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Trade Profile

Foreign Trade in Figures

Zambia is open to foreign trade, which represents 84% of the country’s GDP. (World Bank) The trade policy of Zambia aims to diversify its economy through privatisation programmes and the expansion of its export base. The country is a member of COMESA and has signed interim economic partnership agreements (IEPA) with the European Commission. The country became part of the WTO in 1995.

Custom duties are high, but the country has few non-tariff trade barriers. Certain products such as crude oil, medical supplies and fertilisers are exempt from import duties. Irregularities in the taxation system and high transportation costs are real barriers to trade.

The country's trade balance is structurally positive, a trend which should continue despite an increase in imports driven by investments and high private household consumption. Zambia’s lack of economic diversification and dependency on copper as its sole major export (75% of Zambia's exports) makes it vulnerable to fluctuations in the world commodities market and prices turned downward in 2015 due to declining demand from China. Zambia's trade deficit declined slightly in 2016 as imports shrank faster than exports (USD 7.04 billion for imports and USD 5.8 billion for exports in 2016 according to WTO estimates).

Zambia exports mainly copper and other minerals as well as sugarcane. Switzerland remains Zambia’s major export destination, followed by China and South Africa. Zambia sources almost half of its imports from South Africa and Congo jointly, the main import products being machinery, transportation equipment and petroleum products.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20122013201420152016
Imports of Goods (million USD) 8,80510,1629,5398,4517,045
Exports of Goods (million USD) 9,36510,5949,6886,9615,801
Imports of Services (million USD) 1,2901,7701,596n/a1,393
Exports of Services (million USD) 990758851n/a885
Trade Balance (million USD) 1,5951,6481,625-74-25
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 7985808074
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 3944414338
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 4040393735

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
Switzerland 44.3%
China 14.5%
Singapore 7.8%
South Africa 7.7%
Democratic Republic of Congo 7.5%
Zimbabwe 3.8%
Australia 3.0%
Malawi 1.5%
Hong Kong 1.5%
Japan 1.2%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
South Africa 30.9%
Democratic Republic of Congo 11.2%
China 8.2%
Mauritius 5.6%
Kenya 4.9%
Kuwait 4.7%
India 4.3%
Spain 2.5%
United Kingdom 2.3%
Japan 2.2%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data


Main Products

7.0 bn USD of products exported in 2015
Copper, refined, and copper alloys, unwrought (excl. copper alloys of heading 7405) 63.7%
Copper, unrefined; copper anodes for electrolytic refining 9.2%
Maize or corn 2.9%
Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in solid form 1.6%
Electrical energy 1.4%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 1.3%
Unmanufactured tobacco; tobacco refuse 1.3%
Cobalt mattes and other intermediate products of cobalt metallurgy; cobalt and articles thereof, n.e.s.; cobalt waste and scrap (excl. ash and residues containing cobalt) 1.1%
Precious stones and semi-precious stones, whether or not worked or graded, but not strung, mounted or set, ungraded precious stones and semi-precious stones, temporarily strung for convenience of transport (excl. diamonds and imitation precious stones and semi-precious stones) 0.9%
Copper wire (excl. surgical sutures, stranded wire, cables, plaited bands and the like and other articles of heading 7413, electrically insulated wires and strings for musical instruments) 0.9%
8.4 bn USD of products imported in 2015
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 13.0%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 4.7%
Copper ores and concentrates 4.5%
New pneumatic tyres, of rubber 3.4%
Cobalt oxides and hydroxides; commercial cobalt oxides 3.3%
Mineral or chemical nitrogenous fertilizers (excl. those in pellet or similar forms, or in packages with a gross weight of <= 10 kg) 2.8%
Cobalt ores and concentrates 2.8%
Structures and parts of structures e.g., bridges and bridge-sections, lock-gates, towers, lattice masts, roofs, roofing frameworks, doors and windows and their frames and thresholds for doors, shutters, balustrades, pillars and columns, of iron or steel; plates, rods, angles, shapes, sections, tubes and the like, prepared for use in structures, of iron or steel (excl. prefabricated buildings of heading 9406) 2.3%
Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl. chassis with engine and cab 2.0%
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) 1.9%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data


Main Services

0.8 bn USD of services exported in 2015
Insurance services
Cultural and recreational services
Other business services
1.4 bn USD of services imported in 2015
Insurance services
Government services
Construction services
Other business services
Financial services
Computer and information services
Cultural and recreational services
Royalties and license fees

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data


Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Party of the International Coffee Agreement 2007
Main 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)

Useful Resources
Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA)
National Organisation of Intellectual Property
The Patents and Companies Registration Office (PACRO).


Learn more about How to Export to Zambia on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

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Last Updates: June 2018