Located in West Africa bordered to its east by Nigeria and to its west by Togo, the Republic of Benin shipped an estimated US$937.6 million worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -3.2% slowdown since 2014 but a robust 28.2% increase from 2017 to 2018.
In addition, Benin furnished an estimated $574 million worth of international services during 2018 encompassing about $131.7 million from travel-related services.
Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Benin’s exported goods plus services represent 31.6% of total Beninese economic output or Gross Domestic Product. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 82.9% of products exported from Benin were bought by importers in: Vietnam (13.7% of the global total), Bangladesh (12.4%), Malaysia (11.5%), India (10.3%), Nigeria (10%), China (7.7%), Niger (3.9%), Denmark (3.1%), United States (3.1%), Egypt (3%), Turkey (2.3%) and Togo (1.8%).
From a continental perspective, almost two-thirds (62.6%) of Beninese exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 25.2% were sold to fellow African nations. Benin shipped another 9% worth of goods to European importers with 3.1% going to North America.
Given Benin’s population of 11.3 million people, its total $937.6 million in 2018 exports translates to roughly $85 for every resident in the West African country.
According to Trading Economics, Benin’s unemployment rate for 2018 was 2.1% compared to 2.5% in 2017.
Benin’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Beninese global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Benin.
- Fruits, nuts: US$303.7 million (32.4% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $294.2 million (31.4%)
- Cotton: $110.1 million (11.7%)
- Copper: $66.2 million (7.1%)
- Wood: $49.8 million (5.3%)
- Oil seeds: $26.6 million (2.8%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $18.6 million (2%)
- Iron, steel: $16 million (1.7%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $9.7 million (1%)
- Aluminum: $8.6 million (0.9%)
Formerly called Dahomey, Benin’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated accounting for 96.3% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Copper was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 8,700% from 2017.
In second place for improving export sales was gems and precious metals thanks to its 1,209% increase.
Benin’s shipments of wood posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 511.1%.
The leading decliner among Benin’s top 10 export categories was cotton via a -69.3% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, cashew nuts and coconuts represent Benin’s most valuable exported products at 32.2% of the country’s total. In second place was gold (31.2%) trailed by unprocessed cotton (10.7%), copper waste and scrap (7.1%), rough wood (3.2%), soya beans (2.1%), sawn wood (1.9%), miscellaneous oil cakes (1.8%), iron or steel scrap (1.7%) then processed petroleum oils (1%).
The following types of Beninese product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus during 2018. 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.
- Fruits, nuts: US$302 million (Up by 221.9% since 2017)
- Gems, precious metals: $290.3 million (Up by 1,198%)
- Copper: $58.7 million (Up by 9,631%)
- Wood: $43.7 million (Up by 786.5%)
- Oil seeds: $25.9 million (Down by -19.1%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $15.4 million (Up by 146.3%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $2.9 million (Reversing an -$11,000 deficit)
- Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $670,000 (Reversing a -$407,000 deficit)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $571,000 (Up by 3,469%)
- Vegetable plaiting materials: $277,000 (Down by -39.8%)
Benin has highly positive net exports in the international trade of cashew nuts. In turn, these cashflows indicate Benin’s strong competitive advantages under the fruits and nuts category.
Overall, Benin incurred a -$4.6 billion trade deficit for 2018 up by 98.1% from -$2.3 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$937.2 million (Down by -13.5% since 2017)
- Vehicles: -$526.9 million (Up by 229.7%)
- Cotton: -$440 million (Reversing a $332.9 million surplus)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$425.9 million (Up by 376.1%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$375.2 million (Up by 116.6%)
- Feathers, artificial flowers, hair: -$363.9 million (Up by 94,171%)
- Machinery including computers: -$188.4 million (Up by 147.6%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: -$186.1 million (Up by 238.7%)
- Manmade filaments: -$153.8 million (Up by 16,076%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$141 million (Down by -72.4%)
Benin has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the cereals category, notably for rice.
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)
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 September 9, 2019
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on September 9, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Databases (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on September 9, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on September 9, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on September 9, 2019
Wikipedia, Benin. Accessed on September 9, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Benin. Accessed on September 9, 2019