Seeking a balance

Petroleum exports are the main factor behind Nigeria’s growth and accounted for 88% of total exports in 2010. Nigeria has an enormous amount of non-oil resources, but most of these are yet to be fully tapped.

The value of Nigeria’s total exports (oil and nonoil) increased from slightly more than $24 billion in 2003 to almost $87 billion in 2010, according to the International Trade Centre. Petroleum exports amounted to nearly $24 billion in 2003 compared to almost $76 billion in 2010, according to the Centre.

The Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) reports that cocoa and related products dominate the country’s non-oil exports, and the volume of cocoa exports is rising year on year. In 2010, cocoa exports amounted to $823 million compared to $215 million in 2006. Between January and June 2011, cocoa exports amounted to $533 million and cocoa is expected to be the top non-oil export in 2011 as well.


Another top Nigerian export is animal skins and leather goods of which 2009 exports totaled $290 million. Also topping the non-oil export list are sesame seeds and oil which totaled $189 million in 2010, according to the NEPC.

Other non-oil export values for 2010 include rubber ($150 million), plastics ($84 million), cotton, yams and fabrics ($79 million), aluminium and related articles ($72 million), cashew nuts and fruits ($63 million), and gum arabic ($40 million). Prawns, fish and crustacean exports came to $49 million in 2010, the NEPC reports.

Oil is tops in Nigeria but the country also has abundant non-oil resources most of which are yet to be developed.

Nigeria’s main exports partners are the US (30% of the 2009 total), Equatorial Guinea (8%), Brazil (6.6%), France (6%) and India (6%).

Products that are prohibited from export include maize, timber (rough or sawn), scrap metals, unprocessed rubber latex and rubber lumps, artifacts and antiquities, and wildlife animals classified as endangered species and their products, such as crocodiles, elephants, lizards, eagles, monkeys, zebras and lions.

According to the World Bank Doing Business database, Nigeria is easing the procedures required for exporters. The number of documents needed to export has been reduced from 11 in 2006 to 10 in 2012. This compares to the Sub-Saharan regional average of eight procedures.


Nigeria has also reduced the number of days needed to export, from 41 to 24 during the 2006-2012 period, according to the World Bank. This is eight days fewer than the regional average of 32 days and is due largely to upgrades to the facilities at Apapa port in Lagos in 2009.

Meanwhile, the cost to export a container of goods has increased, going from $798 in 2006 to $1,263 in 2012, according to the World Bank. Nevertheless this is considerably less costly than the regional average of $1,960 per container.

There are 24 free trade zones in Nigeria but only 15 are currently operational. The first free trade zone, established in Calabar in 1993, has over 70 companies trading through it. China and Nigeria are forming a 16,500 hectare free trade zone near Lagos, which is expected to be a boon for potential investors.

For more information:
Nigerian Export-Import Bank
Nigerian Export Promotion Council
Nigerian Export Promotion Organization

Promoting non-oil exports

The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) was created by the Nigerian government to make the non-oil export sector a significant contributor to Nigeria’s GDP. The NEPC’s mission is to facilitate market opportunities for exporters and promote sustainable economic development.

NEPC provides export information to all stakeholders in the business of Nigeria’s non-oil exports, be they Nigerian government agencies, Nigerian exporters, producers, importers of Nigerian products and research and development organizations worldwide. The agency has 13 offices nationwide to cover Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones. The NEPC’s core functions are to:

  • Promote the development and diversification of Nigeria’s non-oil export trade •
  • Assist in promoting the development of export-related industries in Nigeria •
  • Spearhead the creation and implementation of appropriate export incentives •
  • Articulate and promote the implementation of the Nigerian government’s export policies and programs

Since its inception, the NEPC has made significant strides into the world market to claim a continuously growing portion of market share in several sectors, ranging from manufacturing, semi-processed, commodities, handicraft, horticulture, garments and textiles, aquaculture and sea products, wood and wood products, leather and leather products, solid minerals, services, and other non-oil products.

Furthermore, NEPC has put in place strong structures for human capital development, capacity building and incentive schemes.