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 exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
Applying a continental lens, 39% of Nigeria’s exports by value were delivered to European countries while 34.4% were sold to importers in Asia. Nigeria shipped another 19.1% worth of goods within Africa.
Smaller percentages went to North America (5.4%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.4%) and Oceania mainly Australia (0.6%).
Nigeria’s Top 15 Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Nigeria’s top trading partners, countries that imported the most Nigerian shipments by dollar value during 2020. Also shown is each import country’s percentage consumption of total Nigerian exports.
- India: US$5 billion (15% of total Nigerian exports)
- Spain: $3.6 billion (10.9%)
- Netherlands: $2.9 billion (8.6%)
- South Africa: $2.6 billion (7.6%)
- China: $1.7 billion (5%)
- France: $1.5 billion (4.5%)
- Portugal: $1.23 billion (3.7%)
- Cameroon: $1.18 billion (3.5%)
- Italy: $1.18 billion (3.5%)
- Turkey: $1.1 billion (3.3%)
- United States: $1 billion (3.1%)
- Ivory Coast: $862.6 million (2.6%)
- United Kingdom: $836.2 million (2.5%)
- Canada: $761.1 million (2.3%)
- Indonesia: $754 million (2.2%)
Over three-quarters (78.3%) of Nigerian exports in 2020 was delivered to the above 15 trading partners.
Only 3 among Nigeria’s top trading importers increased their consumption of Nigerian commodities since 2019 namely Portugal (up 48.5%), Cameroon (up 32.9%) and China (up 0.8%).
Nigeria incurred an overall -$19.4 billion deficit for 2020 reversing a $6.2 billion surplus in 2019.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
In 2020, Nigeria incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- China: -US$13.5 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2020)
- United States: -$3.8 billion
- Belgium: -$1.8 billion
- Germany: -$1.3 billion
- Netherlands: -$1.3 billion
- Russia: -$1.2 billion
- United Arab Emirates: -$1 billion
- Brazil: -$976.1 million
- Denmark: -$852 million
- South Korea: -$809.9 million
Among Nigeria’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Nigerian deficits with Germany (up 350.5%), Denmark (up 300.1%) and the United States (up 102.6%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
In addition, Nigeria went from a $146.2 million surplus in 2019 trading with Brazil to incur almost a billion-dollar deficit for 2020.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Nigeria’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Nigeria to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
In 2020, Nigeria incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries.
- Spain: US$2.9 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2020)
- South Africa: $1.9 billion
- Portugal: $1.2 billion
- Cameroon: $1.2 billion
- India: $830.5 million
- Ivory Coast: $773.6 million
- Togo: $539.3 million
- France: $470.5 million
- Turkey: $392.4 million
- Equatorial Guinea: $352.5 million
Among Nigeria’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Nigerian surpluses with Portugal (up 51.4%), Cameroon (up 34.1%) and Togo (up 15.5%) grew from 2019 to 2020.
In addition, Nigeria transitioned from a -$16.5 million deficit for 2019 to post a $352.5 million surplus trading with Equatorial Guinea in 2020.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Nigeria’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Nigeria to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Nigeria’s Exporting 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)
See also Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports, Nigeria’s Top 10 Imports and Top Asian Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Africa: Nigeria. Accessed on April 16, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. 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, Romania. Accessed on April 16, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Romania. Accessed on April 16, 2021