Year over year, the total value of Zimbabwean exported products accelerated by 37.3% compared to $4.4 billion during 2020.
The 5 largest exports from Zimbabwe by dollar value are: unwrought gold, nickel matte and oxide sinters, nickel ores and concentrates, unmanufactured tobacco plus tobacco waste, and iron ferroalloys. The 5 main exports represent over four-fifths (82.6%) of all Zimbabwean exports by value. Such a high percentage reveals Zimbabwe’s highly concentrated portfolio of exported goods.
Zimbabwe’s Major Trading Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that 94.4% of products exported from Zimbabwe were bought by importers in: South Africa (48.4% of Zimbabwe’s global total), United Arab Emirates (28.6%), Mozambique (8.4%), China (4.2%), Belgium (2.2%), Zambia (1.0%), Botswana (0.6%), Ukraine (0.3%), France (0.18%), Vietnam (also 0.18%), Indonesia (0.17%) and United States of America (0.15%).
From a continental perspective, 61.4% of Zimbabwe’s exports by value were delivered to fellow African countries while 35% were sold to importers in Asia. Zimbabwe shipped another 3.5% worth of goods to Europe.
Tinier percentages went to North America (0.185%), Latin America (0.003%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Oceania (0.0026%) led by Australia.
Given Zimbabwe’s population of 15.5 million people, its total $6.04 billion in 2021 exports translates to roughly $400 for every resident in the southern African country. That dollar metric exceeds the average $290 per capita one year earlier during 2020.
Zimbabwe’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Zimbabwean global shipments during 2021 at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Zimbabwe.
- Gems, precious metals: US$2 billion (32.9% of total exports)
- Nickel: $1.2 billion (20.7%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $1.1 billion (18.1%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $836.5 million (13.9%)
- Iron, steel: $309.4 million (5.1%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $94.4 million (1.6%)
- Cotton: $86.9 million (1.4%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $60.5 million (1%)
- Fruits, nuts: $36.5 million (0.6%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $30.7 million (0.5%)
Zimbabwe’s top 10 exports accounted for 95.8% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Cotton was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 189% from 2020 to 2021.
In second place for improving export sales were the metals iron and steel via a 114.5% advance.
Zimbabwe’s shipments of mineral fuels including oil posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 95.5%, propelled by greater revenues from exported coal coke and semi-coke, and coal briquettes.
The lone decliner among Zimbabwe’s top 10 export categories was raw hides, skins not furskins and leather, thanks to a -0.9% year-over-year drop.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, in 2021 Zimbabwe’s most valuable exported products was unwrought gold (26.7% of Zimbabwe’s total). In second place was nickel matte and oxide sinters (20.7%), nickel ores and concentrates (17.2%), unmanufactured tobacco including tobacco waste (12.9%), iron ferroalloys (5.1%), unrefined platinum (3.4%), unset diamonds (2.7%), coke and semi-coke (1.3%), uncarded cotton (also 1.3%) then chromium ores and concentrates (0.7%).
Products Creating Zimbabwe’s Largest Trade Surpluses
The following types of Zimbabwean 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$2 billion (Up by 48% since 2020)
- Nickel: $1.2 billion (Up by 26.7%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $1.1 billion (Up by 65.3%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $818.3 million (Up by 5.1%)
- Iron, steel: $91.4 million (Up by 460.2%)
- Cotton: $85.2 million (Up by 205.3%)
- Fruits, nuts: $30.9 million (Up by 11.9%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $29.3 million (Down by -2%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $16.9 million (Down by -13.7%)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $8 million (Up by 51.7%)
Zimbabwe has highly positive net exports in the international trade of gold. In turn, these cashflows indicate Zimbabwe’s strong competitive advantages under the gems and precious metals category.
Products Causing Zimbabwe’s Worst Trade Deficits
Zimbabwe racked up an overall -$1.54 billion trade deficit during 2021, expanding by 23.5% from -$1.25 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Zimbabwe that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Zimbabwe’s goods trail Zimbabwean importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$1.3 billion (Up by 11.8% since 2020)
- Machinery including computers: -$933.6 million (Up by 48.3%)
- Vehicles: -$573.2 million (Up by 26.6%)
- Fertilizers: -$440.3 million (Up by 88.2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$413.8 million (Up by 121.8%)
- Cereals: -$332.2 million (Down by -35.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$314.7 million (Up by 45.9%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$287.8 million (Up by 55%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$279.3 million (Up by 64%)
- Other chemical goods: -$274.6 million (Up by 46.9%)
Zimbabwe has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related products notably refined petroleum oils, electricity and petroleum gases.
Zimbabwean Export Companies
Not one Zimbabwean corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia also lists exporters from Zimbabwe. Selected examples are shown below.
- Border Timbers (forestry products)
- Colcom Foods Limited (meat processing)
- Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (cotton lint, cottonseed)
- Dairibord Zimbabwe Ltd (milk, other dairy products)
- Hippo Valley Estate (sugar)
- Sable Chemicals (fertilizer, ammonia nitrate)
- Tanganda Tea (tea, coffee)
- Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (iron, steel)
In macroeconomic terms, Zimbabwe’s total exported goods represent 16.6% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($36.3 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 16.6% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 compares to 11% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Zimbabwe’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate averaged 5.17% for 2021, down from an average 5.35% in 2020 according to MacroTrends.net.
Zimbabwe’s capital city is Harare.
See also Zimbabwe’s Top 10 Imports, Top African Export Countries, South Africa’s Top 100 Imported Consumer Products and Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, Africa: Zimbabwe. Accessed on August 9, 2022
Forbes 2021 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 9, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on August 9, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on August 9, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 9, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on August 9, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Zimbabwe. Accessed on August 9, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on August 9, 2022
Wikipedia, Zimbabwe. Accessed on August 9, 2022