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Nigeria continues to rely on crude petroleum exports to bring in foreign exchange. Efforts to diversify its income sources may be ongoing, but they haven’t yet shifted the country away from its economic dependence on fossil fuels. These products still contribute up to 83% of the country’s revenues from foreign trade, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

But Nigeria does rake in a fair bit of money from other sources. Much of these are agricultural or agro-related products. There’s also some manufacturing for international markets taking place. And as the world downs fossil fuels for cleaner, more sustainable energy sources, we could see other sectors assume a more dominant role for the country’s economy.

Nigeria’s Top Five Non-Oil Exports

Nigeria’s top ten exports, including petroleum, contribute 99% of its earnings from international trade. As you’ve probably guessed, a huge chunk of this is made up of crude oil, as well as other mineral fuels. But items such as plastics, fruits and nuts, hides and skins, and rubber, are also on that list.

Here, we’ll run through the five most valuable non-oil exports for Nigeria, in ascending order.

  1. Electrical Energy

Despite its long-running struggle to meet domestic energy needs, Nigeria does export some of the electricity it generates to neighbouring West African states, including Benin, Niger and Togo. These countries pay a fairly large sum for this service; it’s estimated that Nigeria earned more than $112 million from electricity exports in 2017.

The Federal Government seems determined to ramp up revenues from feeding the power grids of surrounding nations. It projects that Nigeria could be supplying Benin and Niger with up to 1,540 MW of electricity by 2025. This increase is expected to come up with an improvement in Nigeria’s internal power generation.

  1. Fertilizer

Nigeria exports urea, a naturally occurring (or sometimes synthetic) material that is used as fertilizer, among other things. Urea exports did well in 2017, gaining almost 50% on international sales from the preceding year, and fetching $149 million in revenues. This was in large part due to heavy demand for the product from Brazil; the country bought more than half the urea shipped out from Nigeria last year.

  1. Oilseeds

The NBS’s report on Nigeria’s foreign trade for the period April-June shows that oilseeds are among the country’s biggest agricultural exports. Cashew, sesame and soybeans have consistently grossed fairly well. And they could bring in even more than the $180 million they managed in 2017 if value addition becomes a more prominent part of Nigeria’s agricultural production chain.

The good news is that the market for oilseeds is growing all the time. At the moment, Nigeria sells most of its sesame to Vietnam, China, Mexico, Japan and Turkey. While this is already an eclectic mix of customer nations, the growing appetite for sesame and other oilseeds across the world means that we could be even more varied (and valuable) in the years to come.

  1. Cocoa

Nigeria is the world’s fourth largest producer of cocoa. Given the popularity of cocoa products (especially chocolate), it’s just right to expect it to earn a good deal from selling to other countries.

In 2017, Nigeria took $238 million in revenues from its global cocoa trade. That’s a big sum. But there’s more where it came from; we could increase the revenues from the product quite substantially if producers get more support (private or government) and deploy available resources efficiently.

  1. Ships and boats

This might come as a surprise, but Nigeria does have a functioning sea vessel production and exporting industry. Boat building and dealing companies located in the bigger port cities are producing and selling excursion boats, cruise ships and ferry boats, and cashing in on an ever-present demand for these vehicles across the globe.

According to the CIA’s World Fact Book, cargo and passenger boat exports earned Nigeria $253 million last year- more than the country got from any other single product type asides petroleum or its derivatives in that period.

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This article was first published on 12th September 2018


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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