced in banking and finance mandates. The firm operates in alliance with Norton Rose Fulbright.

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