Tanzania’s Top 10 Exports

Tanzanian flag courtesy of FlagPictures.org

Tanzania flag (FlagPictures.org)

A country on the southeast African coast bordering the Indian Ocean, the United Republic of Tanzania shipped an estimated US$3.8 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018.

That dollar amount results from a -33.5% decline since 2014 and a -9.2% drop from 2017 to 2018.

From a continental perspective, approaching half (42.1%) of Tanzanian exports by value were delivered to fellow African countries. In second place were Asian importers at 34.9% while Tanzania sent another 20.7% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages were distributed among North America (1.9%), Oceania (0.2%) led by Australia and New Zealand, and Latin America (0.2%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.

Given Tanzania’s population of 55.5 million people, its total $3.8 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $70 for each resident in the southeast African nation.

In macroeconomic terms, Tanzania’s total exported goods represent 2.2% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($175.8 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 2.2% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 3% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Tanzania’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Tanzania also provided $3.8 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 2.1% of GDP in PPP.

Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Trading Economics projects Tanzania’s unemployment rate to be 9% as of March 2019, down from 10.3% at June 2018.

Tanzania’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Tanzanian global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Tanzania.

  1. Gems, precious metals: US$1.6 billion (42.1% of total exports)
  2. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $290.4 million (7.7%)
  3. Coffee, tea, spices: $195.8 million (5.2%)
  4. Fish: $156.7 million (4.1%)
  5. Fruits, nuts: $139.2 million (3.7%)
  6. Vegetables: $118.6 million (3.1%)
  7. Oil seeds: $104.1 million (2.7%)
  8. Cotton: $85.5 million (2.3%)
  9. Mineral fuels including oil: $72.9 million (1.9%)
  10. Perfumes, cosmetics: $65 million (1.7%)

Tanzania’s top 10 exports accounted for three-quarters (74.5%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Perfumes and cosmetics was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 155% from 2017 to 2018.

In second place for improving export sales was cotton which appreciated 59.1%.

Tanzanian shipments of mineral fuels including oil posted the third-fastest gain in value thanks to a 53.7% expansion year over year.

The leading decliner among the top 10 Tanzanian export categories was fruits and nuts which fell in value by -74.9%, weighted down by diminished revenue for cashews.

At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Tanzania’s most valuable export products are gold (39.8% of total exports) trailed by unmanufactured tobacco (7.1%), coffee (3.9%), coconuts, Brazil nuts and cashews (3.3%), dried shelled vegetables (2.6%), fish pieces (2.6%), diamonds (2.1%), oil seeds (2.1%), beauty makeup and skin preparations (1.5%) then tea (1.2%).


The following types of Tanzanian 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 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.

  1. Gems, precious metals: US$1.6 billion (Down by -1.7% since 2017)
  2. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $280 million (Up by 32.6%)
  3. Coffee, tea, spices: $194.5 million (Down by -4%)
  4. Fish: $146.5 million (Down by -17.8%)
  5. Fruits, nuts: $134.6 million (Down by -75.5%)
  6. Vegetables: $110.5 million (Down by -32.1%)
  7. Oil seeds: $85.9 million (Up by 19.8%)
  8. Cotton: $38.4 million (Up by 138.9%)
  9. Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $31.4 million (Up by 18.7%)
  10. Food industry waste, animal fodder: $31.4 million (Up by 14.2%)

Tanzania has highly positive net exports in the international trade of gold and, to a much lesser extent, diamonds and precious stones. In turn, these cashflows indicate Tanzania’s strong competitive advantages under the gems and precious metals product category.


Overall Tanzania incurred a -$4.7 billion trade deficit for 2018, up 31.4% from -$3.6 billion in red ink one year earlier.

Below are exports from Tanzania that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Tanzania’s goods trail Tanzanian importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: -US$1.7 billion (Up by 14.7% since 2017)
  2. Machinery including computers: -$945.4 million (Up by 0.5%)
  3. Vehicles: -$793.6 million (Up by 34.1%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$489.7 million (Down by -11.9%)
  5. Plastics, plastic articles: -$452.1 million (Up by 23.2%)
  6. Iron, steel: -$385.1 million (Up by 54.8%)
  7. Pharmaceuticals: -$278.2 million (Down by -34.4%)
  8. Articles of iron or steel: -$276.4 million (Up by 55.4%)
  9. Other chemical goods: -$240.3 million (Up by 26.5%)
  10. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$224.1 million (Down by -13.4%)

Tanzania has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category–particularly for refined petroleum oils, petroleum gas and petroleum coke.


Tanzanian Export Companies

Not one Tanzanian corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.

Wikipedia lists some exports-related companies from Tanzania. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Dangote Industries Tanzania (cement)
  • Nyati Cement (cement)
  • Quality Group Limited (conglomerate)
  • Swala Gas and Oil (oil, gas)
  • Tanga Cement (cement)
  • Tanzania Breweries Limited (beverages)
  • Tanzania Cigarette Company (cigarettes)
  • Tanzanian/Italian Petroleum Refining Co. Ltd (oil, gas)
  • Twiga Cement (cement)


Tanzania’s capital city is Dar es Salaam which literally means “residence of peace”.

See also Uganda’s Top 10 Exports, Somalia’s Top 10 Exports and Top African Export Countries

Research Sources:
FlagPictures.org, Flag of Tanzania. Accessed on March 10, 2019

Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 10, 2019

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 10, 2019

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 3, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 10, 2019

The World Factbook, Africa: Tanzania. Accessed on March 10, 2019

Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 3, 2019

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Tanzania. Accessed on March 10, 2019

Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 3, 2019

Wikipedia, Tanzania. Accessed on March 10, 2019

World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Accessed on March 10, 2019