Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports

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The Federal Republic of Nigeria shipped US$34.9 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2016, down by -30.2% since 2009 when the Great Recession kicked in and down by -37.9% from 2015 to 2016.

Nigeria’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated accounting for 98% of the overall value of the country’s global shipments. Exported crude oil and petroleum gases account for the largest shares of that top 10 percentage.

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, Nigeria’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $1.125 trillion in 2016. Therefore, exports represent about 3.1% of total Nigerian economic output.

Given Nigeria’s population of 186.1 million people, the total $34.9 billion in 2016 Nigerian exports translates to roughly $190 for every person in the West African nation.

Nigeria’s unemployment rate was 13.9% as of September 2016 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 2016. 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 number 1 exported product is crude oil followed by petroleum gases then cocoa beans.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$31.9 billion (91.6% of total exports)
  2. Cocoa: $899.1 million (2.6%)
  3. Wood: $279.4 million (0.8%)
  4. Oil seeds: $279.2 million (0.8%)
  5. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $216.7 million (0.6%)
  6. Ores, slag, ash: $169 million (0.5%)
  7. Aluminum: $134.9 million (0.4%)
  8. Copper: $109.8 million (0.3%)
  9. Fish: $107.2 million (0.3%)
  10. Fruits, nuts: $65.6 million (0.2%)

Among the top 10 Nigerian exports above, the ores, slag and ash category showed the greatest increase since 2009 via a 2,355% uptick.

Copper gained 635.5%, while wood exported from Nigeria appreciated by 149.2% followed by exported aluminum up by 112.7%.

Five export categories didn’t fare as well. Nigeria’s sales of exported fruits and nuts fell by -25.1% over the 7-year period while Nigeria’s largest export category, mineral fuels including oil, depreciated by -29.3%.

Cocoa (down -37.1%), raw hides, skins excluding furskins and leather (down -57.7%) and exported fish (down -68.2%) were also losing categories for Nigerian exports from 2009 to 2016.


Overall, Nigeria achieved a $4.6 billion trade surplus during 2016 down -71.4% from 2009 when the nation’s trade surplus came in at $16 billion.

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 is 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$26.7 billion (Down by -40.5% since 2009)
  2. Cocoa: $889 million (Down by -37.5%)
  3. Oil seeds: $270.1 million (Up by 43%)
  4. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $210.5 million (Down by -57.5%)
  5. Ores, slag, ash: $167.7 million (Up by 4,831%)
  6. Wood: $144.4 million (Up by 845.1%)
  7. Copper: $66.2 million (Down by -263.3%)
  8. Lead: $58.9 million (Up by 2,797%)
  9. Fruits, nuts: $22.4 million (Down by -74.1%)
  10. Coffee, tea, spices: $16.8 million (Down by -215.1%)

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$3.1 billion (Down by -44.5% since 2009)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$3 billion (Down by -23.9%)
  3. Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.5 billion (Down by -19.1%)
  4. Vehicles: -$1.4 billion (Down by -78.3%)
  5. Pharmaceuticals: -$1.2 billion (Up by 318.8%)
  6. Cereals: -$937.4 million (Down by -40.7%)
  7. Articles of iron or steel: -$813.6 million (Down by -46.9%)
  8. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$762.8 million (Up by 4,880%)
  9. Sugar, sugar confectionery: -$616 million (Up by 60.3%)
  10. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$467.3 million (Up by 226.8%)

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 for 2016 including three regional banks, an insurance conglomerate and a construction materials firm.

  • Dangote Cement (construction materials)
  • Zenith Bank (regional bank)
  • FBN Holdings (regional bank)
  • Equity Assurance (financial institution)
  • Guaranty Trust 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 24, 2017

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on April 24, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on April 24, 2017

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 24, 2017

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Nigeria. Accessed on April 24, 2017

Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 24, 2017