Foreign trade accounted for 66% of the country’s GDP in 2015 (World Bank, last available data). Policies established by the South Sudanese government since its independence in 2011 aim to integrate the country into the international trade network. South Sudan has gradually moved closer to the East African Community (EAC), which includes Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, and has officially become a member in 2016. In 2021, mineral fuels and oils made up 93.1% of the country's exports, followed by oil seeds (2.3%) and iron and steel (1.2%); whereas imports were led by vehicles (15.1% of the total), machinery (6.5%), electrical appliances (6.2%), beverages (5.7%), and clothes (5.3% - data ITC).
In terms of countries, South Sudan's main suppliers were Uganda (38.4%), the UAE (26.8%), Kenya (12.3%), China (11.1%), and India (2.2%). The main destinations for the country’s exports were China (58.8%), Italy (17.4%), Singapore (16.8%), the UAE (3.9%), and Uganda (1.6% - data ITC, 2021). South Sudan has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 2016. As a WTO member, the country is committed to liberalizing its trade regime, reducing trade barriers, and promoting free trade. However, the implementation of WTO rules and regulations in South Sudan is still in its early stages. The country has also signed a preferential trade agreement with Sudan, its northern neighbour, in 2012. This agreement grants South Sudan preferential access to the Sudanese market, and vice versa, by reducing tariffs on certain goods. Furthermore, South Sudan has signed several other bilateral agreements with countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, and Uganda, aimed at promoting trade, investment, and economic cooperation. Despite these trade agreements, South Sudan's foreign trade remains limited, with most of its exports being oil and agricultural products. The country faces several challenges, including a lack of infrastructure, limited productive capacity, and political instability, that hinder its ability to diversify its exports and attract foreign investment.
South Sudan has a structural trade deficit, and its exports (comprising mostly oil) are too dependent on the fluctuation of global commodity prices. According to ITC data, the country exported USD 509 million worth of goods in 2021, down by 41% year-on-year, against USD 1.2 billion million in imports (+22% y-o-y). In the same period, export of services stood at only USD 158 million; whereas imports hit USD 2.4 billion.
|Foreign Trade Indicators||2017||2018||2019||2020||2021|
|Trade Balance (million USD)||822||893||1,469||273||2,358|
Source: World Bank - Latest available data.
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Latest Update: September 2023