Tanzania flag Tanzania: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Tanzania

Foreign Trade in Figures

Tanzania is open to foreign trade, which represents 30% of its GDP (World Bank). The country's trade policy aims to create local industries that are more competitive and to diversify its export sector in order to stimulate economic growth. Tanzania mainly exports gold (48.72% of total exports), nuts (6.3%), precious metal ores (5.89%), vegetables, coffee, cereals and tobacco (ITC, 2020). The main imports are petroleum (16.25% of total imports), machinery (11.18%), vehicles (8.84%), electrical equipment (7.86%), plastics, pharmaceutical products, iron, cereals and fertilizers (ITC, 2020).

Tanzania's main suppliers are China (25.3% of total imports), India (12.8%), the United Arab Emirates (9.7%), Japan (4.4%), South Africa (4.1%) and Saudi Arabia (4%). Its main customers are South Africa (19.1% of total exports), Switzerland (14.3%), the United Arab Emirates (12.4%), India (8.7%), China (3.9%), Kenya (3.8%) and Vietnam (3.8%) (ITC, 2020). Low customs duties (the average applied tariff rate is 7%) and few trade restrictions make the country easily accessible for international trade. Trade barriers are mainly of a logistic and non-tariff nature. For example, increased traffic in and out of the Dar es Salaam port - the main port of entry and exit of merchandise for both Tanzania and its landlocked neighbouring countries (Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Zambia) - has not been followed up with the necessary infrastructural investments. This constitutes one of the main barriers to trade with these countries. Poorly maintained roads and railroads also make trade difficult. However, the government has launched a large number of projects to improve infrastructure. Obtaining construction permits, registering land, and tax payments remain difficult nonetheless. Tanzania is a member of the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and as such, the country has trade relations with the member countries as well as the EU and the United States.

Tanzania suffers from a chronic trade deficit due to a capital-intensive growth model highly demanding for oil and capital goods imports. However, trade deficit is expected to decrease sharply in the future due to the increase in coal and hydrocarbon reserves. In 2019, the deficit reached USD -3.22 billion (World Bank). In 2020, merchandise exports reached USD 6.06 billion, while imports amounted to USD 7.89 billion (WTO). Exports of services reached USD 2.29 billion, while imports amounted to USD 1.14 billion (WTO). In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, trade volume dropped significantly. Tanzanian trade deficit decreased due to lower imports of capital goods, but it soared again in 2021 with the recovery and increase in oil prices. Imports related to infrastructure projects, as well as medical equipment and vaccines, will weigh on the trade balance of goods, while the services account will continue to register rising surplus (Coface).

 
Foreign Trade Values 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 9,6119,3009,1209,4527,889
Exports of Goods (million USD) 5,0724,1134,0415,0056,061
Imports of Services (million USD) 2,0881,9521,8401,6691,144
Exports of Services (million USD) 3,7203,8304,0004,2762,287

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 35.432.232.633.029.6
Trade Balance (million USD) -3,590-3,355-3,854-3,222n/a
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -2,167-1,553-1,741-704n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -8.9-7.116.7-1.4-7.6
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -0.0-4.1-1.719.0-8.6
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 19.117.117.917.015.3
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 16.315.114.716.014.3

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 2.83.95.55.96.5
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 7.97.94.57.87.7

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
Member of the WTO - World Trade Organization

Member of EAC - East African Community

Member of SADC - Southern African Development Community

African Growth and Opportunity Act beneficiary country

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2018
Rwanda 18.7%
Kenya 9.2%
Democratic Republic of Congo 8.5%
Zambia 7.3%
Uganda 5.3%
See More Countries 51.0%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2018
China 20.7%
India 14.3%
United Arab Emirates 10.2%
Saudi Arabia 6.7%
South Africa 5.1%
See More Countries 43.0%

Source: Comtrade, 2021. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

Main Products

3.7 bn USD of products exported in 2018
Furniture and parts thereof, n.e.s. (excl. seats...Furniture and parts thereof, n.e.s. (excl. seats and medical, surgical, dental or veterinary furniture) 4.7%
Quicklime, slaked lime and hydraulic lime (excl....Quicklime, slaked lime and hydraulic lime (excl. pure calcium oxide and calcium hydroxide) 3.3%
Tableware, kitchenware, other household articles...Tableware, kitchenware, other household articles and toilet articles, of plastics (excl. baths, shower-baths, wash-basins, bidets, lavatory pans, seats and covers, flushing cisterns and similar sanitary ware) 3.1%
Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl....Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl. chassis with engine and cab 2.7%
Parts and accessories suitable for use solely or...Parts and accessories suitable for use solely or principally with the machine-tools of heading 8456 to 8465, incl. work or tool holders, self-opening dieheads, dividing heads and other special attachments for machine-tools, n.e.s.; tool holders for any type of tool for working in the hand 2.7%
See More Products 83.4%
8.6 bn USD of products imported in 2018
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 19.1%
Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined...Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined (excl. chemically modified) 2.6%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 2.4%
Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl....Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl. chassis with engine and cab 2.3%
Flat-rolled products of iron or non-alloy steel,...Flat-rolled products of iron or non-alloy steel, of a width >= 600 mm, hot-rolled, not clad, plated or coated 2.3%
See More Products 71.4%

Source: Comtrade, 2021. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.

 

Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, 2021. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

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Latest Update: April 2022