That dollar amount results from an 18.6% increase since 2016 and a 4.9% uptick from 2019 to 2020.
The 5 biggest exports from Tanzania are gold, cashew nuts, precious metal ores or concentrates, unrefined copper and dried shelled vegetables. Combined, those 5 major export products represent over half of Tanzania’s total exports by value in 2020.
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 Congo (3.8%), China (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 fellow 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 (0.19%) led by Australia and New Zealand, and Latin America (0.17%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Given Tanzania’s population of 58 million people, its total $5.2 billion worth of goods exported in 2020 translates to roughly $90 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 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Tanzania.
- Gems, precious metals: US$1.7 billion (32.6% of total exports)
- Copper: $476.3 million (9.1%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $416.9 million (8%)
- Fruits, nuts: $416.5 million (8%)
- Oil seeds: $262.8 million (5%)
- Vegetables: $219.8 million (4.2%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $210.6 million (4%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $201.4 million (3.9%)
- Cereals: $157.1 million (3%)
- Fish: $152.4 million (2.9%)
Tanzania’s top 10 exports accounted for 80.8% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Ores, slag and ash was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 497.4% from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for improving export sales was copper via a 157.4% gain.
Tanzania’s shipments of fruits and nuts posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 58.9%.
The leading decliner among Tanzania’s top 10 export categories was fish, thanks to its -21.6% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Tanzania’s most valuable export products are gold (29.8% of total exports) trailed by cashew nuts (7.4%), precious metals or concentrates (6.7%), unrefined copper (also 6.7%), dried shelled vegetables (3.9%), unmanufactured tobacco and tobacco waste (3.7%), oil seeds (3.7%), coffee (2.7%), rice (2.3%) and refined copper (2.1%).
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$1.7 billion (Down by -12.9% since 2019)
- Ores, slag, ash: $416.2 million (Up by 507.3%)
- Fruits, nuts: $411 million (Up by 62.9%)
- Oil seeds: $234.8 million (Up by 1.7%)
- Vegetables: $211.2 million (Up by 10.6%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $207.1 million (Up by 3.7%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $192.2 million (Down by -17.5%)
- Fish: $146.5 million (Down by -22.9%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $59.3 million (Down by -41.2%)
- Wood: $44.4 million (Up by 17.6%)
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 2020, down -24.6% from -$8.3 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.
- Copper: -US$1.1 billion (Down by -22.2% since 2019)
- Machinery including computers: -$875.4 million (Down by -11%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$815.6 million (Down by -6.7%)
- Vehicles: -$768.5 million (Down by -20.9%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$681.7 million (Down by -51.9%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$517.8 million (Down by -7.8%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$448.7 million (Up by 17.6%)
- Iron, steel: -$426.8 million (Down by -10%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$375.6 million (Down by -13.8%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$324.8 million (Down by -4.1%)
Tanzania has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits notable for copper.
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 3.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($171 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 3.1% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 1.5% for 2019. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing 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. Tanzania’s average unemployment rate was 2.16% in 2020, down from an average 9.6% for 2019 according to Trading Economics.
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,Top Red Meat Exporters Ranked by Dollar Value and Top African Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Africa: Tanzania. Accessed on July 11, 2021
FlagPictures.org, Flag of Tanzania. Accessed on July 11, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 11, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 11, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 11, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 11, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 11, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Tanzania. Accessed on July 11, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 11, 2021
Wikipedia, Tanzania. Accessed on July 11, 2021
WorldOMeter, Tanzania Population. Accessed on July 11, 2021