Djibouti’s economy is very open to external trade, which represents 223% GDP (World Bank, 2020). Djibouti has a free trade regime and a free-trade zone status in Eastern Africa. It is a member of the WTO, the IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), the COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), the Arab League and the African Union, has signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and a number of bilateral agreements. Djibouti has shown great interest in fostering regional economic integration, particularly with Ethiopia. Djibouti mainly exports or re-exports animal fats (48% of total exports), chlorides (15%), cattle, machinery, food and other commodities. The country mainly imports animal fats (10% of total imports), vehicles (8%), petroleum products (7%), plastics, fertilizers, iron, machinery, food, and other capital goods (International Trade Centre, 2021).
Djibouti’s main customers are Ethiopia (25.1% of total exports), China (21.8%), the United States (19.3%), India (8.2%) and Saudi Arabia (7.6%). The country's main suppliers are China (42.5% of total imports), the United Arab Emirates (13.9%), India (6.2%), Turkey (5.9%) and Morocco (4.6%) (International Trade Centre, 2020). The economies of Ethiopia and Djibouti are highly interdependent via the Port of Djibouti, which traditionally constituted the only maritime outsource for the landlocked territory of Ethiopia. The recent peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea, with the resulting opportunity for Ethiopia to use Eritrea’s ports, may change this situation. Djibouti's heavy debt burden could harm trade relations with China, its main creditor (Coface).
Djibouti’s trade balance is structurally negative, as it does not export much except cattle and imports large amounts of petroleum products, food and capital goods. However, the country has a surplus in terms of exports in the service sector, largely due to port services fees for re-import and re-exports. The trade deficit was estimated at USD 723 million in 2021 (World Bank). In 2021, exports of goods amounted to USD 3.28 billion whereas imports reached USD 4.01 billion (WTO). As economic activity recovered from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021, imports of goods and services needed for infrastructure projects increased significantly (Coface). In 2022, the trade deficit widened due to the rising cost of oil and foodstuffs. It is expected to narrow in 2023 provided that commodity prices continue to decline and that improved external conditions favour services exports (Coface).
|Foreign Trade Indicators||2017||2018||2019||2020||2021|
|Imports of Goods (million USD)||768||3,603||4,138||3,425||4,011|
|Exports of Goods (million USD)||142||3,522||3,996||2,921||3,280|
|Imports of Services (million USD)||193||556||594||0||0|
|Exports of Services (million USD)||194||714||791||0||0|
|Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||50||-3||10||-30||n/a|
|Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||53||10||9||-30||n/a|
|Trade Balance (million USD)||-414||-81||-142||-127||-723|
|Foreign Trade (in % of GDP)||306||300||321||223||n/a|
|Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||156||144||154||107||n/a|
|Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||150||157||167||116||n/a|
Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.
To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows
|1.2 bn USD of services exported in 2019|
|Personal travelPersonal travel||5.47%|
|0.6 bn USD of services imported in 2019|
|Personal travelPersonal travel||4.00%|
Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data
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Latest Update: September 2023