Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the Nigerian naira depreciated by -41.5% against the US dollar since 2016 and declined by -16.9% from 2019 to 2020. Nigeria’s weaker local currency makes its imports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively more expensive for Nigerian importers.
Applying a continental lens, Nigeria imported almost half (49.3%) of its imported goods by value from Asia. Another 33.3% came from suppliers in Europe with 10.3% arriving from North America. Smaller percentages originated from fellow African nations (3.3%), Latin America (3%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, and Oceania (0.8%) led by New Zealand and Australia.
Given Nigeria’s population of 206.1 million people, its total $53 billion in 2020 imports translates to roughly $260 in yearly product demand from every person in the West African country.
Nigeria’s Top 10 Imports
The following product groups represent the highest dollar value in Nigeria’s import purchases during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each product category represents in terms of overall imports into Nigeria.
- Machinery including computers: US$9.9 billion (18.6% of total imports)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $8.2 billion (15.4%)
- Vehicles: $5.3 billion (10.1%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $3.7 billion (7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $2.8 billion (5.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $2.4 billion (4.5%)
- Cereals: $2.2 billion (4.2%)
- Other chemical goods: $1.3 billion (2.5%)
- Fish: $1.3 billion (2.4%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $1.2 billion (2.2%)
The top 10 categories represent about three-quarters (72.2%) of imported goods into Nigeria during 2020.
Nigeria’s imported pharmaceuticals posted the fastest-growing increase in value among the top 10 import categories, thanks to its 94% increase from 2019 to 2020. In second place for higher purchases were miscellaneous chemical goods (up by 76.8%). Nigeria’s imports of cereals (up 70.5%) and fish (up 59.6%) also generated healthy increases.
The major declining category was optical, technical and medical apparatus due to a -65.5% drop year over year.
For more details, see the adjacent product category virtual folders.
In 2020, Nigerian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of machinery.
- Taps, valves, similar appliances: US$915.1 million (up 87.6% from 2020)
- Temperature-change machines: $551 million (up 1.1%)
- Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $481.3 million (up 22%)
- Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines: $463.7 million (up 48.6%)
- Sewing machines, related furniture: $347.3 million (up 56.8%)
- Liquid pumps and elevators: $331 million (down -15.2%)
- Rubber/plastic article making machines: $328.6 million (down -24.4%)
- Air conditioners: $280.1 million (up 2.8%)
- Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances: $275.8 million (up 4.7%)
- Sort/screen/washing machinery: $265.6 million (up 22.7%)
Among these import subcategories, Nigerian purchases of taps, valves and similar appliances (up 87.6%), sewing machines including related furniture (up 56.8%) then dishwashing or cleaning, drying and filling machines (up 48.6%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of machinery-related imports among Nigerian businesses and consumers.
In 2020, Nigerian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of mineral fuels including oil.
- Processed petroleum oils: US$7.8 billion (up 10% from 2020)
- Petroleum oil residues: $164.4 million (up 11.7%)
- Petroleum gases: $108.6 million (up 36.7%)
- Petroleum jelly, mineral waxes: $79.3 million (up 52.2%)
- Natural bitumen, asphalt, shale: $13.5 million (down -35.4%)
- Coal, solid fuels made from coal: $9 million (up 50.3%)
- Coke, semi-coke: $8 million (up 3791.2%)
- Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation): $6 million (up 50.2%)
- Asphalt/petroleum bitumen mixes: $555,000 (down -10.3%)
- Peat: $323,000 (up 193.6%)
Among these import subcategories, Nigerian purchases of coke or semi-coke (up 3,791%), peat (up 193.6%) then petroleum jelly and mineral waxes (up 52.2%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of mineral fuels-related imports among Nigerian businesses and consumers.
In 2020, Nigerian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of vehicles.
- Cars: US$2.9 billion (up 7.9% from 2020)
- Motorcycles: $1.2 billion (down -14.6%)
- Trucks: $292.6 million (up 13.9%)
- Chassis fitted with engine: $208.8 million (down -66.4%)
- Automobile parts/accessories: $197.6 million (down -5.3%)
- Tractors: $135.7 million (up 138.9%)
- Public-transport vehicles: $107.7 million (down -33.8%)
- Armored vehicles, tanks: $103.4 million (up 624.1%)
- Motorcycle parts/accessories: $57.1 million (up 10.1%)
- Special purpose vehicles: $52 million (up 1.5%)
Among these import subcategories, Nigerian purchases of armored vehicles including tanks (up 624.1%), tractors (up 138.9%) then trucks (up 13.9%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of vehicles-related imports among Nigerian businesses and consumers.
In 2020, Nigerian importers spent the most on the following subcategories of electronics.
- Phone system devices including smartphones: US$764.1 million (down -5.4% from 2020)
- Electric generating sets, converters: $458.1 million (down -31.2%)
- Electrical converters/power units: $457.7 million (down -6.8%)
- TV receivers/monitors/projectors: $268.7 million (down -22%)
- Solar power diodes/semi-conductors: $191.3 million (up 28%)
- Electric motors, generators: $143.9 million (down -3.7%)
- Electric storage batteries: $136.3 million (up 18.4%)
- Insulated wire/cable: $132.9 million (down -23.2%)
- High-voltage switches, fuses: $121.4 million (up 338.4%)
- Metal soldering/hot-spray equipment: $102.4 million (up 17%)
Among these import subcategories, Nigerian purchases of high-voltage switches and fuses (up 338.4%), solar power diodes or semi-conductors (up 28%) then electric storage batteries (up 18.4%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported ships and boats among Nigerian businesses and consumers.
See also Top African Export Countries, Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports and Nigeria’s Top Trading Partners
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Africa: Nigeria. Accessed on April 16, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on April 16, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 16, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 16, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Nigeria. Accessed on April 16, 2021
Wikipedia, Nigeria. Accessed on April 16, 2021