Located in West Africa bordered to its east by Nigeria and to its west by Togo, the Republic of Benin shipped an estimated US$850.6 million worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 36% increase since 2015 but a -10.7% drop from 2018 to 2019.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, the West African CFA franc appreciated by 0.9% against the US dollar since 2015 but declined by -5.5% from 2018 to 2019. Benin’s weaker local currency since 2018 makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers during 2019.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 84% of products exported from Benin were bought by importers in: Bangladesh (26.9% of the global total), India (14.2%), Vietnam (10.4%), China (7.4%), Nigeria (5.7%), Denmark (3.6%), Egypt (3.4%), Niger (3.1%), Malaysia (3%), Burkina Faso (2.3%), Ukraine (2.2%) and Singapore (1.9%).
From a continental perspective, over two-thirds (68%) of Benin’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 21.1% were sold to importers in Africa. Benin shipped another 8.9% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to North America (1.8%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.1%), plus Norfolk Island and Australia (0.05%) in Oceania.
Given Benin’s population of 11.8 million people, its total $850.6 million in 2019 exports translates to roughly $75 for every resident in the West African country.
Benin’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Beninese global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Benin.
- Cotton: US$466.9 million (54.9% of total exports)
- Fruits, nuts: $77.6 million (9.1%)
- Oil seeds: $62.5 million (7.3%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $33.2 million (3.9%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $25.6 million (3%)
- Wood: $25.3 million (3%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $24.9 million (2.9%)
- Iron, steel: $23.6 million (2.8%)
- Meat: $19.7 million (2.3%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $15.6 million (1.8%)
Formerly called Dahomey, Benin’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated accounting for 91.1% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Wood represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 249.9% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was salt, sulphur, stone and cement via a 25.2% gain. Benin’s shipments of oil seeds posted the third-fastest appreciation up by 19.5%.
The leading decliner among Benin’s top 10 export categories was fruits and nuts thanks to a -45.7% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level In 2019 Benin’s most valuable exported products were raw cotton (53%); cashews and brazil nuts (9%); oil seeds (6.6%); processed petroleum oils (2.9%); hydraulic cements (also 2.9%); poultry meat (2.3%); sun, safflower, or cotton-seed oil (2.2%); unrefined gold (1.7%); miscellaneous oil cakes (1.6%); then miscellaneous preserved fruits (1.5%).
The following types of Beninese product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus during 2019. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Cotton: US$445.9 million (Up by 2.1% since 2018)
- Fruits, nuts: $76.1 million (Down by -46.4%)
- Oil seeds: $61.6 million (Up by 18.9%)
- Wood: $21.2 million (Up by 443.8%)
- Gems, precious metals: $14.7 million (Up by 17.2%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $11.0 million (Up by 0.2%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $3.9 million (Up by 91.6%)
- Ships, boats: $2.9 million (Down by -124.8%)
- Vegetable plaiting materials: $1.5 million (Reversing a -$3.7 million deficit in 2018)
- Copper: $154,000 (Reversing a -$272,000 deficit in 2018)
Benin has highly positive net exports in the international trade of cotton and cashew nuts. In turn, these cashflows indicate Benin’s strong competitive advantages under related product categories.
Overall, Benin incurred a -$2 billion trade deficit for 2019 down by -13.8% from -$2.4 billion one year earlier.
Below are exports from Benin that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Benin’s goods trail Beninese importer spending on foreign products.
- Cereals: -US$580.3 million (Down by -34.1% since 2018)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$556.8 million (Down by -3.8%)
- Vehicles: -$205.9 million (Down by -0.8%)
- Machinery including computers: -$137.3 million (Up by 112.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$114.4 million (Up by 6.2%)
- Fertilizers: -$109.7 million (Up by 63%)
- Fish: -$104.7 million (Down by -0.5%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$88.8 million (Down by -54.4%)
- Meat: -$85.6 million (Up by 6.6%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$78.9 million (Down by -21.3%)
Benin has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the cereals category. That product deficit was mostly for rice and, to a lesser extent, wheat and corn.
Beninese Export Companies
Not surprising for a small African nation, no Beninese corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia does list some exports-related companies from Benin. Selected examples are shown below.
- Compagnie Béninoise de Négoce et de Distribution (personal/household goods)
- COTAIR (airliner)
- Société Beninoise de Gaz (natural gas)
- Société Nationale de Commercialisation des Produits Pétroliers (oil, gas)
In macroeconomic terms, Benin’s total exported goods represent 2.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($40.7 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 2.1% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 2.5% for 2018. These percentages suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Benin’s total economic performance.
According to Trading Economics, Benin’s average unemployment rate for 2019 was 2% compared to 2.1% in 2018.
Benin’s capital city is Porto-Novo.
See also Rice Imports by Country, Top Almonds Exporters by Country and Capital Facts for Porto-Novo, Benin
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on April 19, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 19, 2020
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on April 19, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Databases (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 19, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 19, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 19, 2020
Wikipedia, Benin. Accessed on April 19, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Benin. Accessed on April 19, 2020