Burundi is one of the poorest, smallest, and most densely populated nations in Africa. Its poor transportation system and its distance from the sea have tended to limit economic growth. The economy is almost entirely agricultural, with most engaged in subsistence farming, growing corn, sorghum, sweet potatoes, bananas, and manioc. Coffee, Burundi's chief export, accounts for 80% of its foreign exchange income. Cotton, tea, sugar, and hides are also exported. Cattle, goats, and sheep are raised.
The country's industries include food processing, the manufacture of basic consumer goods such as blankets and footwear, assembly of imported components, and public works construction. Heavy industry is government-owned. Burundi relies on international aid for economic development and has incurred a large foreign debt. Nickel, uranium, and other minerals are mined in small quantities; platinum reserves have yet to be exploited.
Burundi's imports (capital goods, petroleum products, and foodstuffs) usually considerably exceed the value of its exports. Germany, Belgium, Kenya, and Tanzania make up its chief trading partners. Most exports are sent by ship to Kigoma in Tanzania and then by rail to Dar-es-Salaam on the Indian Ocean.