‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series where we pose the same ten questions to leaders across the continent.
Saidi Juma, mayor of Burundi’s capital city, Bujumbura
*Please note that while the ‘Meet the Boss’ interview was conducted in English, Juma’s first language is French. In some instances the interview was edited for clarity.
1. What was your first job?
I was a teacher.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
It’s a difficult question to answer because every step I made [in my career] I found someone who has helped me; at my primary school, my secondary school, at my university, and also while I was working at different companies. I can say that I met many people who have helped me. So there are lots.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
In the job of being a mayor, there are many challenges, which can make us work through the night, [such as poverty in the city].
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful?
When you are appointed to do some work, you must focus on it and you have to have the determination of doing it, and also you have to set a vision. After a given period you have to evaluate if you are now [heading] in the way to fulfil your vision.
5. What are the best things about your country, Burundi?
There are many. We have many lakes, we have animals, we have good mountains, good sceneries, and we have also a good climate, and so on.
6. And the worst? What would you like to see change?
Firstly, to change the mentality of the people; to let all the things they were thinking before end, and to focus on the future and the development of the country.
7. Your future career plans?
I don’t know; that is the wish and the plans of the God. I don’t know yet.
8. How do you relax?
I enjoy sports, going to the gym, and also to go to the beach. Also music; I like to play music.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
The message I can give them is… to be determined and to have a vision.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
I think the African people are now realising that they have much potential in many areas, because the power you see in Europe and other continents come from Africa. They import our raw materials to their countries and manufacture the finished goods, which they then sell back here. It would be good if we begin to think of processing these raw materials locally and export it outside our African continent.
Saidi Juma is the Mayor of Bujumbura. Last week he attended the Burundi Business Networking Meeting in Cape Town, hosted by WESGRO, to highlight some of the business opportunities for South African companies in Burundi.