Zimbabwe flag Zimbabwe: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Zimbabwe

Foreign Trade in Figures

The Zimbabwean Government is generally open to foreign trade, which accounts for 30.6% of its GDP, according to the latest World Bank estimates. In the context of economic and regional integration, the country has strengthened its ties with the SADC (Southern African Development Community) member countries and levies lower duties on imports from such countries. However, the strict control on trade exercised by the Government and the relatively high customs duties, make the country difficult to access. There are other barriers that continue to impact trade such as the lack of long-term economic and political reforms, state control over companies, insecurity and a lack of skilled labour forces. The country mainly exports nickel (37.9%), gold (26.7%), tobacco (12.9%), ferro-alloys (5.1%), and platinum (3.4%), while it imports petroleum oils (15.6%), mineral or chemical nitrogenous fertilisers (3.3%), soya-bean oil (2.9%), human and animal blood prepared for therapeutic, prophylactic or diagnostic uses (2.9%), and motor vehicles (2.6%).

Zimbabwe's main trading partners are South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Mozambique, China, Mauritius, and Belgium. The country was once a major agricultural exporter, but today it imports foodstuffs and manufactured goods in large quantities. This is mainly due to land expropriation and state-owned enterprises distorting the economy, as well as government's intervention, inadequate supervision, and political instability that undermine the financial system. This economic change has significantly damaged the country's trade balance, which is now in deficit. This trend should continue in the coming years, despite the recovery of gemstone exports and the decline in the global oil prices. The government has reduced certain tariffs to facilitate imports.

In 2021, exports of goods amounted to USD 6 billion, while imports reached USD 7.1 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of USD 1.1 billion. Over that same period, services exports amounted to USD 240 million, while imports reached USD 945 million. Including services, Zimbabwe's trade balance closed 2020 at a deficit of USD 1.8 billion.

Foreign Trade Values 20172018201920202021
Imports of Goods (million USD) 3,9006,3914,8175,0027,188
Exports of Goods (million USD) 3,8644,0574,2694,3966,035
Imports of Services (million USD) 1,072973695474945
Exports of Services (million USD) 371390394148240

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

Foreign Trade Indicators 20172018201920202021
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 50.054.652.754.756.3
Trade Balance (million USD) -927-1,938174212n/a
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -1,581-2,464-131-226n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 3.2-12.4-2.1-29.054.8
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 4.8-2.912.3-39.841.1
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 30.428.425.528.730.9
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 19.726.227.225.925.4

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

International Economic Cooperation
Member of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)

Member of Southern African Development Community (SADC)

Member of African Union (AU).

Member of the Intergovernmental Council of Countries Exporters of Copper (CIPEC)

The country have signed a trade agreement with 21 other countries in the São Paulo Round of the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP). It also benefits from the Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU within the framework of the EU-ACP Cotonou Agreement.


Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
South Africa 48.4%
United Arab Emirates 28.6%
Mozambique 8.4%
China 4.2%
Belgium 2.2%
See More Countries 8.1%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
South Africa 42.8%
Singapore 13.8%
China 12.1%
Mozambique 3.4%
Mauritius 2.9%
See More Countries 25.1%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.


Main Products

6.0 bn USD of products exported in 2021
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 26.7%
Nickel mattes, nickel oxide sinters and other...Nickel mattes, nickel oxide sinters and other intermediate products of nickel metallurgy : 20.7%
Nickel ores and concentratesNickel ores and concentrates 17.2%
Unmanufactured tobacco; tobacco refuseUnmanufactured tobacco; tobacco refuse 12.9%
Ferro-alloysFerro-alloys 5.1%
See More Products 17.4%
7.6 bn USD of products imported in 2021
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 15.6%
Mineral or chemical nitrogenous fertilisers (excl....Mineral or chemical nitrogenous fertilisers (excl. those in pellet or similar forms, or in packages with a gross weight of <= 10 kg) 3.3%
Soya-bean oil and its fractions, whether or not...Soya-bean oil and its fractions, whether or not refined (excl. chemically modified) 2.9%
Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic...Human blood; animal blood prepared for therapeutic, prophylactic or diagnostic uses; antisera and other blood fractions and immunological products, whether or not modified or obtained by means of biotechnological processes; vaccines, toxins, cultures of micro-organisms (excl. yeasts) and similar products 2.9%
Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl....Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl. chassis with engine and cab 2.6%
See More Products 72.7%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.


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Latest Update: March 2023