A Western African nation surrounded by Benin, Chad, Cameroon and Niger, the Federal Republic of Nigeria shipped US$53.6 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 10.7% increase since 2015 and a 1.3% uptick from 2018 to 2019.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, the Nigerian naira depreciated by -59.5% against the US dollar since 2015 and declined by -0.3% from 2018 to 2019. Nigeria’s weaker local currency makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 74.5% of products exported from Nigeria were bought by importers in: India (15.4% of the global total), Spain (9.9%), Netherlands (9.1%), Ghana (7.5%), France (6.6%), South Africa (5.9%), United States (5.3%), Italy (4%), China (3.1%), Indonesia (2.8%), Turkey (2.5%) and Canada (also 2.5%).
From a continental perspective, 39.7% of Nigeria’s exports by value were delivered to European countries while 28.2% were sold to importers in Asia. Nigeria shipped another 20.4% worth of goods to fellow African nations. Smaller percentages went to North America (8%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (2.7%) then Oceania led by Australia (0.7%).
Given Nigeria’s population of 201 million people, the total $53.6 billion in 2019 Nigerian exports translates to roughly $270 for every person in the West African nation.
Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Nigerian global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Nigeria.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$46.7 billion (87.1% of total exports)
- Ships, boats: $3.2 billion (5.9%)
- Other base metal goods: $2.1 billion (3.9%)
- Cocoa: $311.1 million (0.6%)
- Oil seeds: $299.7 million (0.6%)
- Fertilizers: $151.7 million (0.3%)
- Fruits, nuts: $113.4 million (0.2%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $103.7 million (0.2%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $75.3 million (0.1%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $69.8 million (0.1%)
Nigeria’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated accounting for 99% of the overall value of the country’s global shipments.
Miscellaneous base metal goods represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 239,302% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was aircraft and spacecraft via a 221.6% gain. Nigeria’s shipments of ships and boats posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 150.3%.
The leading decliner among Nigeria’s top 10 export categories was fruits and nuts thanks to a -40.1% drop year over year.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Nigeria’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.
Overall, Nigeria achieved a $6.2 billion trade surplus during 2019 down -62% from $16.5 billion in black ink one year earlier.
The following types of Nigerian product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. 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 reflect 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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$39.3 billion (Up by 0.9% since 2018)
- Ships, boats: $2.4 billion (Reversing a -$2.2 billion deficit)
- Other base metal goods: $2 billion (Reversing a -$142.6 million deficit)
- Cocoa: $294.6 million (Down by -2.4%)
- Oil seeds: $268.6 million (Up by 8.3%)
- Fertilizers: $113 million (Up by 450.9%)
- Fruits, nuts: $62.2 million (Down by -58.2%)
- Lead: $43.6 million (Up by 0.4%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $26.4 million (Down by -63.9%)
- Tin: $8.7 million (Up by 691.1%)
Nigeria has highly positive net exports particularly in the international trade of crude oil and petroleum gases. In turn, these cashflows indicate Nigeria’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels including oil category.
Below are exports from Nigeria that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Nigeria’s goods trail Nigerian importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: -US$9 billion (Up by 74.1% since 2018)
- Vehicles: -$5.6 billion (Up by 151.2%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$3.7 billion (Up by 81.1%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$3.4 billion (Up by 513.4%)
- Glass: -$1.5 billion (Up by 3,512%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.5 billion (Up by 13.2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1.4 billion (Up by 181.9%)
- Cereals: -$1.3 billion (Up by 7.9%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$1 billion (Up by 47.3%)
- Books, newspapers, pictures: -$881.3 million (Up by 610.4%)
Nigeria has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers category.
Nigerian Export Companies
Five Nigerian corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000 including three regional banks, an insurance conglomerate and a construction materials firm.
- Dangote Cement (construction materials)
- Equity Assurance (financial institution)
- FBN Holdings (regional bank)
- Guaranty Trust Bank (regional bank)
- Zenith Bank (regional bank)
Wikipedia also lists exporters from Nigeria. Selected examples are shown below.
- Julius Berger Nigeria (construction materials)
- Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (oil, gas)
- Oando (oil, gas)
- ROCAD Construction Limited (oil, gas)
- Shell Nigeria (oil, gas)
Searchable List of Nigeria’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Nigeria during 2019. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2018.
|Rank||Nigeria's Export Product||2019 Value (US$)||Change|
|4||Flexible base metal tubing||$2,094,062,000||No 2018 data|
|5||Light vessels, fire boats, floating docks||$700,445,000||+3,572%|
|8||Cruise/cargo ships, barges||$203,013,000||+1,774%|
|10||Cashew nuts, coconuts, Brazil nuts||$112,575,000||-39.6%|
|11||Processed petroleum oils||$111,470,000||-28.8%|
|17||Cocoa butter, fat, oil||$44,859,000||-4.2%|
|21||Crustaceans (including lobsters)||$31,710,000||-25.7%|
|22||Refined copper, unwrought alloys||$31,304,000||+163.7%|
|24||Rafts, other floating structures||$21,736,000||No 2018 data|
|25||Lead ores, concentrates||$13,597,000||+36.2%|
|30||Soups, broths, similar food preparations||$10,948,000||+75.2%|
|31||Fixed vegetable fats/oils||$10,638,000||-19.7%|
|32||Spices including ginger, saffron, turmeric, thyme, curry||$10,394,000||-5.6%|
|33||Other food preparations||$10,244,000||-14.2%|
|34||Miscellaneous articles made from tin||$10,160,000||+404.2%|
|35||Beet-pulp, brew/distilling waste||$9,679,000||+6.2%|
|36||Wigs, false beards, eyebrows, eyslashes||$9,299,000||-34.0%|
|38||Organic surface-active goods, soap||$8,202,000||+32.0%|
|39||Zinc ores, concentrates||$8,179,000||-63.2%|
|40||Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)||$8,062,000||-47.1%|
|41||Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream||$8,031,000||+14.5%|
|42||Glass bottles, flasks, jars, pots||$7,857,000||+31.7%|
|45||Fresh or dried flowers (for bouquets, ornamental)||$5,238,000||-23.4%|
|46||Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods||$4,750,000||+3,611%|
|48||Cocoa shells, husks, skins||$4,250,000||+22.1%|
|50||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$3,983,000||-16.3%|
|51||Other organic cleaning preparations||$3,565,000||-29.4%|
|52||Niobium/zirconium ores, concentrates||$3,170,000||+49.2%|
|53||Cotton (uncarded, uncombed)||$2,983,000||-13.1%|
|55||Oral/dental hygiene preparations||$2,671,000||+15.0%|
|56||Sauces, mixed condiments, seasonings||$2,625,000||+12.6%|
|57||Copper powders, flakes||$2,526,000||No 2018 data|
|58||Yarn (85%+ cotton)||$2,505,000||-27.0%|
|59||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$2,481,000||-44.8%|
|60||Other iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods||$2,335,000||-63.8%|
|62||Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries||$2,206,000||+116.1%|
|63||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$2,159,000||+82.5%|
|65||Buttermilk, curdled milk, yogurt||$1,961,000||-24.5%|
|66||Footwear (rubber or plastic)||$1,751,000||-32.0%|
|67||Pumice stone, emery, garnet||$1,651,000||+2.0%|
|69||Bran, other residues||$1,527,000||-18.6%|
|70||Miscellaneous iron/non-alloy steel ingots||$1,406,000||-7.7%|
|71||Wrist/pocket watches (precious metal case)||$1,404,000||No 2018 data|
|72||Uncarded and non-combed synthetic staple fibers||$1,373,000||+182.5%|
|73||Coal, solid fuels made from coal||$1,288,000||+144.9%|
|74||Float/ground/polished glass in sheets||$1,284,000||+141.4%|
|75||Lead plates, sheets, foil, powders, flakes||$1,256,000||-26.0%|
|76||Lifting/loading machinery||$1,229,000||No 2018 data|
|78||Unrefined copper||$1,169,000||No 2018 data|
|79||Fruit and vegetable juices||$1,168,000||+20.8%|
|80||Sugar confectionery (no cocoa)||$1,168,000||-10.8%|
|81||Hydraulic turbines, water wheels, regulators||$1,167,000||No 2018 data|
|83||Phone system devices||$1,058,000||No 2018 data|
|84||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$1,025,000||-28.6%|
|85||Animal/vegetable hydrogenated fats, oils||$1,016,000||No 2018 data|
|87||Propellent powders||$971,000||No 2018 data|
|88||Survey/hydro/weather instruments||$868,000||No 2018 data|
|90||Copper foil||$797,000||No 2018 data|
|91||Other knit/crochet fabrics||$773,000||No 2018 data|
|92||Wood marquetry, inlaid wood, caskets, cases||$722,000||+14.4%|
|93||Stoppers, caps, lids, cork||$707,000||-1.8%|
|95||Iron or non-alloy steel angles, shapes, sections||$671,000||-62.2%|
|96||Natural gums, resins, balsams||$670,000||-50.2%|
|97||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$666,000||+83.0%|
|99||Peas/beans/lentils flour, powder||$644,000||+29.8%|
|100||Plastics waste, scrap||$592,000||-23.1%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$53.6 billion or 99.9% by value for all products exported from Nigeria during 2019.
In macroeconomic terms, Nigeria’s total exported goods represent 4.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($1.217 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 4.4% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2019 compares to 4.5% for 2018. This suggests a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Nigeria’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Nigeria’s average unemployment rate was 22.562% for 2019 per the International Monetary Fund.
See also Top African Export Countries, Nigeria’s Top 10 Imports and Nigeria’s Top Trading Partners
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Africa: Nigeria. Accessed on March 30, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 30, 2020
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 30, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 30, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 30, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 30, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 30, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Nigeria. Accessed on March 30, 2020
Wikipedia, Nigeria. Accessed on March 30, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on March 30, 2020