That dollar amount results from a -50.2% decline since 2015 and a -23.3% drop from 2018 to 2019.
The latest available country-specific data from 2018 shows that 77.4% of products exported from Tanzania were bought by importers in: South Africa (19.6% of the global total), India (19.2%), Switzerland (6.8%), Belgium (6.3%), Kenya (5.8%), Democratic Republic of the Congo (3.8%), China (also 3.8%), Uganda (3.1%), Rwanda (2.7%), United Arab Emirates (2.3%), Netherlands (2.1%) and Vietnam (1.8%).
From a continental perspective, 42.2% of Tanzania’s exports by value were delivered to African countries while 34.9% were sold to importers in Asia. Tanzania shipped another 20.7% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to North America (1.9%), Oceania led by Australia and New Zealand (0.2%), and Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.2%).
Given Tanzania’s population of 58 million people, its total $2.9 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $50 for each resident in the southeast African nation.
Tanzania’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Tanzanian global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Tanzania.
- Gems, precious metals: US$967.2 million (33.2% of total exports)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $284.8 million (9.8%)
- Oil seeds: $230.9 million (7.9%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $181.6 million (6.2%)
- Copper: $172.7 million (5.9%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $168.3 million (5.8%)
- Fish: $154.5 million (5.3%)
- Vegetables: $152.8 million (5.2%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $71 million (2.4%)
- Fruits, nuts: $56.3 million (1.9%)
Tanzania’s top 10 exports accounted for 83.8% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Ores, slag and ash represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 17,182% from 2018 to 2019 propelled by higher international sales of tin and manganese. In second place for improving export sales was copper via a 4,044% gain. Tanzania’s shipments of mineral fuels including oil posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 130.6%.
The leading decliner among Tanzania’s top 10 export categories were fruits and nuts due to a -59.2% annual drop.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Tanzania’s most valuable export products are gold (27.8% of total exports) trailed by unmanufactured tobacco (9.6%), oil seeds (65%), processed petroleum oils (5.7%), coffee (5.4%), dried shelled vegetables (5.1%), unrefined copper (3.3%), raw diamonds (2.7%), unstrung precious or semi-precious stones (2.5%) then refined copper and unwrought alloys (2.4%).
The following types of Tanzanian 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$964.2 million (Down by -39.7% since 2018)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $282.8 million (Up by 0.8%)
- Oil seeds: $223.5 million (Up by 159.6%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $180.4 million (Down by -7.2%)
- Fish: $150.4 million (Up by 2.8%)
- Vegetables: $148.9 million (Up by 34.2%)
- Copper: $148.5 million (Reversing a -$17.4 million deficit)
- Ores, slag, ash: $69.8 million (Reversing a -$1.1 million deficit)
- Fruits, nuts: $50.3 million (Down by -62.3%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $47.8 million (Up by 52.2%)
Tanzania has highly positive net exports in the international trade of gold and, to a much lesser extent, diamonds and precious stones. In turn, these cashflows indicate Tanzania’s strong competitive advantages under the gems and precious metals product category.
Overall Tanzania incurred a -$6.3 billion trade deficit for 2019, up 33.1% from -$4.7 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Tanzania that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Tanzania’s goods trail Tanzanian importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: -US$843.7 million (Down by -10.8% since 2018)
- Vehicles: -$835.7 million (Up by 5.3%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$737.9 million (Up by 50.6%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$657.4 million (Down by -61.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$467.1 million (Up by 3.3%)
- Iron, steel: -$465.4 million (Up by 20.8%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$414.4 million (Up by 49.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$356 million (Up by 27.9%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$257.5 million (Up by 305.7%)
- Footwear: -$217.5 million (Up by 465.1%)
Tanzania has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers category.
Tanzanian Export Companies
Not one Tanzanian corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists some exports-related companies from Tanzania. Selected examples are shown below.
- Dangote Industries Tanzania (cement)
- Nyati Cement (cement)
- Quality Group Limited (conglomerate)
- Swala Gas and Oil (oil, gas)
- Tanga Cement (cement)
- Tanzania Breweries Limited (beverages)
- Tanzania Cigarette Company (cigarettes)
- Tanzanian/Italian Petroleum Refining Co. Ltd (oil, gas)
- Twiga Cement (cement)
In macroeconomic terms, Tanzania’s total exported goods represent 1.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($193.5 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 1.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 2.2% for 2018. Those metrics suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Tanzania’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Trading Economics projects Tanzania’s unemployment rate to be 10% in 2019, up from 9% for 2018.
Tanzania’s capital city is Dar es Salaam which literally means “residence of peace”.
See also Uganda’s Top 10 Exports, Somalia’s Top 10 Exports and Top African Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Africa: Tanzania. Accessed on June 4, 2020
FlagPictures.org, Flag of Tanzania. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 4, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 4, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Tanzania. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Wikipedia, Tanzania. Accessed on June 4, 2020
WorldOMeter, Tanzania Population. Accessed on June 4, 2020