Burundi is a landlocked country with a rich history of violence and cultural divides. Much of its economy, or 40% to be more precise, is supported by foreign aid. Fortunately for the rest of the world, one part of its agricultural exports that employs 90% of its labour force, is coffee and tea exports.
The country is known for its coffee that has intensely bold flavour qualities as rich as its volatile history, with a sweetness that hints at the potential of the country. Many Australians have no doubt enjoyed a cup of single-origin Burundi on their way to work.
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Case Study: How to compare money transfer companies for sending money to Burundi
Dez is a dynamic young leader of a non-profit organisation in Australia that campaigns against human trafficking. Due to the latest political upheavals and violence between cultural groups in Burundi, most people are advising Dez not go. As an activist, she cannot help herself and goes about getting details for having enough cash resources when she is in Burundi and potentially stranded.
After some research using 1,000 AUD as a comparison amount, she concludes that her best options are companies that will be able to deliver her cash at agent locations in a safe area.
How did Dez compare money transfer companies to send and receive money between Burundi and Australia?
Exchange Rates. The exchange rates in Burundi can be in a volatile state depending on the political situation. It can be a smart move to book a rate in advance when things are looking good.
Pickup Methods. Money can be received in a supported bank account or be picked up at a MoneyGram or Western Union agent location in one of the main towns. It is advised to stick to main cities when picking up cash.
Fees. When you are comparing different money transfer companies, the fees can sometimes be tolerable due to a better exchange rate or it can add to an already bad exchange rate.
Bank to Bank Benefits. Bank to bank relationships to Burundi from other international locations is limited. Citibank supports the BIF currency but does not necessarily transfer money to bank accounts in Burundi.
Turnaround Time. The turnaround time for sending money to Burundi can take minutes or a couple of days. The availability of currencies can also determine the turnaround time for money to be picked up at an agent location.
Transfer Methods. The available transfer methods that Dez and her associates can use is to transfer the money through an agent, online account, phone or where it is supported, a bank to bank account.
Transfer Options. Depending on the service used, transfer options can include recurring payments, spot contracts, and booked rates.
Minimum/Maximum Transfer Amounts. Minimum and maximum transfer amounts are important not only on the sending end, but also on the receiving end. It won’t help to send a maximum amount if a maximum amount cannot be received. Or, if a low amount is sent from Burundi where there is no minimum sending amount sent and the currency is too weak to actually have a AUD available for that amount.
Customer Service. Customer service is extremely important when visiting countries with a weakened economy and political upheaval as Burundi does in the latter 2015 and 2016. Make use of MoneyGram and Western Union’s phone support and compare which supports you best. Email support is vital in having tracking records of conversations where difficulties arise and is advised where possible to cover your own tracks when sending money and experiencing a difficulty.
How can friends of Dez send some money to Burundi from Australia?
Money transfer services - Available international money transfer companies are MoneyGram, Western Union, and WorldFirst Foreign Exchange.
Banks - Citibank supports the BIF currency but does not report having branches in Burundi itself. A Citibank branch will be able to supply you with the necessary details on how they support the BIF and whether you can send money from the branch to a bank account in Burundi.
How can you receive money from Burundi when you are in Australia?
If any of Dez’s fellow activists will need money from her, she will need to go to an agent location as specified below and send money through a MoneyGram or Western Union service. If the bank is supported in Australia, she can send money to a bank account that supports the BIF currency for e.g. Citibank. Alternatively, she can send money to a MoneyGram or Western Union agent location in Australia and one of her associates can do a cash pickup.
For emergencies, Dez can go to one of the agent locations in Burundi’s main towns where there is preferably a lot of business activity. Below are listed a couple of MoneyGram and Western Union locations for a cash pickup. She can visit one of these agent locations with her photo ID and tracking or reference number to pick up cash that has been sent to her.
Cash pickup locations in Burundi when using MoneyGram and Western Union
Banque De Gestion et de Financement Blvd De La Liberte 1 Province Bujumbura Mairie, 1035 257217838 Monday to Friday, 7:30am to 5:30pm, Saturday to Sunday, 7:30am to 3pm
Banque de Gestion et de Financement Agence Guichet Buyenzi Province Bujumbura Mairie, 1035 257221352 Monday to Sunday, 8am to 5:30pm
Banque de Gestion et de Financement Agence Gitega Province Gitega, 1035 257264177 Monday to Friday, 7:30am to 5:30pm, Saturday to Sunday, 7:30am to 3pm
Agence Aeroport Quartier Gakumbu Bujumbura, Bujumbura +257-78110057 Monday to Friday, 7:30am to 5:30pm, Saturday, 11:00am to 3pm, Sunday, 9am to 2pm
Agence Asiatique Quartier Asiatique Bujumbura, Bujumbura +257-22-249993 Monday to Friday, 7:30am to 5:30pm, Saturday, 11:00am to 3pm, Sunday are closed
Agence Gitega Quartier Musinzira Gitega, Gitega +257-78110085 Monday to Friday, 7:30am to 5:30pm, Saturday, 11:00am to 3pm, Sunday, 9am to 2pm
Don’t ignore these tips for picking up cash in Burundi!
Burundi in its current state is not a travel-friendly country. The Australian government has declared it as too politically unstable, a hotspot for terrorist attacks, and extremely high in crime and violence to travel to.
This means that in the case of Dez, she has herself in a tricky situation. The general safety advice is to not travel at night ever, and to stay away from areas other densely populated business areas. Public transport has also received a no-go from travellers. Because of severe laws against money theft, Dez is advised to carry more than sufficient proof that the money she picks up is intended for her.
What are the steps that you need to follow to send money to Burundi?
When sending to an agent location in Burundi:
You will need a copy of the photo ID to be safe and details of recipient
The details of the specific agent location (to make sure they have the available currencies)
If you’re doing it online, you will need to register an account with the service provider you are going to use.
If you are sending money to a supported bank account in Burundi:
Details of the bank and bank account number
The branch number of the bank along with any of the necessary SWIFT / BIC / IBAN details
Amount in the supported currency
Details of the recipient
Background information about Burundi
Burundi experienced a consistently high Real GDP growth above worldwide averages up until the end of 2015. Political instability in 2015 had a negative impact on the latest 2015 Real GDP reports, but fortunately, its coffee exports have not disappeared! Australia is Burundi’s 24th highest export destination and ranks Australia as 32nd in its sources of imports.
Main imports from Australia is in the form of wheat which totals A$812,000 of the almost A$1 million imports. Total merchandise trade between the two countries reaches just past A$1.5 million.
Shirley Liu is Finder's global program manager. She was previously the publisher for banking and investments and has also written comparisons for energy, money transfers, Uber Eats and many other topics. Shirley has a Master of Commerce and a Bachelor of Media, Journalism and Communications from the University of New South Wales. She is passionate about helping people find the best deal for their needs.
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