Trade and Investment

Which are Africa's biggest exports?

A Bozo fisherman casts his net from a pirogue in front of Saaya village in the Niger river inland delta February 7, 2007. The Bozo, a West African ethnic group located predominantly along the Niger River in Mali, are famous for their fishing skills and are locally occasionally referred to as the "masters of the river". Picture taken on February 7, 2007. REUTERS/Florin Iorganda   (MALI) - RTR1M4GU

Image: REUTERS/Florin Iorganda

Joe Myers
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Trade and Investment

This article is part of: World Economic Forum on Africa

From gold and diamonds to soft drink concentrates, the following map shows the diverse range of products exported from African economies – while also highlighting an overall reliance on commodities.

The map, shared by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch, shows the situation around the world, including across Africa. Although it does not include services, it offers a fascinating insight into exports across the continent, from Algeria to Zimbabwe.

Released as part of their Transforming World Atlas, the report outlines the risk posed by a volatile global commodities market. With so many African economies dependent on exports of oil, metals and minerals, the impact of the commodities slump is being felt across the continent.

The map uses 2014 data from the CIA World Factbook.

Every country's biggest export
Image: Bank of America Merrill Lynch

For a larger version of the map, click here.

An African snapshot

The frequency of dark blue and orange across Africa highlights the importance of commodities to the continent’s economies. From Algerian petroleum and natural gas in the north, to Zambian copper in the south, these exports dominate many national economies.

Consider Nigeria, whose biggest export is petroleum and petroleum products: according to OPEC, the oil and gas sector accounts for over a third of gross domestic product.

As Professor Calestous Juma makes clear: “The current slump in world commodity prices is forcing Africa to rethink its traditional dependence on raw material exports.” However, he believes this presents an opportunity for commodity-dependent nations to shift from extractive to learning economies.

It’s not just oil and gas

But, the map also makes clear the range of exports in Africa. In the east, exports of food and drink are very important, including coffee, grains and livestock.

Textiles and clothing is also an important industry. In Morocco, Tunisia and Lesotho, clothing, shoes and textiles are the biggest exports. Equally, cotton is vital to the economies of Mali, Togo and Benin.

In the south and central regions, precious metals and minerals are the biggest exports. This includes gold in Tanzania and South Africa, diamonds in Namibia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and platinum in Zimbabwe.

The World Economic Forum on Africa 2016 will take place in Kigali, Rwanda from 11-13 May.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Trade and InvestmentGeographies in Depth
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