Zimbabwe’s Top 10 Exports

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Zimbabwe shipped US$2.8 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2016, up by 24.8% since 2009 when the Great Recession kicked in and up by 4.7% from 2015 to 2016

Zimbabwe’s top 10 exports accounted for 92.4% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Based on statistics from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product amounted to $28.3 billion in 2016 (on a purchasing power parity basis).

Therefore, exports accounted for about 10% of total Zimbabwean economic output.

From a continental perspective, $2.6 billion or 93.4% of Zimbabwean exports by value were delivered to other African countries while 4.3% were sold to Asian importers. Zimbabwe shipped another 2.2% worth of goods to European Union members.

Given Zimbabwe’s population of 14.5 million people, its total $2.8 billion in 2016 exports translates to roughly $200 for every resident in that country.

Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate was 11.3 % in 2014, the latest reporting period available from Trading Economics.

Zimbabwe’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Zimbabwean global shipments during 2016. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Zimbabwe. At the more detailed Harmonized Tariff System code level, Zimbabwe’s number 1 exported product is unmanufactured tobacco and tobacco scrap followed by gold, nickel ores and concentrates, ferro-alloys then unmounted and unset diamonds.

  1. Gems, precious metals: US$1 billion (36% of total exports)
  2. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $927 million (32.7%)
  3. Ores, slag, ash: $318.6 million (11.3%)
  4. Iron, steel: $122.5 million (4.3%)
  5. Sugar, sugar confectionery: $58.9 million (2.1%)
  6. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $57.2 million (2%)
  7. Nickel: $35 million (1.2%)
  8. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $29 million (1%)
  9. Cotton: $24.9 million (0.9%)
  10. Wood: $23.6 million (0.8%)

Gems and precious metals was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories up, by 687.5% for the 7-year period starting in 2009. That significant appreciation was propelled by Zimbabwe’s international sales of gold and diamonds.

In second place for improving export sales was tobacco was up by 235.7%.

Zimbabwean iron and steel posted the third-fastest gain in value at 180.2%.

The two fastest-declining categories among the top 10 Zimbabwean exports were nickel (down -86.9%) and cotton (down -78.2%).


The following types of Zimbabwean 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. Gems, precious metals: US$1 billion (Up by 698.5% since 2009)
  2. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $911.7 million (Up by 275%)
  3. Ores, slag, ash: $317.7 million (Up by 89%)
  4. Sugar, sugar confectionery: $37.1 million (Down by -18.8%)
  5. Nickel: $35 million (Down by -72.6%)
  6. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $30.9 million (Down by -37%)
  7. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $28 million (Up by 163.4%)
  8. Cotton: $22.8 million (Down by -79.1%)
  9. Coffee, tea, spices: $15.6 million (Up by 92.6%)
  10. Collector items, art, antiques: $12.9 million (Down by -14.7%)

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


Below are exports from Zimbabwe that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Zimbabwe’s goods trail Zimbabwean importer spending on foreign products. Overall, Zimbabwe ran a -$2.4 billion deficit during 2016 up 89.1% from its -$1.3 billion shortfall in 2009.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: -US$1.5 billion (Up by 245.4% since 2009)
  2. Cereals: -$516.5 million (Up by 134.5%)
  3. Machinery including computers: -$447.3 million (Up by 73.5%)
  4. Vehicles : -$336.7 million (Down by -35.6%)
  5. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$254.2 million (Up by 11.8%)
  6. Pharmaceuticals: -$200.5 million (Up by 154.3%)
  7. Plastics, plastic articles: -$177.4 million (Up by 103.8%)
  8. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$154.1 million (Up by 31%)
  9. Other chemical goods: -$103.3 million (Up by 153.2%)
  10. Articles of iron or steel: -$94.1 million (Up by 0.7%)

Zimbabwe has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for refined oils, electrical energy and petroleum gases under the mineral fuels-related product category.


Zimbabwean Export Companies

Not one Zimbabwean corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000 for 2015.

Wikipedia also lists exporters from Zimbabwe. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Border Timbers (forestry products)
  • Colcom Foods Limited (meat processing)
  • Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (cotton lint, cottonseed)
  • Dairibord Zimbabwe Ltd (milk, other dairy products)
  • Hippo Valley Estate (sugar)
  • Sable Chemicals (fertilizer, ammonia nitrate)
  • Tanganda Tea (tea, coffee)
  • Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (iron, steel)

Zimbabwe’s capital city is Harare.

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

See also Zimbabwe’s Top 10 Imports, Top African Export Countries, Top South African Import Partners and Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 6, 2017

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 6, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on February 6, 2017

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 29, 2016

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Zimbabwe. Accessed on June 29, 2016

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 29, 2016