Spotlight on Innovation

BioEnergy Burundi; Innovating Sustainability

In the tiny country of Burundi, briquettes made from recycled waste are replacing traditional charcoal

© 2016 D. Vega / Raoul Men

Burundi is a tiny, landlocked central African country with a population of about 11.2 million people. Bordered by Rwanda, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Lake Tanganyika to the southwest, it is one of the very smallest countries by area in Africa.

The territory of Burundi has been home to various peoples for at least 500 years, and for 200, was a united Kingdom. In the early 20th century, the area was occupied by Germany, and subsequently colonized. After Germany’s defeat in World War I, the territory was ceded to Belgium. During this time the country was ruled by Belgium as part of a combined state with Rwanda known as Ruanda-Urundi. The country would gain independence from Belgium and split from Rwanda in 1962.

Political and regional instability, sectarian strife, civil wars, coups, and assassinations have marred independent Burundi’s political history. Its most recent major internal conflict lasted from 1993 to 2005, leaving the country with one of the world’s least developed economies and lowest per capita GDP’s. Weak infrastructure, high population density, and mass emigration have hamstrung efforts to kickstart development in the country, and any new business success at all is welcome in the country.

Today, the country’s economy remains largely based on agriculture, which supplies about 30% of the GDP and 90% of employment. The country’s principal export is coffee, but cotton, tin ore, and gold are also exported from Burundi’s main port, capital, and largest city, Bujumbura.

Bujumbura, with its colonial city-center, is the home to country’s national University, a French and Belgian school, and its main port and airport, Bujumbura International. It is truly the center of the country’s economic, political, and cultural lives, and it is where one entrepreneur, with an innovative idea and a will to succeed, built a company that shows the country’s potential, ingenuity, and perseverance in the face of adversity.

© 2016 Jave Zam / Dav Idega

Innovation that Improves Lives

BioEnergy Burundi creates inexpensive biofuel charcoal briquettes from household waste—largely from Bujumbura. This innovative approach to using widely available, renewable energy in lieu of timber contributes to the fight against deforestation, the reduction of carbon emissions, and saves money over traditional charcoal, which is used for cooking around Burundi.

Bionergy’s briquettes made from rice hulls, sawdust, peelings, organic waste, and the like, found their first client with the military. Over the years, more and more clients picked up on the environmentally-friendly solution to an everyday problem, and now, production capacity has expanded to the point where individual housemakers can enjoy the cost-saving benefits of these briquettes as well. BioEnergy has done much in reviving the local economy through both its creation over 250 local jobs and spreading the savings of its innovative product to the city’s hotels, restaurants, government institutions, and homes.

The process of creating the briquettes is totally clean and emission free, from beginning to end. First, waste is collected from Bujumbura and the surrounding areas, then non-organic waste (such as plastic) is separated out to be sold to recyclers. The organic waste is then dried in the sun, an energy-free process, then it is ground down to a fine powder, and compacted into briquettes. The final product, without the use of fresh timber or chemicals such as accelerants, works just as well traditional briquettes for a fraction of the cost.

Bioenergy Burundi and its Founder and Director, Benjamin Bikorimana, have attracted plenty of attention in Burundi. The company and CEO were awarded a Certificate of Merit from the Government, in recognition of the performance of the company.

Now, BioEnergy Burundi, for its exceptional contributions to its country, city, and economic vitality, and for its key innovations in a high-demand, high impact product category, has been selected to receive the 2016 BID Quality Award, one of the world’s highest honors for organizational quality, excellence, and innovation.


BID is a private and independent organization founded in 1984, whose primary activity is business communication orientated towards quality, excellence and innovation in management. A leader in the broadcasting of Quality Culture, BID recognizes those companies and organizations which lead the most important activities in the business world, and is considered the founding organization in the broadcasting of the Culture of Quality, Excellence and Innovation in 179 countries. The trophy symbolizes a pledge to the principles of Quality Culture. The QC100 Total Quality Management Model, together with the Quality Mix program, media coverage of the convention and its impact on the community and business sector, create an unmatched platform for continuous improvement within the organization and awareness of the achievements of the company at an international level. Awards are given only to those who are committed to improving their Quality Culture based on the principles of the QC100 Total Quality Management Model. Candidates are proposed by the leaders of previously awarded companies who they consider worthy of the award. Especially meritorious candidates may also be nominated. The International BID Quality Award Selection Committee then chooses the winning companies who will receive the award in New York, Paris, Geneva, Frankfurt, Madrid and London.

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