That dollar amount results from a 47.6% increase from $20 billion in 2018.
Year over year, the value of Congolese exports accelerated by 32.2% compared to $22.3 billion during 2021.
The 5 biggest exports from the Democratic Republic of the Congo are refined copper and unwrought alloys, cobalt, copper ores or concentrates, unrefined copper, then unwrought gold. Combined, that quintet of leading exports represents 95.8% of the country’s total exports by value. Such a high percentage indicates an intensely concentrated portfolio of products exported from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Major Trading Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that 98.7% of products exported from the Democratic Republic of the Congo were bought by importers in: mainland China (47.9% of the exporter’s total), South Africa (11.3%), Mozambique (7.8%), Singapore (7%), Hong Kong (6.9%), Tanzania (4.69%), United Arab Emirates (4.66%), Zambia (3.6%), Switzerland (2.6%), Vietnam (1.6%), Belgium (0.4%) and South Korea (0.3%).
From a continental perspective, 69% of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 27.9% were sold to importers in fellow African countries. The Democratic Republic of the Congo shipped another 3.1% worth of goods to fellow nations in Europe.
Tinier percentages went to North America (0.03%), Oceania’s Australia, New Zealand and French Polynesia (0.002%), then Latin America (0.001%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Given Democratic Republic of the Congo’s population of 96.8 million people, its total $29.5 billion in 2022 exports translates to roughly $300 for every resident in the Central African country. That dollar metric eclipses the average $170 per capita one year earlier during 2021.
Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Congolese global shipments during 2022. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from the Congo.
- Copper: US$16.8 billion (57% of total exports)
- Inorganic chemicals: $8.2 billion (27.6%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $3.1 billion (10.7%)
- Gems, precious metals: $858.1 million (2.9%)
- Other base metals: $159 million (0.5%)
- Cocoa: $89.9 million (0.3%)
- Wood: $68.6 million (0.2%)
- Zinc: $35.8 million (0.1%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $31.2 million (0.1%)
- Vehicles: $25.6 million (0.1%)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s top 10 exports accounted for 99.6% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Gems and precious metals was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 563.6% from 2021 to 2022.
In second place for improving export sales was vehicles via a 133.2% advance.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s shipments of ores, slag and ash posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 79.1%.
The most modest increase among the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s top 10 export categories was cocoa, posting a 1.4% year-over-year upturn.
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 representing 52.6% of the country’s total export sales by value. In second place was cobalt oxides and hyrdroxides (27.6%) trailed by copper ores and concentrates (8.8%), unrefined copper (4.3%), unwrought gold (2.5%), miscellaneous ores and concentrates (1.5%), cobalt (0.5%), unmounted and unset diamonds (0.4%), then rough wood (0.3%).
Products Generating Congo’s Largest Trade Surpluses
The Democratic Republic of the Congo posted an estimated $2.52 billion trade surplus in 2022, down by -75.7% from its $10.4 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$16.8 billion (Up by 15.8% since 2021)
- Inorganic chemicals: $7.1 billion (Up by 43.6%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $3.1 billion (Up by 80%)
- Gems, precious metals: $857 million (Up by 568.7%)
- Other base metals: $158.1 million (Up by 14.4%)
- Cocoa: $87.6 million (Up by 1.5%)
- Wood: $47.8 million (Up by 14.9%)
- Zinc: $35 million (Up by 27.1%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $28.2 million (Up by 81.1%)
- Oil seeds: $11.9 million (Down by -6.3%)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo generated highly positive net exports in the international trade of copper. These cashflows indicate strong Congolese competitive advantages under the copper and related product categories.
Products Causing Congo’s Worst Trade Deficits
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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$11.6 billion (Up by 466.6% since 2021)
- Machinery including computers: -$3.2 billion (Up by 74.1%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: -$1.9 billion (Up by 105.1%)
- Vehicles: -$1.5 billion (Up by 28.7%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.2 billion (Up by 57.4%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$1 billion (Up by 53.5%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$631.6 million (Up by 48.3%)
- Iron, steel: -$415.3 million (Up by 95.1%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$409.1 million (Up by 9.8%)
- Miscellaneous textiles, worn clothing: -$393.4 million (Up by 36.2%)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo incurred highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels-related product category. Biggest product deficits are for refined petroleum oils, coal and petroleum coke.
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 22.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2022 ($133.5 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 22.1% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2022 compares to 14.3% for 2021. 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 unemployment rate averaged 21.8% for 2022, down from an average 22.2% during 2021 according to Trading Economics.
Kinshasa serves as the capital city for Democratic Republic of the Congo.
See also Copper Ore Exports by Country Plus Average Prices, Kenya’s Top 10 Imports, Uganda’s Top 10 Exports and Coffee Exports by Country
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Africa: Democratic Republic of the Congo. Accessed on September 9, 2023
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on September 9, 2023
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on September 9, 2023
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on September 9, 2023
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on September 9, 2023
Wikipedia, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Accessed on September 9, 2023
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on September 9, 2023
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Democratic Republic of the Congo. Accessed on September 9, 2023
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on September 9, 2023