Burundi Population and Languages

Burundi Population and Languages


In Burundi, Kirundi is spoken by the majority of the population. It is a Niger-Congo language and almost identical to the Kinyarwanda spoken in neighboring Rwanda. French is also the national language. To this day, French is the language of instruction and the official language, while Kirundi is used as the lingua franca. Kirundi is a complicated tonal language. A special feature is that L and R can often be used or exchanged simultaneously without this changing anything in terms of meaning. However, this sometimes means that this is retained in French: “Cafetaliat” instead of “Cafetariat”, “l´oldle” instead of “l´ordre”, etc. Swahili is also used on Lake Tanganyika and in the region of the capital Bujumbura communicates. Since many young people – at least in Bujumbura and the surrounding area – grow up with Swahili, Kirundi and French, a mix of different words in different languages is often used to communicate, a fact that often makes understanding difficult for foreigners.

Englishis not spoken, but the population is definitely interested in the language. Since the EAC’s lingua franca is English, Burundi is often handicapped when it comes to formulating clear goals and agreements within the economic community. Voices are heard, want to make the English in Burundi “socially acceptable” and to the need to point how important is a diversity of languages in the country. In neighboring Rwanda, which had a largely similar history to Burundi and was also under Belgian colonial rule, English was introduced as the official language in 2009. By returning refugees who no longer know Kirundi as their mother tongue, but rather Swahili (Tanzania) or Lingala(Democratic Republic of the Congo) or Kinyarwanda (Rwanda), is caused by the communication problems in the population of Burundi. In some cases, not only ethnic-social conflicts, but also linguistic arguments are common. The integration of refugees or their children who grew up speaking English in Tanzania is problematic in Burundi.


According to neovideogames, Burundi is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa with a population of currently (beginning of 2020) approx. 12.9 million residents (as of 2000: approx. 6 million residents). The estimated population growth of around 3.25% is one of the highest in the world in 2017, every woman has an average of 6 children. The population density reached an average of approx. 425 residents per km² (2017), a density that an agricultural country like Burundi can barely feed. The eastern parts of the country are sparsely populated due to the drought, so that in the remaining parts of the country a population density of well over 400 residents per km² must be assumed. The result is impoverishment, especially in rural areas. The slowdown in population growth is aThe government’s goal in “Vision 2025” of Burundi, but so far no sustainable success has been achieved. Population scenarios tend to assume unrestrained population growth, which would severely limit development in the long term. The so-called median age divides the population of a country into two halves: one half will be younger, the other half older than this value. In 2050, the median age in Burundi will be 21 years, the lowest value in the world.

The proportion of the urban population in Burundi is one of the lowest in the world; the majority of the population therefore still lives in rural areas. But the development shows that the urban population is increasing.

The capital Bujumbura has around 700,000 residents (as of 2014). Bujumbura was founded in 1889 as a military post by the German colonial power and was called Marienheim. After the First World War it was renamed Usumbura as the administrative center of the Belgian League of Nations mandate over Rwanda-Urundi, and after independence it was renamed Bujumbura. The population density in some quarters exceeds 4,000 residents per km², and the residents are unevenly distributed in the various quarters.

Other cities are Bubanza, Bururi, Cibitoke, Gitega, Kayanza, Kirundo, Ngozi and Ruyigi.

In Burundi, the majority of the population lives in scattered settlements. Villages or hamlets as we know them do not exist in this form in Burundi. The typical homestead, also known as “Rugo”, stands in the middle of a banana grove, traditionally on the top of a hill, on the slopes of which are the fields or parcels. The houses are connected by slopes and paths. This settlement structure is advantageous for the individual families who do not have to travel long distances to their fields. Due to the strong increase in population, it is hardly possible today to adhere to this type of settlement. In addition, the widely spaced huts hinder infrastructural development or modernization, e.g. the supply of electricity. The”New Rugo” is an innovative architectural project of the newer settlement planning in Burundi.

Round huts, which can still be found frequently today, are typical of Burundian architecture. In addition, however, one also builds rectangular houses. Traditionally, banana leaves are used as the roof, but nowadays tiles or corrugated iron are also used. The scaffolding is widespread, in which longitudinal and cross bars made of wood are fastened together and the walls are made of clay. In addition, there is often a masonry made of air-dried bricks, which are then occasionally provided with an external plaster to protect against moisture.

Burundi Population