That dollar amount reflects a 28.8% increase since 2016 but a -10.2% decline from 2019 to 2020.
The 5 biggest exports from Burundi are gold, coffee, tea, wheat or meslin flour, and cigars or cigarettes. Combined, Burundi’s 5 most valuable exported products account for 70.5% of all Burundian exports.
Burundi’s Major Trading Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that 91.4% of products exported from Burundi were bought by importers in: United Arab Emirates (32.2% of the global total), Democratic Republic of the Congo (19.6%), Pakistan (5.6%), Tanzania (5.3%), Belgium (5%), Switzerland (4.9%), Germany (3.7%), Sudan (also 3.7%), Oman (3.6%), Kenya (3.3%), Egypt (2.7%) and the United Kingdom (1.7%).
From a continental perspective, 44.1% of Burundi’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 38.4% were sold to importers in Africa. Burundi shipped another 16.3% worth of goods to Europe.
Tinier percentages went to North America (1%), Oceania’s New Zealand and Australia only (0.11%) then Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.07%).
Given Burundi’s population of 11.9 million people, its total $162.3 million in 2020 exports translates to roughly $15 for every resident in the central eastern African country.
Burundi’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Burundian global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Burundi.
- Coffee, tea, spices: US$52.4 million (32.3% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $45.9 million (28.3%)
- Milling products, malt, starches: $9.5 million (5.9%)
- Iron, steel: $9.1 million (5.6%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $9.1 million (5.6%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $9 million (5.5%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $6.9 million (4.2%)
- Glass: $3.3 million (2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $3.1 million (1.9%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $3 million (1.9%)
Burundi’s top 10 exports accounted for 93.3% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Plastics as materials plus items made from plastic was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 528.3% from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for improving export sales was glass via a 169.2% gain.
Burundi’s shipments of iron or steel posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 164%.
The leading decliner among Burundi’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil, thanks to a -36.7% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, gold represents Burundi’s most valuable exported product at 28.3% of the country’s total. In second place was coffee (19%) trailed by tea (13.3%), wheat or meslin flour (5.7%), cigars or cigarettes (4.2%), niobium and zirconium ores or concentrates (4%), plated or coated products made from flat-rolled or non-alloy steel (3.9%) then malt beer (2.9%).
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.
- Coffee, tea, spices: US$51.8 million (Down by -12.9% since 2019)
- Gems, precious metals: $45.9 million (Down by -31.1%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $9 million (Down by -31.9%)
- Fruits, nuts: $1.1 million (Up by 159.1%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $1.1 million (Up by 6.6%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $678,000 (Down by -31.4%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $459,000 (Reversing a -$2.6 million deficit)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $209,000 (Down by -61%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $11,000 (Down by -50%)
- Zinc: $5,000 (Reversing a -$1,000 deficit)
Burundi has highly positive net exports in the international trade of coffee, tea and gold. In turn, these cashflows indicate Burundi’s strong competitive advantages under the coffee, tea and spices as well as the gems and precious metals product categories.
Burundi incurred an overall -$746.8 million trade deficit for 2020, up by 5.7% from -$706.6 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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$139.7 million (Down by -12.8% since 2019)
- Vehicles: -$86 million (Up by 10.4%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$64.5 million (Up by 3.2%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$59.7 million (Up by 57.9%)
- Iron, steel: -$54.8 million (Up by 5%)
- Machinery including computers: -$50.9 million (Up by 31.9%)
- Cereals: -$40.7 million (Down by -22.7%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: -$39.9 million (Down by -21.7%)
- Fertilizers: -$34.3 million (Up by 24.6%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: -$25.1 million (Up by 17.1%)
Burundi has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits particularly for refined petroleum oils under the mineral fuels-related product category.
Burundian Export Companies
Not one Burundian corporation ranks among the Forbes Global 2000.
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)
In macroeconomic terms, Burundi’s total exported goods represent an estimated 1.8% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($9.02 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 1.8% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 2.2% for 2019. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Burundi’s total economic performance albeit based on a relatively short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Burundi’s average unemployment rate was 0.8% for 2020, down from an average 1.4% in 2019 according to Trading Economics.
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 23, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on September 23, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Databases (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity)
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on September 23, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on September 23, 2021
Wikipedia, Burundi. Accessed on September 23, 2021
Wikipedia, Flag of Burundi. Accessed on September 23, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Burundi. Accessed on September 23, 2021
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Bujumbura, Burundi. Accessed on September 23, 2021