Nigeria’s external trade value increased sharply by 57.9% to N39.8 trillion in 2021 from N25.2 trillion in 2020. It also reflects an improvement in the value of external trade when compared with 2019 (N36.2 trillion) – a year before the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. On a quarterly basis, the value of external trade rose consistently across the four quarters of 2021 (see Figure 1). This suggests that the year 2021 witnessed a pick-up in trading activities across countries amid the waning effect of the pandemic.
Despite the persistent rise in global oil prices, growth in Nigeria’s imports outpaced the growth in its exports across the four quarters of 2021 (see Figure 2). Despite the record of a trade surplus of N327 billion in the second quarter of 2021, Nigeria’s trade balance maintained an overall deficit of N1.9 trillion in 2021 (see Figure 3). This represents a deterioration of the trade balance when compared with a deficit of N178.3 billion and a surplus of N2.2 trillion reported in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
The total value of goods exported rose sharply by 51.2% to N18.9 trillion in 2021 from N12.5 trillion in 2020. This was driven by higher oil and non-oil export earnings. Oil exports – which accounted for 89% of total export earnings in 2021 – jumped by 51.4% to N16.8 trillion in 2021 from N11.1 trillion in 2020. This is mainly attributable to a significant improvement in the average crude oil price which increased to US$71.1 per barrel in 2021 from US$42.1 per barrel in 2020. However, the reduction of average domestic crude oil production from 1.8 million barrels per day in 2020 to 1.6 million barrels per day in 2021 could be said to have capped the gains from the oil price increase. Similarly, non-oil exports – which accounted for 11% of total export earnings in 2021 - rose from N1.4 trillion in 2020 to N2.1 trillion in 2021.