That dollar amount reflects a 106.8% increase since 2016 but a flatlining -0.6% slowdown from 2019 to 2020.
Benin’s 5 biggest exported products by value in 2020 are uncarded cotton, cashews or Brazil nuts, oil seeds, processed petroleum oils, and miscellaneous oil cakes. Combined, that quintet of leading exports represent 73.7% of overall exported goods shipped by Benin.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the West African CFA franc appreciated by 3.1% against the US dollar since 2016 and increased in value by 2% from 2019 to 2020. Benin’s stronger local currency makes its exports paid for in weaker US dollars relatively less more for international buyers during 2020 paying starting with American currency.
Benin’s Major Trading Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that 85.3% of products exported from Benin were bought by importers in: Bangladesh (38.5% of the global total), India (11.9%), China (6.6%), Malaysia (4.7%), Ukraine (also 4.7%), Denmark (3.7%), United Arab Emirates (3.6%), Vietnam (3%), Niger (2.7%), Burkina Faso (2.5%), Egypt (1.7%) and Chad (1.6%).
From a continental perspective, 71.1% of Benin’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 14.6% were sold to importers in fellow African countries. Benin shipped another 13.1% worth of goods to Europe.
Tinier percentages went to North America (1%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.15%) and Oceania mostly Australia (0.12%).
Given Benin’s population of 12.1 million people, its total $845.2 million in 2020 exports translates to roughly $70 for every resident in the West African country.
Benin’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Beninese global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Benin.
- Cotton: US$472.5 million (55.9% of total exports)
- Oil seeds: $61.2 million (7.2%)
- Fruits, nuts: $60.1 million (7.1%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $37.8 million (4.5%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $31.9 million (3.8%)
- Iron, steel: $24.7 million (2.9%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $22.3 million (2.6%)
- Wood: $21 million (2.5%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $18.4 million (2.2%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $17.3 million (2%)
Formerly called Dahomey, Benin’s top 10 exports accounted for 90.8% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Electrical machinery and equipment was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 456.2% from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for improving export sales was food industry waste and animal fodder via a 104.7% gain.
Benin’s shipments of mineral fuels including oil posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 47.4%.
The leading decliner among Benin’s top 10 export categories was animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes, thanks to a -48.1% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level Benin’s most valuable exported products in 2020 were raw cotton (53.4%); cashews and Brazil nuts (6.7%); oil seeds (5.5%); processed petroleum oils (4.4%); miscellaneous oil cakes (3.6%); and hydraulic cements (2.1%).
The following types of Beninese product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus during 2020. 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.
- Cotton: US$451.8 million (Up by 1.3% since 2019)
- Oil seeds: $60.5 million (Down by -1.8%)
- Fruits, nuts: $58.5 million (Down by -23.1%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $27.1 million (Up by 147.7%)
- Wood: $16.3 million (Down by -21.9%)
- Gems, precious metals: $14.6 million (Down by -0.2%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $812,000 (Down by -77.7%)
- Furskins, artificial fur: $76,000 (Down by -10.6%)
- Vegetable plaiting materials: $65,000 (Down by -95.5%)
- Plaiting products, basketware, wickerwork: $24,000 (Reversing a -$17,000 deficit)
Benin has highly positive net exports in the international trade of cotton. In turn, these cashflows indicate Benin’s strong competitive advantages under the related product category.
Overall, Benin incurred a -$1.7 billion trade deficit for 2020, down by -15.8% from -$2.1 billion one year earlier.
Below are exports from Benin that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Benin’s goods trail Beninese importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$451.5 million (Down by -18.9% since 2019)
- Cereals: -$398.5 million (Down by -31.5%)
- Vehicles: -$210.6 million (Up by 2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$120.6 million (Up by 0.5%)
- Fish: -$110.6 million (Up by 5.6%)
- Machinery including computers: -$106.8 million (Down by -23.7%)
- Fertilizers: -$82.2 million (Down by -26.2%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$81.9 million (Down by -2.2%)
- Meat: -$79.7 million (Down by -6.9%)
- Iron, steel: -$63.1 million (Down by -7.8%)
Benin has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil and the cereals categories. The latter product deficit was mostly for rice and, to a lesser extent, wheat and corn.
Beninese Export Companies
Not surprising for a small African nation, no Beninese corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia does list some exports-related companies from Benin. Selected examples are shown below.
- Compagnie Béninoise de Négoce et de Distribution (personal/household goods)
- COTAIR (airliner)
- Société Beninoise de Gaz (natural gas)
- Société Nationale de Commercialisation des Produits Pétroliers (oil, gas)
In macroeconomic terms, Benin’s total exported goods represent 2% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($41.7 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 2% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 2.1% for 2019. These percentages suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Benin’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
According to Trading Economics, Benin’s average unemployment rate was 2.5% for 2020 compared to an average 2.3% in 2019.
Benin’s capital city is Porto-Novo.
See also OPEC Countries Crude Oil Exports Sales Data, Rice Imports by Country, Top Almonds Exporters by Country and Capital Facts for Porto-Novo, Benin
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on October 4, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on October 4, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average)
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Databases (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on October 4, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on October 4, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on October 4, 2021
Wikipedia, Benin. Accessed on October 4, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Benin. Accessed on October 4, 2021