Somalia is open to foreign trade, which accounts for 106% of its GDP (World Bank, 2021). Commerce is in the hands of local merchants, who manage their activities and transactions despite the anarchic security situation. A large part of the population remains outside the formal commercial sector. The customs administration is still weak, and the national tariff that is currently in force is not based on the Harmonized System (HS). The factors limiting foreign trade are the poor quality of road and port infrastructure, as well as high levels of insecurity and piracy. Somalia’s exports mainly include live animals (51% of total exports), gold (18.6%), oil seeds and oleaginous fruits (7%), resins gums (6%), fish and crustaceans (5%), fruit, paper, iron and machinery. The country mainly imports tobacco (9.5% of total imports), electrical machinery (8%), vegetables (7%), sugar (7%), cereals (4%), vehicles (4%), palm oil, iron, food and machinery (ITC, 2021).
In 2021, Somalia mainly exported to Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, India and Bulgaria (UNCTAD). Somalia's main suppliers are China, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, the United States and Brazil (ITC, 2022).
Somalia's trade balance is structurally in deficit. In 2021, the country exported goods valued at USD 450 million and imported USD 1.22 billion, registering a deficit of USD 770 million (UNCTAD's estimates). Imports of goods and services represented 85.8% GDP, against 20.1% GDP for the exports (World Bank, 2021). Somalia's exports recovered after the lift of the ban on livestock exports imposed by the Gulf countries.
|Foreign Trade Indicators||2017||2018||2019||2020||2021|
|Foreign Trade (in % of GDP)||100||107||101||102||106|
|Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||82||87||84||85||86|
|Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||18||19||17||17||20|
Source: World Bank - Latest available data.
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Latest Update: September 2023