Telecoms infrastructure in Burundi

Ten things to know
October 12, 2015

What are the key operating licences required by companies operating telecoms infrastructure in Burundi?

There is no over-arching operating licence required by companies operating solely telecoms infrastructure in Burundi.

What other licences may be required by companies operating telecoms infrastructure in Burundi?

An environmental permit is required in respect of the mast.

What is the principal legislation governing
the telecoms sector?

The telecoms sector is principally governed by the following legislation:

  • Decree-law n° 1/011 of September 4, 1997 establishing organic provisions on telecommunications (Décret–Loi N° 1/011 du 4 Septembre 1997 portant dispositions organiques sur les télécommunications).
  • Decree n° 100/112 of April 5, 2012 regarding the reorganisation and function of the department of regulation and control of telecommunications « ARCT » (Décret n° 100/112 du 05 Avril 2012 portant réorganisation et fonctionnement de l’agence de régulation et des contrôle des télécommunication « ARCT »).
  • Ministerial Ordinance n°231 of April 9, 1999 setting the conditions for the operation of activities in the telecommunications sector (Ordonnance ministérielle n°231 du 9 Avril 1999 fixant les conditions d’exploitation des activités dans le secteur des télécommunications).
  • Ministerial Ordinance n° 730/1056 of November 7, 2007 relating to the telecommunications network and services open to the public (Ordonnance Ministérielle n° 730/1056 du 7 Novembre 2007 relative à l’interconnexion des réseaux et services des télécommunications ouverts au public).
  • Decree n°100/14 of January 22, 2013 regarding the framework of control, the minimum level and taxation of ending international telephone calls to Burundi (Décret n°100/14 du 22 janvier 2013 portant cadre de contrôle, de fixation du seuil minimal et de taxation de la terminaison d’appels des communications téléphoniques internationales au Burundi).

Can foreign entities hold telecoms licences or operate as telecoms companies (either as operators or tower companies)? Are there any foreign ownership restrictions?

There is no prohibition against foreign entities applying for licences although an operating company must be a corporate entity incorporated in Burundi. Considerable efforts have been made to create an environment conducive to domestic and foreign private investment. As such, there are no foreign ownership restrictions in Burundi.

Does the government require any ownership stake in telecoms companies? Must telecoms companies pay any royalties or similar payments to the state/government?

The government does not require any ownership stake in telecoms companies. At the time of writing only one government owned telecoms company exists in Burundi (ONATEL), with all other companies being 100 per cent privately owned.

Can security be granted over shares in telecoms companies?

Security can be granted over shares without any regulatory consent, usually in the form of pledge and/or cession in security.

Is there a centralised land system in Burundi. What (if any) interest in land is required for a company to build telecoms infrastructure on that land?

There is a Land Registry (Registre des Titres Fonciers) in Burundi.

Burundi‘s formal law recognises state and private land (such private land being held freehold and leasehold). By law transfers of all land must be registered in order to obtain title thereto. Following the Land Act 2011 any transfer or mortgage of land is done through the centralised registry with a notary.

Are any stamp duties or registration fees payable on facility/security documentation
in Burundi?

Low level registration and notarial fees are payable on security of around US$100.

There is no stamp duty in Burundi.

Are there any exchange control restrictions
in Burundi?

There has been a liberalisation of Burundi’s exchange control system, completed in 2006. Burundi’s Investment Code allows completely free access to foreign exchange for investment remittances. There is free transfer of foreign capital and income after payment of taxes in country.

Are English court judgments recognised and enforced in Burundi? Is Burundi a party to the New York Convention?

Burundi acceded as a party to the New York Convention in 2014. Burundi made one reservation to the Convention, the ‘commerciality reservation’, pursuant to which the convention will only apply to disputes characterised as commercial under municipal law.

English court judgments are not automatically recognised and enforceable in Burundi although such judgments are typically enforced by the courts of Burundi without retrial or further review of the merits of the case subject to verification of compliance of the judgment with the public order laws of Burundi and issuance of an exequature by a Burundian court.