Burkina Faso’s Top 10 Exports

Burkina Faso flag

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A landlocked country in northwest Africa, Burkina Faso shipped and estimated US$3.3 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 26.1% increase since 2014 and a 16.9% uptick from 2017 to 2018.

From a continental perspective, three-fifths (69.2%) of Burkinabe exports by value were delivered to European countries while 25.6% were sold to Asian importers. Burkina Faso shipped another 13.5% worth of goods to Africa with just 0.7% going to North America.

Given Burkina Faso’s population of 19.7 million people, its total $3.3 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $170 for every resident in that country.

In macroeconomic terms, Burkina Faso’s total exported goods represent 8.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($38.8 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 8.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 11.2% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Burkina Faso’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Burkina Faso also provided $526.2 million worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 1.4% of GDP in PPP.

Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Burkina Faso’s unemployment rate was an estimated 6.3% at July 2019 down from 6% in 2018, according to Trading Economics.

Burkina Faso’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Burkinabe global shipments during 2018, at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Burkina Faso.

  1. Gems, precious metals: US$2.1 billion (65.4% of total exports)
  2. Cotton: $332.4 million (10.1%)
  3. Fruits, nuts: $241.5 million (7.4%)
  4. Zinc: $187.7 million (5.7%)
  5. Oil seeds: $172.1 million (5.2%)
  6. Machinery including computers: $33.4 million (1%)
  7. Mineral fuels including oil: $27.1 million (0.8%)
  8. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $25.1 million (0.8%)
  9. Vegetables: $20.4 million (0.6%)
  10. Iron, steel: $15.2 million (0.5%)

Burkina Faso’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated, accounting for 97.5% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Vegetables was the fastest-growing among Burkina Faso’s top 10 export categories via a 363.5% gain from 2017 to 2018.

In second place for improving export sales was the iron and steel category up 109.4%.

Mineral fuels including oil posted the third-fastest gain appreciating 96.4%, propelled by higher international sales of processed petroleum oils year over year.

The sole decliner among the top 10 Burkinabe exports was for cotton thanks to a -9.5% drop.

Drilling down to 4-digit HTS codes, Burkina Faso’s most valuable exported goods are gold (65.3% of total), uncarded cotton (10%), cashew nuts and coconuts (6.6%), zinc (5.7%), oil seeds (5.2%) and refined petroleum oils (0.8%).


The following types of Burkinabe product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Gems, precious metals: US$2.1 billion (Up by 18.9% since 2017)
  2. Cotton: $330.4 million (Down by -9.8%)
  3. Fruits, nuts: $238.7 million (Up by 44.8%)
  4. Zinc: $187.7 million (Up by 12.8%)
  5. Oil seeds: $163.3 million (Up by 25.8%)
  6. Vegetables: $18.3 million (Up by 709.3%)
  7. Food industry waste, animal fodder: $9.5 million (Down by -15.5%)
  8. Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $2 million (Up by 96.3%)
  9. Live animals: $1.5 million (Up by 13.6%)
  10. Collector items, art, antiques: $709,000 (Up by 65.7%)

Burkina Faso has highly positive net exports in the international trade of gold. In turn, these cashflows indicate Burkina Faso’s strong competitive advantages under the gems and precious metals category.


Overall Burkina Faso incurred a -$1 billion trade deficit for 2018, reversing a -$914.1 million in red ink one year earlier.

Below are exports from Burkina Faso that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Burkina Faso’s goods trail Burkinabe importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US-$1.1 billion (Up by 24.6% since 2017)
  2. Machinery including computers: -$437.4 million (Up by 0.05%)
  3. Vehicles: -$345.9 million (Up by 17.4%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$282.7 million (Down by -10.9%)
  5. Pharmaceuticals: -$242.4 million (Up by 46.6%)
  6. Cereals: -$187.2 million (Up by 44.3%)
  7. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: -$152.7 million (Down by -8.9%)
  8. Iron, steel: -$149.3 million (Down by -5.2%)
  9. Articles of iron or steel: -$145.9 million (Up by 34.3%)
  10. Plastics, plastic articles: -$107.2 million (Up by 44.5%)

Burkina Faso has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits related to the mineral fuels including oil category. That category was weighed down by red ink for refined petroleum oils, electricity, petroleum gas then petroleum coke.


Burkinabe Export Companies

Not one Burkinabe corporation ranks on the Forbes Global 2000 list.

Wikipedia lists companies located in Burkina Faso. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Air Burkina (airliner)
  • Faso Airways (airliner)
  • Tovio (sportswear, equipment)


Burkina Faso’s capital city is Ouagadougou.

See also Report Card for Trade Surpluses and Deficits by Country, Top Cork Exporting Countries and Capital Facts for Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Research Sources:
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 10, 2019

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 4, 2019

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 4, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 10, 2019

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on March 10, 2019

Wikipedia, Burkina Faso. Accessed on March 10, 2019

Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 4, 2019

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Burkina Faso. Accessed on March 10, 2019

Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 4, 2019