Located on the continent’s northeast extremity known as the Horn of Africa, the Federal Republic of Somalia shipped an estimated US$339.9 million worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -47.2% decrease since 2014 and a -14% drop from 2017 to 2018.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 94.1% of products exported from Somalia were bought by importers in: United Arab Emirates (43.6% of the global total), Saudi Arabia (21.5%), Bulgaria (4.9%), China (4.9%), Japan (4.2%), India (3.4%), Kenya (2.5%), France (2.5%), Pakistan (1.7%), Turkey (1.7%), South Korea (1.6%) and Bahrain (1.4%).
From a continental perspective, 85.9% of Somalia exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 9% were sold to European importers. Somalia shipped another 4.4% worth of goods to Africa. Smaller percentages went to North America (0.6%), Oceania (0.1%) led by Australia, then Latin America (0.02%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Given Somalia’s population of 11.3 million people, its total $339.9 million in 2018 exports translates to roughly $30 for every resident in the Horn of Africa country.
In macroeconomic terms, Somalia’s total exported goods represent 0.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($21.2 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 0.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 0.6% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Somalia’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Somalia also provided $404.6 million worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 1.9% of GDP in PPP.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Somalia’s unemployment rate was 14% in 2018, according to World Bank statistics.
Somalia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Somali 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 Somalia.
- Gems, precious metals: US$128 million (37.7% of total exports)
- Live animals: $75.7 million (22.3%)
- Fish: $37.2 million (10.9%)
- Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $36.9 million (10.8%)
- Oil seeds: $19.6 million (5.8%)
- Vehicles: $8.6 million (2.5%)
- Fruits, nuts: $8 million (2.4%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $6.7 million (2%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $4.9 million (1.4%)
- Ships, boats: $2.9 million (0.9%)
Somalia’s top 10 exports accounted for 96.6% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Vehicles was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 4,103% since 2017.
In second place for improving export sales was oil seeds via a 242.4% increase.
Somalia’s shipments of electrical machinery and equipment posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 192%.
The leading decliner among Somalia’s top 10 export categories was live animals thanks to a -60.5% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, unwrought gold represents Somalia’s most valuable exported product at 37.6% of the country’s total. In second place were live sheep and goats (21.4%) trailed by natural gums, resins or balsams (10.8%), moluscs (6.2%), oil seeds (5.8%), armored vehicles and tanks (2.5%), frozen whole fish (2.4%), fresh or dried citrus fruit (2.3%), crustaceans including lobsters (1.9%) then miscellaneous machine electrical parts (1.6%).
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.
- Gems, precious metals: US$86.3 million (Up by 28.2% since 2017)
- Live animals: $75.6 million (Down by -56.2%)
- Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $36.2 million (Up by 36.4%)
- Fish: $35.5 million (Up by 24.2%)
- Oil seeds: $17.7 million (Up by 417.3%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $4.9 million (Down by -4.2%)
- Copper: $1.8 million (Up by 646.1%)
- Ships, boats: $1.5 million (Down by -62.4%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $165,000 (Reversing a -$68,000 deficit)
Somalia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of gems and precious metals particularly gold and, to a lesser extent, precious stones. In turn, these cashflows indicate Somalia’s strong competitive advantages under the gems and precious metals category.
Overall Somalia incurred a -$2.8 billion trade deficit for 2018, down by -3.7% from -$2.9 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.
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: -US$282.2 million (Up by 68.6% since 2017)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$245 million (Up by 50.4%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: -$205.8 million (Down by -31.1%)
- Cereals: -$183.1 million (Down by -9.5%)
- Vehicles: -$142.3 million (Up by 0.2%)
- Iron, steel: -$137.4 million (Up by 132.6%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: -$126.9 million (Down by -19.5%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$117.9 million (Down by -20.5%)
- Machinery including computers: -$112.6 million (Up by 24.4%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: -$101.3 million (Down by -16.9%)
Somalia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the tobacco including manufactured substitutes 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)
Somalia’s capital city is Mogadishu.
See also South Sudan’s Top 10 Exports, Angola’s Top 10 Exports and Top African Export Countries
FlagPictures.org, Flag of Somalia. Accessed on August 21, 2018
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 21, 2018
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 22, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 22, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 21, 2018
The World Bank, Unemployment, total (% of total labor force). Accessed on July 22, 2019
The World Factbook, Africa: Somalia. Accessed on August 21, 2018
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 22, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Somalia. Accessed on August 21, 2018
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 22, 2019
Wikipedia, Somalia. Accessed on August 21, 2018
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Mogadishu, Somalia. Accessed on August 21, 2018