That dollar amount reflects a 96.3% increase since 2016 and a 5.5% gain from 2019 to 2020.
The 5 biggest exports from the Democratic Republic of the Congo are refined copper and unwrought alloys, cobalt oxides or hydroxides, copper ores or concentrates, unrefined copper, and miscellaneous ores or concentrates. Combined, that quintet of leading exports represents 94.2% of the country’s total exports by value. Such a high percentage indicates an extremely concentrated portfolio of export products.
Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Major Trading Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that 97% of products exported from the Democratic Republic of the Congo were bought by importers in: China (41% of the global total), Tanzania (11.8%), Zambia (8.8%), South Africa (7.7%), Singapore (7.2%), United Arab Emirates (6%), Switzerland (5.7%), Mozambique (4.8%), Vietnam (1.6%), Hong Kong (1%), Belgium (0.6%) and Malaysia (also 0.6%).
From a continental perspective, 58.5% of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 34.2% were sold to importers in fellow African countries. The Democratic Republic of the Congo shipped another 7% worth of goods to fellow nations in Europe.
Smaller percentages went to Latin America (0.2%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, North America (0.1%) and Oceania’s Australia and New Zealand (0.01%).
Given Democratic Republic of the Congo’s population of 90.8 million people, its total $14.1 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $160 for every resident in the Central African country.
Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Congolese global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from the Congo.
- Copper: US$9.2 billion (65.5% of total exports)
- Inorganic chemicals: $3.1 billion (22.3%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $1.1 billion (7.6%)
- Other base metals: $147.9 million (1%)
- Gems, precious metals: $117.1 million (0.8%)
- Cocoa: $87.3 million (0.6%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $68.9 million (0.5%)
- Wood: $57.4 million (0.4%)
- Vehicles: $31.7 million (0.2%)
- Machinery including computers: $30.6 million (0.2%)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s top 10 exports accounted for 99.1% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Miscellaneous base metals represent the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 329.9% from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for improving export sales was machinery including computers via a 116.7% gain.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s shipments of cocoa posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 31.9%.
The leading decliner among Democratic Republic of the Congo’s top 10 export categories were mineral fuels including oil thanks to a -54% drop year over year.
From the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, refined copper and unwrought alloys represent the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s most valuable exported product at 61.4% of the country’s total by value. In second place was cobalt oxides or hydroxides (22.3%) trailed by copper ores and concentrates (5.8%), unrefined copper (3.5%), miscellaneous ores or concentrates (1.2%), cobalt (1%), unmounted and unset diamonds (0.8%), cocoa beans (0.6%), processed petroleum oils (0.5%), and copper waste or scrap (0.4%).
The Democratic Republic of the Congo posted an estimated $7.5 billion trade surplus in 2020, up by 63.7% from its $4.6 billion in black ink one year earlier.
The following types of Congolese 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.
- Copper: US$9.2 billion (Up by 23.9% since 2019)
- Inorganic chemicals: $2.9 billion (Down by -18.3%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $1 billion (Down by -18.4%)
- Other base metals: $142.3 million (Up by 316.1%)
- Gems, precious metals: $116.9 million (Down by -47.5%)
- Cocoa: $85.5 million (Up by 31.9%)
- Wood: $50.9 million (Up by 12.3%)
- Zinc: $29.2 million (Up by 1791.2%)
- Oil seeds: $15 million (Up by 83.9%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $14.9 million (Up by 32.8%)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo generated highly positive net exports in the international trade of copper and miscellaneous base metals (mostly intermediate products of cobalt metallurgy). These cashflows indicate strong Congolese competitive advantages under the copper and other base metals product categories.
Below are exports from Democratic Republic of the Congo that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Congo’s goods trail Congolese importer spending on foreign products.
- Books, newspapers, pictures: -US$1.2 billion (Down by -33.8% since 2019)
- Machinery including computers: -$890.3 million (Down by -28.9%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: -$541.3 million (Down by -7.1%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$471.9 million (Down by -16.2%)
- Vehicles: -$347.2 million (Down by -22.6%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$300.5 million (Down by -21.4%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$266.7 million (Up by 13.8%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$221.2 million (Down by -22.8%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$167.1 million (Down by -67.2%)
- Cereals: -$159.3 million (Down by -19.1%)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo incurred highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the books, newspapers and pictures product category.
Congolese Export Companies
Not one Congolese corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists exporters from Democratic Republic of the Congo. Selected examples are shown below.
- Cohydro (hydrocarbons derived from crude oil)
- Congotex (textiles, clothing)
- Feronia Inc (beans, rice, oil seeds, palm oil)
- Sodefor (timber, other forestry products)
In macroeconomic terms, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s total exported goods represent 13.3% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($106.1 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 13.3% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 9% for 2019. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Democratic Republic of the country’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. The Congolese average unemployment rate was 10.3% for 2020, up from an average 9.6% in 2019 according to Trading Economics.
Kinshasa serves as the capital city for Democratic Republic of the Congo.
See also Top African Export Countries, South Africa’s Top 10 Exports and Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Africa: Democratic Republic of the Congo. Accessed on September 30, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on September 30, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity)
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on September 30, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on September 30, 2021
Wikipedia, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Accessed on September 30, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on September 30, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Democratic Republic of the Congo. Accessed on September 30, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on September 30, 2021