With a recession that lasted over two years, shrunk the economy and inflated prices so much that the average person became afraid to eat, Nigeria is looking towards exports to raise much needed foreign exchange and lift the economy out of hard times.
In 2016, exports accounted for just over 3.1% of the country’s economic output, using figures from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database.
As the Minister of Agriculture pushes to export more tubers of yam to China, here are some of Nigeria’s most important exports.
These are not the products which have earned the most money, but those which will prove important as we move from oil dependency to a more balanced, rounded economy.
(1) Oil: Unrefined petroleum or crude oil is Nigeria’s most valuable export. It is also a blessing and a curse.
Since it was first discovered in Oloibiri and mined in commercial quantities, successive governments have shifted their focus from other products like cocoa and groundnuts which sustained the economy in their own share.
Oil has also caused massive environmental disasters and inspired armed rebellion by groups in the South-South aggrieved by the government’s neglect of the communities where this valuable fossil fuel is mined.
But with over 91% of the total export, it is clear that Nigeria cannot afford to let the crude oil go as soon as it plans without finding a balance with other export commodities and raw materials.
(2) Movies: Nollywood is the largest and most valuable film industry in Africa. The Nigerian Film industry is also the most productive, behind only the United States and India in the number of films produced annually.
As of 2014, the industry was valued at ₦853.9 billion (US$5.1 billion) making it the third most valuable film industry in the world, behind the usual suspects, The United States and India.
The boom has been associated with improved film distribution – Nigerian movies dominate television, satellite streaming services and cinemas in most of Anglophone Africa.
They have also garnered a large international audience, courtesy of movies like “Half of a Yellow Sun” and “78″, which proved a favourite at film festivals around the world.
(3) Cocoa: It may not occupy the same level of importance as it did before Oil blackened the Nigerian economy but in 2016, cocoa earned Nigeria about 889.1 million dollars, accounting for 1.6% of Nigeria’s GDP.
The cash crop is mainly grown in the country’s South-West, where farming families continue to cultivate in plantations that built Ibadan’s Cocoa House.
The Federal Government has promoted a return to agriculture that promises a return to the days when cocoa was the pride of the South-West, provided the Minister of Agriculture can shift his focus from yam and frivolous claims about producing enough rice to consume and export.
(4) Ores, Slag and Ash: Nigeria is blessed (if that’s the word you choose to use) with numerous natural resources. However, minerals have never been a major source of income, mostly due to over-reliance on the usual suspect, oil and the shady practices of foreign mining interests.
Since his ascension in 2015, President Buhari has placed some focus on empowering the mining and solid minerals industry.
With former Ekiti governor, Kayode Fayemi, at the helm, the value of exports from the industry has increased by over 2,335%, according to figures from the International Trade Center’s Trade Map and Investopedia’s Net Exports Definition report.
(5) Wood: As deforestation creeps into the picture, Nigeria’s massive trees are earning valuable export dollars; 279.4 million of them in 2016, to be exact.
The country’s main economic trees, the Baobab, the Iroko and Oak, are reputed for sturdy wood and are suitable for use in furniture and building.
The industry is largely unregulated and it is not unusual for farmers to find teams of tree fellers on their property cutting down the strongest trees.
Deforestation is also a major problem, while it has considerably improved in recent times, between 2000 and 2005, the country lost 55.7% of its primary forests.
(6) Music: The eclectic, drum-heavy music of Nigeria is a favourite across Africa – in the last 10 years, that influence has spread across the seas, heralded by the success of artists like 2face Idibia, D’banj and Banky W.
While that success was little more than acclaim at some point, a new wave of Nigerian musicians have tapped into innovations in technology – distribution, social media, production – and turned their 3-minute expressions into cash cows.
Artistes like Wizkid, Davido and Mr Eazi are earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in streaming money, show fees and endorsements.
These funds support an ecosystem that includes the media, show promoters, agencies, management companies, DJs, producers, sound engineers, art directors and music video directors.
As the country’s music continues to make a loud, drum-driven berth on the world stage, the global auditing firm, Pricewaterhouse Coopers has estimated that the Nigerian music industry will be worth over 86 million dollars by 2020. For those deep in the scene, that is a conservative figure.
(7) Oil Seeds: Sometime in the past, Nigeria was the undisputed largest producer and exporter of palm oil in the world. Now that title belongs to South-East Asia.
As part of efforts to diversify the economy, the export of palm oil and seeds has been promoted. In 2016, this earned Nigeria over 279.2 million dollars or about 0.8% of the total GDP.
In their rawest form, the seeds can be cultivated or processed into palm oil. They are mainly exported to Europe and Asia, where culinary needs and natural health trends have made them a valuable commodity.