By Erica Gateka Matasi

Building a good image can take several years and hard work, but destroying it can only take a few seconds.
Usually the stories being told about our nation are negative ones. People are made to feel sorry for this poor country. It is sad to see that people use these sad stories to earn funding and help. As much as they are doing it for a good cause, they are tarnishing the image of our nation. Pictures speak louder than words and the only pictures left in the minds of other people in the world are pictures of Burundi filled with hungry children or whatever sad picture you paint.

My story of Burundi goes like this, yes there is poverty in Burundi, but there are people who work tirelessly to feed their families. Instead of focusing on the negative side of the story, I choose to celebrate those few Burundians who are making a difference despite their circumstances. What we need is to promote those who are already doing something because their current circumstances do not stop them from doing all they can in their humble abilities to change it.

Like many other Burundians, I spent time focusing on the negative stories I heard and all I did was to spread fear not only to my fellow Burundians but also tell the world that this is my good for nothing country. We, as Burundians have magnified this negative side so much that the good about our country has almost become non-existent.

Take time to sit down and look around for a minute, find one thing you love about Burundi and make that your story. I often tell my friends abroad that the Great Lake Tanganyika is in my backyard. They get so amused by the fact that I live by the lakeside and they really want to visit Burundi some day. What’s your story? Maybe your story gives people a reason to never step a foot in Burundi. As harsh as this may sound, you have contributed to the bad image our nation has.

I have taken it upon myself to promote the image of my nation, not just promote through words but live the picture I want to paint about Burundi. I believe that Burundi has so much potential that the world has not yet heard about and needs to hear about! I will do all it costs to tell the world about it.

Together with my friends, we have taken it upon ourselves to spread the news. We look around our communities to find stories of what Burundi is really all about. We are amused to find that there is so much to tell from stories of Burundians, from stories about current designers, to the young entrepreneurs, great farmers, writers, photographers, models… the list is endless. All these are hidden in our tiny Burundi and nobody has ever told their story, but they represent the potential that our nation has.

Think about this for a minute: why does everybody want to go to the western countries some day? The answer is simple and straightforward! These guys have painted a great image about their countries to the extent that some of us think it’s a paradise. The funniest thing about it is that they also have some bad sides, and you only know when you get there. What makes them different from us is that they focus on the good side. They make you feel like their country is the place to be. And foolishly we leave our country and go to greener pastures, leaving our own dry lands. Not that they are really dry, but we have chosen not to water them.

My challenge to every Burundian is to give people a reason to invest in Burundi. Tell them everything and anything that will make them want to come to Burundi. If you have an organization that relies on funding from wherever, make sure you make those people believe in the potential our nation has and not feel sorry for us. Give “BURUNDI BWACU” the due dignity it deserves and tell them about what they are missing out on from not investing in our nation. Who knows? We can make it the next biggest tourist destination in the world simply by painting the right picture.

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Erica currently lives and works in Bujumbura.