Located on the continent’s northeast extremity known as the Horn of Africa, the Federal Republic of Somalia shipped an estimated US$204.3 million worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a -70.4% decrease since 2015 and a -58.2% drop from 2018 to 2019.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 92.9% of products exported from Somalia were bought by importers in: Saudi Arabia (40.1% of the global total), India (10.7%), Japan (9.6%), China (9.1%), Bulgaria (8.2%), Turkey (3.1%), France (also 3.1%), South Korea (2.8%), Kenya (2.1%), Germany (1.5%), Ivory Coast (1.4%) and Pakistan (1.2%).
From a continental perspective, 79% of Somalia’s exports by value were delivered to Asia countries while 14.7% were sold to importers in Europe. Somalia shipped another 5.2% worth of goods to Africa. Smaller percentages went to North America (0.9%), Oceania led by Australia (0.1%) then Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.1%).
Given Somalia’s population of 15.4 million people, its total $204.3 million in 2019 exports translates to roughly $15 for every resident in the Horn of African country.
Somalia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Somali global shipments during 2019 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 Somalia.
- Live animals: US$78.8 million (38.6% of total exports)
- Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $36 million (17.6%)
- Oil seeds: $35.3 million (17.3%)
- Fish: $26.8 million (13.1%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $5.6 million (2.8%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $3.5 million (1.7%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $3.4 million (1.7%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $3.1 million (1.5%)
- Fruits, nuts: $2.4 million (1.2%)
- Paper, paper items: $1.9 million (0.9%)
Somalia’s top 10 exports accounted for 96.4% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Paper including paper items represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 62,033% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was furniture, bedding, lighting, signs and prefabricated buildings via a 22,853% gain. Somalia’s shipments of animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 109.4%.
The leading decliner among Somalia’s top 10 export categories was fruits and nuts thanks to a -70.9% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, live sheep and goats represents Somalia’s most valuable exported product at 38.6% of the country’s total. In second place were natural gums, resins or balsams (17.6%), oil seeds (17.3%), moluscs (7.8%), frozen whole fish (3.3%), miscellaneous machine electrical parts (2%), prefabricated buildings (1.7%) then fish or marine mammal fats and oils (1.5%) according to the International Trade Centre.
The following types of Somali 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.
- Live animals: US$78.5 million (Down by -63.7% since 2018)
- Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $35.9 million (Down by -1.1%)
- Oil seeds: $33.8 million (Up by 85.9%)
- Fish: $24.8 million (Down by -32.6%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $3.5 million (Down by -28.6%)
- Copper: $754,000 (Down by -56.4%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $649,000 (Up by 281.8%)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $11,000 (Reversing a -$51,000 deficit)
- Cork, articles of cork: -$1,000 (Reversing a -$328,000 deficit)
- Silk: -$1,000 (Reversing a -$22,000 deficit)
Somalia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of sheep and goats. In turn, these cashflows indicate Somalia’s strong competitive advantages under the live animals category.
Overall Somalia incurred an estimated -$2.2 billion trade deficit for 2019, down by -26% from -$3 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Somalia that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Somalia’s goods trail Somali importer spending on foreign products.
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: -US$269.2 million (Up by 29% since 2018)
- Cereals: -$213.6 million (Up by 16%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$124.1 million (Down by -50.6%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$116.6 million (Down by -2.4%)
- Footwear: -$111.4 million (Up by 10%)
- Manmade staple fibers: -$103.9 million (Up by 6.7%)
- Iron, steel: -$100.8 million (Down by -29.7%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: -$97.1 million (Down by -22.6%)
- Machinery including computers: -$96.5 million (Down by -17%)
- Vehicles: -$89.2 million (Down by -45.4%)
Somalia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the sugar including sugar confectionery category.
Somali Export Companies
Not one Somali corporation ranks among the Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia also lists exports-related companies from Somalia. Selected examples are shown below.
- Bosaso Tannery (product tanning)
- Hafun Fishing Company (fish)
- International Bank of Somalia (commercial bank)
- KAAH Electric (electricity)
- Somafone (telecommunications)
- Somalia Petroleum Corporation (oil, gas)
In macroeconomic terms, Somalia’s total exported goods represent an estimated 1.6% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($12.7 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 1.6% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 0.5% for 2018. Those metrics suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Somalia’s total economic performance.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Somalia’s average unemployment rate was 11.35% in 2019 up from 11.25%, according to Trading Economics.
Somalia’s capital city is Mogadishu.
See also South Sudan’s Top 10 Exports, Angola’s Top 10 Exports and Top African Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Africa: Somalia. Accessed on July 27, 2020
FlagPictures.org, Flag of Somalia. Accessed on July 27, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 27, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 27, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 27, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 27, 2020
The World Bank, Unemployment, total (% of total labor force). Accessed on July 27, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 27, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Somalia. Accessed on July 27, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 27, 2020
Wikipedia, Somalia. Accessed on July 27, 2020
WorldOMeter, Somalia Population. Accessed on July 27, 2020
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Mogadishu, Somalia. Accessed on July 27, 2020