Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the Namibian dollar depreciated by -11.9% against the US dollar since 2016 and declined by -13.9% from 2020 to 2020. Namibia’s weaker local currency makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 86.9% of products exported from Namibia were bought by importers in: China (35.8% of the global total), South Africa (15.4%), Botswana (8.4%), Belgium (5.6%), Spain (4.9%), Zambia (4.4%), Democratic Republic of the Congo (2.8%), Germany (2.5%), United Arab Emirates (2.2%), Netherlands (1.9%), Italy (1.6%) and Canada (1.5%).
From a continental perspective, 43.1% of Namibia’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 33.1% were sold to importers in fellow African nations. Namibia shipped another 20.3% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to North America (2.9%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.2%) then Oceania led by Marshall Islands and Australia (0.1%).
Given Namibia’s population of 2.53 million people, its total $5.4 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $2,150 for every resident in the southwest African country.
Namibia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Namibian global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Namibia.
- Copper: US$1.8 billion (32.3% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.2 billion (21.4%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $752.8 million (13.9%)
- Fish: $597 million (11%)
- Live animals: $83.9 million (1.5%)
- Machinery including computers: $82 million (1.5%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $76.8 million (1.4%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $73.5 million (1.4%)
- Vehicles: $70 million (1.3%)
- Wood: $64.1 million (1.2%)
Namibia’s top 10 exports accounted for 86.9% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Inorganic chemicals represent the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 305.3% in value from 2019 to 2020. In second place for improving export sales was wood via a 22.6% gain. Namibia’s shipments of copper a 6.9% increase.
The leading decliner among Namibia’s top 10 export categories was live animals thanks to a -43% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, unrefined copper represents Namibia’s most valuable exported product at 24.9% of the country’s total. In second place was unset diamonds (14%) trailed by uranium or thorium ores and concentrates (11.7%), gold (7.4%), fish fillets plus other pieces (5.4%), frozen whole fish (4.7%), cobalt oxides and hydroxides (1.2%), live bovine cattle (1.2%) then refined petroleum oils (also 1.2%).
The following types of Namibian 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.
- Gems, precious metals: US$1.1 billion (Down by -9.7% since 2018)
- Fish: $554.3 million (Down by -14.8%)
- Copper: $181.2 million (Down by -50.2%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $145.5 million (Down by -59.1%)
- Live animals: $81.7 million (Down by -43.9%)
- Zinc: $59.5 million (Down by -67.5%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $39.8 million (Down by -19.7%)
- Fruits, nuts: $39.8 million (Up by 1.3%)
- Wood: $23.6 million (Up by 381.2%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $7.7 million (Down by -35.9%)
Namibia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of diamonds and gold. In turn, these cashflows indicate Namibia’s strong competitive advantages under the gems and precious metals category.
Overall Namibia incurred a -$1.2 billion trade deficit for 2020, down by -6% from -$1.3 billion one year earlier.
Below are exports from Namibia that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Namibia’s goods trail Namibian importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$515.2 million (Down by -39.6% since 2018)
- Machinery including computers: -$349.2 million (Down by -17.6%)
- Vehicles: -$294.1 million (Down by -32.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$222.3 million (Down by -16.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$149.1 million (Down by -6.5%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$126.1 million (Down by -21%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$119.4 million (Down by -21.7%)
- Cereals: -$92.4 million (Down by -10.7%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: -$83.4 million (Up by 4.7%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: -$77.3 million (Down by -17.8%)
Namibia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category, notably for refined petroleum oils and, to a lesser extent, petroleum gases.
Namibian Export Companies
Not one Namibian corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists companies from Namibia that participate in international trade transactions. Selected examples are shown below.
- Air Namibia (airliner)
- BidFish (fishery, fish processor)
- FIDES Bank Namibia (commercial bank)
- MTC Namibia (mobile telecommunications)
- Namib Mills (grain processor)
- Ohorongo Cement (cement)
- TN Mobile (mobile telecommunications)
In macroeconomic terms, Namibia’s total exported goods represent an estimated 18.9% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($28.7 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 18.9% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to an estimated 23.3% for 2019. This seems to suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Namibia’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Namibia’s unemployment rate was an estimated 20.59% in 2020 down from over 30% two years earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Namibia’s capital city is Windhoek, which translates to “windy corner” in the Afrikaans language.
See also Uganda’s Top 10 Exports, Somalia’s Top 10 Exports and Top African Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on March 7, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 7, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 7, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 7, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 7, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 7, 2021
Wikipedia, Flag of Namibia. Accessed on March 7, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 7, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Namibia. Accessed on March 7, 2021
Wikipedia, Namibia. Accessed on March 7, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on March 7, 2021
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Windhoek, Namibia. Accessed on March 7, 2021