Table of Contents
In 2020, the largest trade partner for Africa was the EU with 33% of exports to, and 31% of imports from non-African countries. In both cases, China was the second largest partner with 17% of exports and 22% of imports. Trade among African countries accounted for 18% of total (intra + extra) African exports and 15% of total African imports.
Figure 1: African export and import shares with main partners, 2020 (%)
In 2011, EU imports from Africa were smaller than exports to Africa, resulting in a trade deficit of €9 billion (see Figure 2). This grew to €25 billion in 2012. Between 2012 and 2016 imports from Africa decreased significantly and the trade deficit became a trade surplus of €33 billion. This surplus fell to €8 billion in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, exports fell by €20 billion, while imports fell by €36 billion. Thus the trade surplus grew to €24 billion. However, in 2021, exports increased by €21 billion and imports increased by €41 billion. This reduced the trade surplus to €4 billion.
Figure 2: EU, trade in goods with African countries, 2011-2021 (€ billion)
Manufactured goods dominate exports to Africa
In 2011, 72% of goods exported from the EU to Africa were manufactured goods (see Figure 3). This share fell to 68% in 2021, while the share of primary goods rose from 27% to 31%. The declining share of manufactured goods was mostly caused by the declining share of machinery and vehicles, from 38% in 2011 to 32% in 2021 while during the same period the share for chemicals increased.
Figure 3: EU exports of goods to Africa by main product groups, 2021 (shares of total exports in value)
Primary goods dominate imports from Africa
For imports from Africa, primary goods are the largest group (see Figure 4). However, between 2011 and 2021 their share decreased from 76% to 65%, especially due to the decreasing share of energy, which is partly explained by falling oil and gas prices. In the same period, the share of manufactured goods rose from 23% to 34%. This was mainly due to increasing shares of machinery and vehicles from 7% to 13% and other manufactured goods from 13% to 16%.
Figure 4: EU imports of goods from Africa by main product groups, 2021 (shares of total imports in value)
Northern Africa’s largest trade in goods partner
EU exports of goods to Northern Africa rose from €59 billion in 2011 to €76 billion in 2021 (see Figure 5), equivalent to an average annual growth rate of 2.6%. The growth rate was highest in Eastern Africa (2.7%), followed by Western Africa (1.9%) and Southern Africa (0.2%). Exports of goods to Middle Africa (-3.3%) declined in this period. Exports to all regions increased from 2020 to 2021.
Figure 5: EU exports of goods to African regions, 2011-2021 (€ billion)
Finally, Figure 6 below, depicts the evolution of imports from the five African regions, showing a decline in average annual imports from Middle Africa (-5.1%) and Western Africa (-1.4%) between 2011 and 2021. Eastern Africa and Northern Africa (both 1.5%) had equal growth rates, while imports from Southern Africa (4.3%) grew stronger. Similar to exports, EU imports from all five African regions increased from 2020 to 2021.
Figure 6: EU imports of goods from African regions, 2011-2021 (€ billion)
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Eurostat – Comext DS-018995