By far, Senegal’s biggest export is gold. That commodity represents almost one-fifth of the nation’s total shipments by value.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the West African CFA franc appreciated by 2.9% against the US dollar since 2016 and expanded by 1.8% from 2019 to 2020. Senegal’s stronger local currency makes its exports paid for in weaker US dollars relatively more expensive for international buyers.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 74.6% of products exported from Senegal were bought by importers in: Mali (21% of its global total), Switzerland (12.4%), India (7.6%), China (6.6%), Australia (5.5%), Ivory Coast (4.8%), Guinea (3.8%), Spain (3.2%), United States (3%), Gambia (2.9%), France (2%) and Mauritania (1.8%).
From a continental perspective, 44.6% of Senegal exports by value were delivered to fellow African countries while 26.6% were sold to European importers. Senegal shipped another 18.9% worth of goods to Asia. Smaller percentages went to Oceania led by Australia (5.8%), North America (3.8%) then Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.3%).
Given Senegal’s population of 16.8 million people, its total $3.9 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $230 for every resident in the West African nation.
Senegal’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Senegalese global shipments during 2020 at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Senegal.
- Gems, precious metals: US$741.6 million (18.9% of total exports)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $627.2 million (16%)
- Fish: $429.5 million (10.9%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $269.6 million (6.9%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $202.5 million (5.2%)
- Oil seeds: $198.8 million (5.1%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $174.6 million (4.4%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $148.5 million (3.8%)
- Iron, steel: $109.2 million (2.8%)
- Vegetables: $87.0 million (2.2%)
The Republic of Senegal’s top 10 exports accounted for roughly three-quarters (76.1%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Vegetables represent the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 24.2% from 2019 to 2020. In second place for improving export sales was gems and precious metals via a 15.4% gain propelled by higher international sales of gold. Senegal’s shipments of iron and steel posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 6.9%.
The leading decliner among Senegal’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil thanks to its -24.6% annual drop. This is due in part to lower oil prices and the slowing global economy.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, gold was Senegal’s most valuable exported product at 18.9% of the country’s total. In second place was refined petroleum oils (15.6%) trailed by frozen whole fish (7.5%), phosphoric and polyphosphoric acids (6.7%), unroasted ground-nuts (4.9%), soups and broths (3.4%), cement including cement clinkers (3.3%), titanium ores and concentrates (2.8%), niobium or zirconium ores and concentrates (2.4%) then beauty, makeup and skin care preparations (1.5%).
The following types of Senegalese 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$739 million (Up by 15.7% since 2019)
- Fish: $373.2 million (Down by -14.5%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $214.2 million (Down by -25.7%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $200.1 million (Up by 2.9%)
- Oil seeds: $178.9 million (Up by 5.5%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $81.3 million (Down by -18.9%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $69.3 million (Down by -11.3%)
- Feathers, artificial flowers, hair: $58.4 million (Up by 65.5%)
- Meat/seafood preparations: $47 million (Down by -26.7%)
- Fruits, nuts: $29.5 million (Down by -49.4%)
Senegal has highly positive net exports in the international trade of gold. In turn, these cashflows indicate Senegal’s strong competitive advantages under the gems and precious metals category.
Senegal incurred an overall -$3.9 billion trade deficit for 2020, down by -2% from -$4 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Senegal that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Senegal’s goods trail Senegalese importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US-$1.2 billion (Down by -8% since 2019)
- Cereals: -$664.2 million (Up by 22.2%)
- Machinery including computers: -$628 million (Down by -9.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$511.2 million (Down by -1.9%)
- Vehicles: -$420.8 million (Down by -10.1%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$279.5 million (Up by 8.8%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$224.9 million (Up by 162.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$194.8 million (Up by 1.8%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$180.5 million (Down by -27.1%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: -$171.8 million (Down by -9.1%)
Senegal has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits notably for petroleum oils, coal and petroleum gases under the mineral fuels-related category.
Senegalese Export Companies
Not one Senegalese corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists export-related companies from Senegal. Selected examples are shown below:
- Dakar–Niger Railway (industrial transportation)
- Groupement Aérien Sénégalais (airliner)
- Senelec (electricity)
- Sonatel (telecommunications)
In macroeconomic terms, Senegal’s total exported goods represent 6.3% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($62.4 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 6.3% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 6.5% one year earlier. This suggests a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Senegal’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Senegal’s unemployment rate was 17% at January 2020 compared to 15.1% in December 2018 according to Trading Economics.
Senegal’s capital city is Dakar.
See also Top African Export Countries, Perfumes Exporters by Country and Rice Exports by Country
Central Intelligence Agency, Country Profiles, The World Factbook. Accessed on April 13, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 13, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on April 13, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 13, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 13, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 13, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on April 13, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Senegal. Accessed on April 13, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on April 13, 2021
Wikipedia, Senegal. Accessed on April 13, 2021