Since the partition of the country, the share of foreign trade in Sudan’s GDP dropped dramatically. From around 44% of GDP in 2009, foreign trade decreased to account for less than 4% of GDP in 2021 (World Bank, latest data available). Sudan’s customs duties are relatively high, and non-tariff barriers impose additional severe impediments on trade flows (Heritage Foundation). Political uncertainty, tensions in Darfur and with Chad, as well as poor coordination among government agencies are limiting the development of foreign trade. The peace agreement signed in September 2018 to end the civil war in South Sudan led Sudan and South Sudan to open four border crossings. Sudan mainly exports precious stones (52.5% of total exports, mostly gold), oils seeds (17.8%), fuels (9%), live animals (6.9%) and cotton (2.2%). It mainly imports sugar (10.8% of total imports), vehicles (10.5%), machinery (9.4%), cereals (7.3%), and electrical machinery (7% - data ITC, 2021).
Sudan’s main export partners are the UAE (53.4% of total exports), China (14.3%), Saudi Arabia (6.3%), India (4.8%) and Italy (3.7%). Its main suppliers are China (21.7% of total imports), UAE (16.3%), India (12%), Egypt (8.6%) and Saudi Arabia (8.1% - data ITC, 2021). The country is a member of several regional and international trade organizations, including the World Trade Organization (WTO), the African Union (AU), and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). It has also signed several bilateral and regional trade agreements to promote trade with other countries, including the COMESA Free Trade Area (FTA), the Arab Free Trade Area, and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Sudan's trade balance has been in deficit since 2012, with South Sudan now benefiting from oil revenues. However, an agreement signed in 2013 allocates part of this income to the transit countries, namely Sudan, which owns the oil transport infrastructure. Despite the depreciation of the Sudanese pound, imports will remain significant, as they are made up of basic necessities; whereas exports may suffer from the volatility of oil prices and production. An important diversification policy has been implemented with the development of gold and ethanol and the strengthening of exports in its traditional sectors. In 2021, Sudan exported USD 4.2 billion in goods and imported USD 9.2 billion (+12.5% and -6.1% year-on-year, respectively). Exports of services amounted to USD 1.8 billion while imports reached USD 1.4 billion (WTO). According to the World Bank, the trade balance turned positive by 0.4% of the country’s GDP in 2021, thanks to the rise in commodity prices (oil, gold and agricultural products) and lower-than-expected imports of foodstuff and capital goods.
|Foreign Trade Indicators||2017||2018||2019||2020||2021|
|Imports of Goods (million USD)||9,134||7,850||9,291||9,838||9,238|
|Exports of Goods (million USD)||4,100||3,478||3,735||3,803||4,279|
|Imports of Services (million USD)||1,326||1,063||1,301||1,198||1,391|
|Exports of Services (million USD)||1,754||1,486||1,352||1,226||1,880|
|Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||27||2||-1||-4||22|
|Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||9||8||7||5||10|
|Trade Balance (million USD)||-4,120||-3,580||-4,627||-5,051||-4,191|
|Foreign Trade (in % of GDP)||1||1||1||1||4|
|Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||1||1||1||0||2|
|Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||1||1||1||0||2|
Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.
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Latest Update: September 2023