That dollar amount reflects a 37.5% increase from $8.2 billion in 2017.
Year over year, the overall value of Zambia’s exported products accelerated by 39.2% compared to $8.1 billion during 2020.
Zambia is a landlocked nation in Africa’s southern region.
Zambia’s Major Trading Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that 95.3% of products exported from Zambia were bought by importers in: Switzerland (42.1% of Zambia’s global total), mainland China (18.7%), Singapore (13.4%), Democratic Republic of the Congo (10%), South Africa (2.6%), Luxembourg (2.2%), Zimbabwe (1.8%), Malawi (1.1%), Hong Kong (1%), India (0.9%), Namibia (0.84%) and Tanzania (0.79%).
From a continental perspective, 45.7% of Zambia’s exports by value were delivered to European countries while 34.6% were sold to importers in Asia. Zambia shipped another 19.3% worth of goods to fellow African nations.
Smaller percentages went to North America (0.4%), Latin America (0.06%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Oceania’s Australia and New Zealand only (0.01%).
Given Zambia’s population of 19.5 million people, its total $11.2 billion in 2021 exports translates to approximately $580 for every resident in the African nation. That dollar metric exceeds the average $400 per capita one year earlier during 2020.
Zambia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Zambian global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Zambia.
- Copper: US$8.5 billion (75.8% of total exports)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $303.8 million (2.7%)
- Iron, steel: $234.9 million (2.1%)
- Gems, precious metals: $189 million (1.7%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $186.2 million (1.7%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $143.7 million (1.3%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $143.4 million (1.3%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $130 million (1.2%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $124.7 million (1.1%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $115.5 million (1%)
Zambia’s top 10 exports accounted for 89.8% of the overall value of its global shipments.
The metals iron and steel represent the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 144.4% from 2020 to 2021.
In second place for improving export sales was food industry waste and animal fodder, via a 127.4% advance.
Zambia’s shipments of beverages, spirits and vinegar posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 55.3%.
The lone decliner among Zambia’s top 10 export categories was ores, slag and ash, thanks to a -43.5% drop year over year. That product category was weighed down by reductions in Zambia’s export sales of copper ores and concentrates.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Zambia’s most valuable exported products are unrefined copper (55.5% of Zambia’s total), refined copper (19.3%), iron ferroalloys (1.5%) and electrical energy (also 1.5%). Copper-related exports rank far ahead of Zambia’s other exported commodities including hydraulic cements (1.3%), non-alcoholic drinks excluding water or juice and milk (1.2%), unmanufactured tobacco and tobacco waste (1.1%), non-sublimed sulphur (1%), master copper alloys (0.9%), then residues including soya-bean oil cake (0.8%).
Products Generating Zambia’s Best Trade Surpluses
Zambia posted a $4.1 billion trade surplus during 2021, up by 53.1% from $2.7 billion in profit for 2020.
The following types of Zambian 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.
- Copper: US$8.5 billion (Up by 43.4% since 2020)
- Gems, precious metals: $186.3 million (Up by 19.8%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $156 million (Up by 6.3%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $127.4 million (Up by 10.8%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $109.5 million (Up by 0.4%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $90.3 million (Up by 66.6%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $83.1 million (Up by 205.1%)
- Stone, plaster, cement, asbestos: $59.6 million (Up by 1,859%)
- Soaps, washing preparations, lubricants, waxes: $53 million (Up by 51.3%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $37.8 million (Up by 109.3%)
Zambia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of its most lucrative export, copper-related materials. In turn, these cashflows indicate Zambia’s strong competitive advantages under the copper product category.
Products Causing Zambia’s Worst Trade Deficits
Below are exports from Zambia that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Zambia’s goods trail Zambian importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: -US$891.6 million (Up by 29.8% since 2020)
- Vehicles: -$675.5 million (Up by 59.9%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$536.5 million (Up by 46.4%)
- Fertilizers: -$418.1 million (Up by 5.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$377.2 million (Up by 38.8%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$361.3 million (Up by 34.1%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$266.4 million (Up by 7.9%)
- Other chemical goods: -$234.8 million (Up by 10.3%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: -$181.5 million (Up by 38.5%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$165.7 million (Up by 83.3%)
Zambia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers product category.
Zambian Export Companies
Not one Zambian corporation ranks on the Forbes Global 2000 of biggest businesses.
Wikipedia lists exporters from Zambia including companies engaged in international trade. Selected examples are shown below.
- Chilanga Cement (cement, cement clinker)
- Konkola Copper Mines (copper mining, smelter)
- Zambeef Products (beef, milk, eggs)
- Zambezi Airlines (airliner)
- Zambian Breweries Plc (lagers, bottling)
- ZCCM Investments Holdings (copper-mining conglomerate)
In macroeconomic terms, Zambia’s total exported goods represent 16.2% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($69.1 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 16.2% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 compares to 12.1% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Zambia’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Zambia’s capital city is Lusaka.
See also Uganda’s Top 10 Exports, Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports, South Africa’s Top 10 Exports and Top African Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Africa: Zambia. Accessed on August 31, 2022
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 31, 2022
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average)
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on August 31, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on August 31, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 31, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on August 31, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Zambia. Accessed on August 31, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on August 31, 2022
Wikipedia, Zambia. Accessed on August 31, 2022