That dollar amount reflects a 16% increase since 2017 and a 42.6% acceleration from 2020 to 2021.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2021, the Nigerian naira depreciated by -32% against the US dollar since 2017 and declined by -12.5% from 2020 to 2021. Nigeria’s weaker local currency makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
Nigeria’s biggest export is crude oil, a commodity that represents over three-quarters (76.2%) of its total exported goods by value. That percentage belies the relatively concentrated nature of the Nigerian portfolio of export products.
Nigeria places among world-leading export nations that sell oil seeds, and is a major competitor delivering crude oil and cocoa beans to international markets.
Where Nigeria Ships the Majority of Its Exports
The latest available country-specific data shows that 70.1% of products exported from Nigeria were bought by importers in: India (16.4% of the global total), Spain (11.8%), France (6.3%), Netherlands (6%), Canada (4.5%), United States of America (4.2%), Italy (4%), Indonesia (3.9%), mainland China (also 3.9%), South Africa (3.3%), Portugal (2.9%) and Ivory Coast (2.8%).
From a continental perspective, 39.8% of Nigeria’s exports by value were delivered to European countries while 34% were sold to importers in Asia. Nigeria shipped another 12.9% worth of goods within Africa.
Smaller percentages went to North America (8.8%), Latin America (4.3%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, and Oceania mainly Australia (0.2%).
Given Nigeria’s population of 211.4 million people, the total $47.6 billion in 2021 Nigerian exports translates to roughly $225 for every person in the West African nation. That dollar metric exceeds the average $160 per capita for 2020.
Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Nigerian global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Nigeria.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$42.4 billion (89.1% of total exports)
- Ships, boats: $1.4 billion (3%)
- Fertilizers: $949.8 million (2%)
- Cocoa: $628.8 million (1.3%)
- Oil seeds: $326.2 million (0.7%)
- Zinc: $258.8 million (0.5%)
- Aluminum: $190.3 million (0.4%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $143.7 million (0.3%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $112.8 million (0.2%)
- Lead: $94.1 million (0.2%)
Nigeria’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated accounting for 97.9% of the overall value of the country’s global shipments.
Fertilizers represent the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 423.8% from 2020 to 2021.
In second place for Nigeria’s improving export sales was aluminum via a 341.2% gain.
Shipments of lead: posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 256.5%.
The leading decliner among Nigeria’s top 10 export categories was ships and boats, thanks to a -30.3% drop year over year.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Nigeria’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.
Products Generating Greatest Trade Surpluses for Nigeria
The following types of Nigerian 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 reflect 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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$26.1 billion (Up by 21.7% since 2020)
- Ships, boats: $1.3 billion (Down by -29.1%)
- Fertilizers: $741.7 million (Down by -1178%)
- Cocoa: $612.2 million (Up by 96.3%)
- Oil seeds: $316 million (Down by -5.3%)
- Fruits, nuts: $188.9 million (Up by 298.3%)
- Lead: $94 million (Up by 257.5%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $63.3 million (Up by 721.3%)
- Copper: $42.7 million (Reversing a -$33.9 million deficit)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $23 million (Reversing a -$55.9 million deficit)
Nigeria has highly positive net exports particularly in the international trade of crude oil and petroleum gases. In turn, these cashflows indicate Nigeria’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels including oil category.
Products Causing Worst Trade Deficits for Nigeria
Nigeria incurred an overall -$4.9 billion deficit for 2021 shrinking by -75.2% from the -$19.6 billion surplus in 2020.
Below are exports from Nigeria that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Nigeria’s goods trail Nigerian importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: -US$7.4 billion (Down by -24.6% since 2020)
- Vehicles: -$3.4 billion (Down by -36.1%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$3.1 billion (Down by -16.4%)
- Cereals: -$2.8 billion (Up by 23.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$2.5 billion (Up by 4.2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1.4 billion (Down by -51.8%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$1.2 billion (Up by 22.2%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$1.11 billion (Down by -3.8%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: -$986.1 million (Up by 18.3%)
- Other chemical goods: -$930.8 million (Down by -30.2%)
Nigeria has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers category.
Nigerian Export Companies
Five Nigerian corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000 including three regional banks, an insurance conglomerate and a construction materials firm.
- Dangote Cement (construction materials)
- Equity Assurance (financial institution)
- FBN Holdings (regional bank)
- Guaranty Trust Bank (regional bank)
- Zenith Bank (regional bank)
Wikipedia also lists exporters from Nigeria. Selected examples are shown below.
- Julius Berger Nigeria (construction materials)
- Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (oil, gas)
- Oando (oil, gas)
- ROCAD Construction Limited (oil, gas)
- Shell Nigeria (oil, gas)
Searchable List of Nigeria’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Nigeria during 2021. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2020.
|Rank||Nigeria's Export Product||2021 Value (US$)||Change|
|3||Light vessels, fire boats, floating docks||$1,241,598,000||+63.3%|
|7||Cashew nuts, coconuts, Brazil nuts||$258,270,000||+117.2%|
|12||Refined copper, unwrought alloys||$68,648,000||+306.8%|
|13||Soya-bean oil-cake, other solid residues||$68,022,000||+302.2%|
|16||Processed petroleum oils||$56,641,000||-31.7%|
|18||Crustaceans (including lobsters)||$48,638,000||+73.9%|
|19||Computers, optical readers||$39,411,000||+0%|
|20||Spices including ginger, saffron, turmeric||$17,767,000||-31.6%|
|21||Lead ores, concentrates||$17,601,000||+256.4%|
|23||Fresh or dried flowers (for bouquets, ornamental)||$17,341,000||+230.6%|
|26||Beet-pulp, brew/distilling waste||$15,341,000||+137%|
|27||Fixed vegetable fats/oils||$13,918,000||+7.5%|
|29||Cocoa waste including shells, husks||$11,077,000||+156.9%|
|30||Wigs, falee beards, eyelashes||$9,521,000||+117.3%|
|32||Mixed sauces, condiments||$9,234,000||+203.8%|
|34||Soups, broths, related preparations||$8,446,000||+7.5%|
|36||Other food preparations||$7,146,000||+89.5%|
|39||Alkali/rare-earth metal, mercury||$5,671,000||+283.4%|
|40||Plastics waste, scrap||$5,596,000||+908.3%|
|41||Niobium/zirconium ores, concentrates||$5,470,000||+495.9%|
|42||Interchangeable hand/machine tools||$5,031,000||+297.4%|
|43||Manganese ores, concentrates||$4,996,000||+154.6%|
|44||Coal, solid fuels made from coal||$4,238,000||+0%|
|45||Organic surface-active products, soap||$4,129,000||-5.9%|
|47||Packing sacks, bags||$3,887,000||+970.8%|
|48||Coiled iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods||$3,874,000||+0%|
|49||Tin ores, concentrates||$3,788,000||+653.1%|
|50||Buckwheat, millet, canary seeds||$3,638,000||+0%|
|51||Armored vehicles, tanks||$3,451,000||+0%|
|52||Other organic cleaning preparations||$3,293,000||+34.8%|
|54||Other iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods||$3,009,000||+0%|
|55||Miscellaneous machine electrical parts||$2,987,000||+916%|
|57||Ground nut oil||$2,638,000||-7.2%|
|58||Paper containers, cellulose wadding||$2,616,000||+0%|
|59||Iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods||$2,583,000||+0%|
|60||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$2,424,000||+156.8%|
|61||Natural gums, resins, balsams||$2,397,000||+534.1%|
|63||Copper waste, scrap||$2,230,000||+2524%|
|65||Copper ores, concentrates||$2,038,000||+25375%|
|66||Miscellaneous ores, concentrates||$1,936,000||+892.8%|
|67||Buttermilk, cream, yogurt||$1,858,000||+8%|
|69||Yarn (85%+ cotton)||$1,757,000||+113.7%|
|70||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$1,700,000||+369.6%|
|71||Uncarded synthetic fibres||$1,663,000||+744.2%|
|72||Bran, other residues||$1,629,000||-18%|
|73||Onions, garlic, leeks||$1,623,000||+0%|
|75||Flour of peas, beans, lentils||$1,359,000||+0%|
|77||Whole fish (frozen)||$1,320,000||+1194%|
|80||Chromium ores, concentrates||$1,214,000||+911.7%|
|81||Oral/dental hygiene preparations||$450,000||+150%|
|82||Dried shelled vegetables||$444,000||-63.7%|
|83||Other than warp-knit fabrics||$398,000||+226.2%|
|84||Copper mattes, cement copper||$393,000||+0%|
|85||Tugboats, pusher craft||$385,000||-98.8%|
|87||Cobalt ores, concentrates||$364,000||+0%|
|88||Copper bars, rods||$358,000||+0%|
|89||Insoles, heel cushions||$348,000||+0%|
|90||Iron oxides, hydroxides||$347,000||+0%|
|92||Prepared adhesives, glues||$340,000||+123.7%|
|93||Uncoated paper for writing/printing||$339,000||+313.4%|
|94||Other fermented beverages||$322,000||+0%|
|95||Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings||$290,000||-46.2%|
|96||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$279,000||+0%|
|97||Copper powders, flakes||$278,000||+929.6%|
|99||Miscellaneous iron/non-alloy steel ingots||$271,000||+0%|
|100||Manioc roots, tubers, Jerusalem artichokes||$271,000||+774.2%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$46.9 billion or 98.5% by value for all products exported from Nigeria during 2021.
In macroeconomic terms, Nigeria’s total exported goods represent 4.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($1.154 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 4.1% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2021 compares to 3.1% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Nigeria’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Nigeria’s unemployment rate was 33% for 2021, down from an estimated 35% for 2021.
See also Nigeria’s Top 10 Imports, Nigeria’s Top Trading Partners and Top African Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Africa: Nigeria. Accessed on May 28, 2022
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on May 28, 2022
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (Domestic Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on May 28, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on May 28, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on May 28, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on May 28, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on May 28, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Nigeria. Accessed on May 28, 2022
Wikipedia, Nigeria. Accessed on May 28, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on May 28, 2022