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Economy, Trade

Nigerian economy, Major imports, balance of trade, motor vehicles, manufactured goods

Nigeria depends on foreign trade to meet many of its needs, although in recent years it has achieved a healthy trade surplus. In 2000 exports amounted to $20.4 billion, while imports were $14 billion. The volatility of the global oil market and changes in fiscal and import policies cause large year-to-year fluctuations in the balance of trade. Officially recognized trade is supplemented by considerable smuggling of agricultural produce and manufactured goods to and from neighboring countries.

Petroleum accounts for virtually all exports; cacao, rubber, and shrimp together contribute about 2 percent. About 90 percent of Nigeria’s exports go to the United States and Europe (mostly Spain, Italy, Germany, The Netherlands, and France) in almost equal measure. Major imports, in order of importance, are base metal manufactures, including motor vehicles and industrial machinery; basic manufactures, including iron, steel, paper, and cement; chemicals and related products; and food and live animals. More than 60 percent of imports come from Europe (half of which come from Britain), and another nearly 20 percent come from the United States and Japan. China, Brazil, and India make up most of the rest. Only 5.2 percent of Nigerian exports and 0.8 percent of its imports are traded with other African countries.

Despite its positive trade balance, the Nigerian economy is burdened with massive external debt amounting in 1995 to $34.3 billion, most of it owed to other governments and multilateral agencies. In 1996 yearly debt payments totaled $4.7 billion, the equivalent of 38 percent of export earnings or 17 percent of the GDP. As of 1996 Nigeria was $10.2 billion in arrears on its payments of interest and principal. Most of the debt stems from government megaprojects and imports of consumer goods, especially from the civilian regime of 1979 to 1983. The sudden collapse of oil prices in the early 1980s only made matters worse. In recent years international lenders have forced Nigeria to introduce reforms to restructure its economy.

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