An East African landlocked country that is also considered part of Central Africa, the Republic of Burundi shipped an estimated US$212.9 million worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 50.5% increase since 2014 and a 42.5% uptick from 2017 to 2018.
In addition, Burundi furnished an estimated $63.9 million worth of international services during 2018 encompassing about $46.6 million from government-related services.
Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook for 2017, Burundi’s exported goods plus services represent 5.5% of total Burundian economic output or Gross Domestic Product. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 88.5% of products exported from Burundi were bought by importers in: United Arab Emirates (25.6% of the global total), Democratic Republic of Congo (17.8%), Pakistan (9.2%), Switzerland (5.9%), Germany (5.9%), Belgium (5.4%), Egypt (4.7%), United Kingdom (3.4%), Singapore (3%), Uganda (2.8%), Kenya (2.4%) and Sudan (2.3%).
From a continental perspective, 41.9% of Burundian exports by value were delivered to Asian countries. Over a third (34.5%) were sold to importers in Africa. Burundi shipped another 21.9% worth of goods to Europe while 1.6% went to North America.
Given Burundi’s population of 11.8 million people, its total $212.9 million in 2018 exports translates to roughly $20 for every resident in the central eastern African country.
Trading Economics projects Burundi’s unemployment rate to be 12% as of September 2019.
Burundi’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Burundian global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Burundi.
- Gems, precious metals: US$118.8 million (55.8% of total exports)
- Coffee, tea: 55.6 million (26.1%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $19.1 million (9%)
- Lead: $7.5 million (3.5%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $3.1 million (1.4%)
- Zinc: $2.3 million (1.1%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $1.1 million (0.5%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $1.1 million (0.5%)
- Iron, steel: $950,000 (0.4%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $637,000 (0.3%)
Burundi’s top 10 exports accounted for 98.6% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Salt, sulphur, stone and cement was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 5,275% from 2017.
In second place for improving export sales was the raw hides, skins not furskins, and leather category thanks to 392.6% improvement.
Burundi’s shipments of gems and precious metals posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 223.2% due mostly to increased international sales of gold.
The leading decliner among Burundi’s top 10 export categories was the coffee and tea category which fell -14.5%.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, gold represents Burundi’s most valuable exported product at 55.8% of the country’s total. In second place was coffee (18.4%) trailed by tea (7.7%), niobium and zirconium ores or concentrates (5.9%), unwrought lead (3.5%), tin ores or concentrates (2%), tungsten ores or concentrates (1.1%) and unwrought zinc (also 1.1%).
The following types of Burundian 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 is 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.
- Gems, precious metals: US$118.8 million (Up by 223.7% since 2017)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $55.4 million (Down by -13.9%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $19.1 million (Up by 136.7%)
- Lead: $7.5 million (Reversing a -$6,000 deficit)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $3.1 million (Up by 443.2%)
- Zinc: $2.2 million (Reversing a -$7,000 deficit)
- Fruits, nuts: $255,000 (Up by 49.1%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $97,000 (Reversing a -$16,000 deficit)
Burundi has highly positive net exports in the international trade of gold. In turn, these cashflows indicate Burundi’s strong competitive advantages under the gems and precious metals product category.
Overall, Burundi incurred a -$224.6 million trade deficit for 2018, down -64.6% from -$633.9 in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Burundi that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Burundi’s goods trail Burundian importer spending on foreign products.
- Pharmaceuticals: -US$48.1 million (Down by -22.2% since 2017)
- Machinery including computers: -$41.1 million (Up by 48.5%)
- Iron, steel: -$28 million (Down by -22.3%)
- Vehicles: -$26.9 million (Down by -57.5%)
- Cereals: -$25.5 million (Down by -55.9%)
- Fertilizers: -$22.7 million (Down by -22.9%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: -$18.8 million (Up by 8.3%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$17.9 million (Down by -47.5%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$16.1 million (Up by 19.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$13.9 million (Up by 42.3%)
Burundi has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the pharmaceuticals product category.
Burundian Export Companies
Not one Burundian corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000 for 2016.
Wikipedia lists businesses from Burundi that participate in international trade transactions. Selected examples are shown below:
- Air Burundi (airliner)
- Brarudi (brewery)
- FinBank Burundi (commercial bank)
- Interbank Burundi (commercial bank)
- KCB Bank Burundi Limited (commercial bank)
Burundi’s capital city is Bujumbura.
See also Uganda’s Top 10 Exports, Somalia’s Top 10 Exports and Top African Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on September 9, 2019
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on September 9, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Databases (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on September 9, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on September 9, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on September 9, 2019
Wikipedia, Burundi. Accessed on September 9, 2019
Wikipedia, Flag of Burundi. Accessed on September 9, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Burundi. Accessed on September 9, 2019
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Bujumbura, Burundi. Accessed on September 9, 2019