Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports

Nigerian flag

Nigerian flag (

A Western African nation surrounded by Benin, Chad, Cameroon and Niger, the Federal Republic of Nigeria shipped US$40.7 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount reflects a -54.5% drop since 2013 but a 23.8% uptick from 2016 to 2017.

From a continental perspective, well over a third (37.4%) of Nigerian exports were sent to European countries while 29.6% worth was destined for Asia. Another 16.5% was delivered to North America, 12.1% went to Africa with 3.3% bought by importers in Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Nigeria’s exported goods plus services represent 12.5% of total Nigerian economic output or Gross Domestic Product. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

Given Nigeria’s population of 190.6 million people, the total $40.7 billion in 2017 Nigerian exports translates to roughly $210 for every person in the West African country.

Nigeria’s unemployment rate was 18.8% as of September 2017 per Trading Economics.

Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Nigerian global shipments during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Nigeria.

At the more detailed four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Nigeria’s most valuable exported product is mainly crude oil and, to a lesser extent, petroleum gases, cocoa beans, high-temperature distilled coal tar oils, refined petroleum oils then nitrogenous fertilizers.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$39.1 billion (96% of total exports)
  2. Ships, boats: $253.5 million (0.6%)
  3. Cocoa: $238.1 million (0.6%)
  4. Oil seeds: $180.9 million (0.4%)
  5. Fertilizers: $149.8 million (0.4%)
  6. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $102.4 million (0.3%)
  7. Plastics, plastic articles: $78.1 million (0.2%)
  8. Fruits, nuts: $76.1 million (0.2%)
  9. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $67.9 million (0.2%)
  10. Rubber, rubber articles: $55.4 million (0.1%)

Nigeria’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated accounting for 99% of the overall value of the country’s global shipments.

Among the top 10 Nigerian exports above, the fertilizers category showed the greatest increase from 2016 to 2017 via a 140.9% uptick.

Exported fruits and nuts gained 133.6%. Plastics and articles made from plastics exported from Nigeria appreciated by 100.8% followed by Nigeria’s exported oil seeds up by 48.7%.

Three export categories didn’t fare as well. Nigeria’s sales of exported tobacco and manufactured substitutes fell by -13% year over year. Cocoa exports declined in value by -21.4% while Nigerian shipments of ships and boats slid by -86.3% from 2016 to 2017.


Overall, Nigeria achieved a $11.8 billion trade surplus during 2017 reversing a -$2.3 billion deficit 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.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$30.9 billion (Up by 41.5% since 2016)
  2. Cocoa: $225.0 million (Down by -23.1%)
  3. Oil seeds: $170.8 million (Up by 61.8%)
  4. Ships, boats: $120.1 million (Reversing a -$885.9 million deficit)
  5. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $47.8 million (Up by 58.8%)
  6. Fruits, nuts: $31.9 million (Reversing a -$23.3 million deficit)
  7. Lead: $23.4 million (Down by -0.5%)
  8. Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $7.1 million (Up by 88.9%)
  9. Feathers, artificial flowers, hair: $6.7 million (Up by 169.6%)
  10. Ores, slag, ash: $5.2 million (Down by -23.5%)

Nigeria has highly positive net exports particularly in the international trade of crude oil, petroleum gases and, to a lesser degree, refined petroleum oils. 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.

  1. Machinery including computers: US-$3.9 billion (Down by -36.4% since 2016)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.7 billion (Down by -27.1%)
  3. Vehicles: -$1.5 billion (Down by -9.4%)
  4. Cereals: -$1.4 billion (Up by 14%)
  5. Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.3 billion (Down by -12.2%)
  6. Articles of iron or steel: -$676.8 million (Down by -15.4%)
  7. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: -$666.2 million (Up by 345.2%)
  8. Fish: -$646.4 million (Up by 15.2%)
  9. Other chemical goods: -$632.5 million (Up by 21.4%)
  10. Sugar, sugar confectionery: -$618.1 million (Down by -22.9%)

Nigeria has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers category, notably mobile phones.


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)

Nigeria’s capital city is Abuja.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also Top African Export Countries, Nigeria’s Top 10 Imports and Niger’s Top 10 Exports

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 2, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on April 2, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on April 2, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 2, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Nigeria. Accessed on April 2, 2018

Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 2, 2018