Top Continents for Exported Products

World map (courtesy of

World map (Pixabay)

Asian exporters accounted for over two-fifths (41.7%) of the overall US$17.585 trillion worth of exported goods shipped during 2017. Close behind in second place were European countries trailed by suppliers in North America, South America, Africa, Oceania (led by Australia and New Zealand), then Central America.

Below are exporting entities at the continent level. Continents are presented in descending order starting with the highest dollar value for global shipments during 2017. Also shown is each continent’s percentage value compared to the worldwide total.

  1. Asia: US$7.326 trillion (41.7% of globally exported products)
  2. Europe: $6.593 trillion (37.5%)
  3. North America: $2.376 trillion (13.5%)
  4. South America: $506.1 billion (2.9%)
  5. Africa: $420.5 billion (2.4%)
  6. Oceania: $283 billion (1.6%)
  7. Central America: $43 million (0.2%)

Exports from all continental entities declined since 2013, led by Africa’s -37.1% deterioration. South American exports declined by -27.2% from 2013 to 2017 ahead of Central America (down -20.2%), Europe (down -8.9%), Oceania (down -8.3%), Asia (down -3%) then North America (down -1.6%).

From 2016 to 2017, the overall trend was to the upside. Six of the seven continents posted improvements, led by Africa’s 24% increase. Other year-over-year gainers were Oceania (up 19.8%), South America (up 14.3%), Asia (up 11.7%), Europe (up 9.9%) and North America (up 7.3%). Central America was the sole decliners via its -6.6% setback.


Ranking of Continents by Exported Goods per Capita

When it comes to the value of exported products proportioned based on each continent’s population count as of July 2018, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. Case in point: Europe’s population of 747 million people falls far short of Asia’s population of 4.5 billion, yet exports per capita for Europe equaled $8,825 per person compared to $1,647 per person for the much more populous Asia.

The following list shows the average value of continental exports per person. The population for each continent as of July 2018 is shown within parentheses.

  1. Europe: US$8,825 in exports per capita (747 million residents)
  2. Oceania: $7,363 (38.4 million residents)
  3. North America: $4,839 (491.1 million residents)
  4. Asia: $1,647 (4.5 billion residents)
  5. South America: $1,199 (422.2 million residents)
  6. Central America: $911 (47.2 million residents)
  7. Africa: $344 (1.2 billion residents)

While Africa is the second-most populous continent behind only Asia, continental Africa sells by far the smallest value in terms of exports per capita. And even though the African population is over 25 times greater than that for Central America, Central America’s score for exports per capita is almost three times higher than for the much more populated African continent.

Another root cause for the stark differences in the average value of exports per capita comes down to the predominant types of products that each continent ships. For instance, the most valuable exported for Europe is cars which has a much higher per-unit cost compared to coffee for Central America and crude oil for Africa.

See also Major Exports by Continent, Top African Export Countries, Top Central American Export Countries, Top Oceanian Export Countries, Top South American Export Countries and Major Imported Products by Continent

Research Sources:
Central Intelligence Agency, Population statistics by country. Accessed on November 26, 2018

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on November 26, 2018

The World Factbook, Field Listing: Exports and World Population, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on November 26, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre, Accessed on November 26, 2018

Wikipedia, List of countries and dependencies by population. Accessed on November 26, 2018