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Insight & Analysis - January 27, 2022

5 African Countries that Export the Most

These five African countries generated 52.9% of the overall exports value on the continent.

With a total worth of US$370.8 billion in 2020, African countries export became one of the largest businesses in the world. This figure represents a 0.5% growth from 2016 to 2019 but a 22.2% drop from 2019 to 2020. In 2020, global exports reached $17.309 trillion in 2020, an increase of 8.6% in value since 2016, but a smaller decrease of 7.6% from 2019 to 2020.

From 2019 to 2020, sixteen African countries increase the value of their export to other countries. They are Sao Tome/Principe (+165.9%), Western Sahara (+129.3%), French Southern and Antarctic Lands (+0.3%), Cape Verde (+53.2%), Lesotho (+43.8%), Burkina Faso (+23.4%), among others.

The top 5 African countries with the most export in 2020 accounted for 52.9% of the continent’s value.

South Africa

South Africa is located on one of the most active international sea paths. The country’s ports and terminals have been designated as significant economic growth drivers by the South African government. Out of the eight ports in the country, Durban is the biggest and busiest in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2020, South Africa exported $86.1 billion worth of products worldwide. This figure represents a 12.4% increase since 2016 but a -4.8% drop from 2019 to 2020. Being the world’s biggest exporter of platinum, South Africa’s most valuable export in 2020 included platinum, gold, iron, vehicles, and coal. These accounted for 37.5% of South Africa’s total export sales.

In 2020, South Africa made over $85 billion in export. In November 2021, South African exports increased by 4.5% over the previous month to ZAR 162.79 billion. This was bolstered by sales of base metals (21%), precious metals and stones (13%), and cars and transport equipment (11%).

On the other hand, exports of vegetable products dropped by 30% and mineral products by 11%. The main export partners were the United States accounting for 10.9% of total sales, China 10.4%, Germany 6.7%, Japan 6%, and the United Kingdom 5.3%.

However, exports of vegetables were down by 30% and mineral goods by 11%. The top export partners were from the United States with 10.9% of total sales, China 10.4%, Germany 6.7%, Japan 6%, and the United Kingdom 5.3%.


In 2020, Nigeria made over $33 billion in exports. Nigeria’s main ports are the Lagos Port Complex and Tin Can Island Port in Lagos, Calabar Port, Delta Port, Rivers Port in Port Harcourt, and Onne Port. Although the giant of Africa, it came second on the list of African countries with the most export.

The most exported commodities are mineral fuels, including oil which accounts for $39.1 billion in exports, representing 96% of the country’s total exports. The second most exported goods were ships and boats, which accounted for 0.6% of overall exported goods.  Cocoa was Nigeria’s third-largest export goods, contributing 0.6% to all exports with a total value of $238.1 million.

In 2021, Nigerian exports grew to over N2 million in September 2021, up from over N1.4 million in August. Exports of oil and natural gas are the main factor behind Nigeria’s growth and account for more than 91% of total exports. In 2014, 43% of total sales went to Europe, 29% to Asia, 13% to America and 12% to Africa. However, oil and natural gas export is the key driver of Nigeria’s economic development, accounting for more than 91% of total exports.


Out of the five ports in Morocco, the Port of Casablanca is the largest and most well-known. Each year, the port handles more than 21 meganewtons (mn) tonnes of cargo. Electrical machinery and equipment is the country’s most valuable export, accounting for $4.2 billion in 2017 and 16.5% of overall exports. Vehicles account for 13.3% of overall exports, worth $3.4 billion. Fertilisers are the third largest export, worth $2.6 billion and accounting for 10.1% of total exports.

In 2020, Morocco made over $27 billion in exports, and its exports grew to 33,111 MAD million in November 2021, up from 27,002 MAD million in October. Morocco’s export business is based on phosphates and textiles. Electric components, inorganic chemicals, transistors, citrus fruits, vegetables, and fish are other commodities exported. The European Union nations are Morocco’s most significant export partners, with Spain, France, and Italy being the most prominent. The other ports in Morocco are the Port of Al Hoceima, Essaouira, Safi and Tangier.




Alexandria is considered the principal port of Egypt’s whole international trade. It is located on the west bank of the Nile Delta between the Mediterranean Sea and Mariut Lake. The principal exports are mineral fuels, including oil, which account for $5.1 billion or 19.5% of the overall exports. Gems and precious metals are the second-largest export industry, accounting for $2.1 billion, or 8.2% of total exports. Electrical machinery and equipment is the third-largest export category, accounting for $1.7 billion or 6.7% of total exports.

In 2020, Egypt’s export was over $26.8 billion, and its exports rose to 4476 USD million in November 2021, up from 3763 USD million in October. Exports contribute around a quarter of Egypt’s GDP. 32% of the overall exports are Oil and other mineral goods, followed by chemical products (12%), agricultural products, livestock and other fats (11%), and textiles (10% mainly cotton). Others include base metals (5.5%), equipment and electrical appliances (4.5%), foodstuff, beverages, and tobacco (4%). The main export partners are Italy, Spain, France, Saudi Arabia, India, and Turkey. Others are the United States, Brazil, and Argentina.


Luanda is the major port of Angola. It is responsible for more than 70% of its imports and exports. It is the country’s most populated and vital metropolis and its principal port and major industrial, cultural, and urban centre. Mineral fuels and oil accounts for $32.3 billion, or 95.6% of all the exports, jewels and precious metals accounts for $1.2 billion, or 3.5%, and machinery, including computers, comprise $46.4 million or 3.5%.

In 2020, Angola made over $22 billion. In the second quarter of 2021, Angola’s exports grew to 7784.30 USD million, up from 6934.60 USD million in the first quarter. Angola exports mostly crude oil (more than 90% of total exports) as well as diamonds, coffee, sisal, and fish in lesser quantities. China is Angola’s major export partner (more than 40% of total exports), followed by the US, India, France, Taiwan, South Africa, and Canada.


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