Imports play a major role in the Burundi economy. The terms of trade for the country register large trade deficits as the countries imports more than it exports. Imports comprise a wide variety of goods, mainly composed of manufactured goods, equipment, food, petroleum products and fuel. Manufactures make up about two–thirds of Burundi merchandise imports; fuels account for about 15%. This reflects the need to invest in domestic manufacturing and the scarcity of fuel resources in the country.

EU countries, in particular Belgium, China and India are the major sources of Burundi’s imports. Of particular attention is the increasing share of imports from African countries, from 12% during 1969–1980 to 34% during 2000–2004. Tanzania, Kenya, and Zambia have been the leading suppliers. This development reflects Burundi’s efforts in regional integration, most notably its membership in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), comprising Kenya and Zambia, and the East African Community (whose membership includes Tanzania).