Africa-EU - international trade in goods statistics

Data extracted in April 2020.

Planned article update: May 2021.


In 2019, almost 70 % of goods exported from the EU to Africa were manufactured goods.

In 2019, over 65 % of goods imported to the EU from Africa were primary goods (food and drink, raw material and energy).

Northern Africa: largest trade in goods partner of the EU among the African regions in 2019.

Imports, exports and trade balance between the EU and African countries, 2009-2019

This article provides a picture of international trade in goods between the European Union (EU) and Africa. It analyses the type of goods exchanged and the shares of each EU Member State in those exchanges. In this article the UN subdivision of Africa in five different regions is used (as shown in Map 1).

This article is part of an online publication providing recent statistics on international trade in goods, covering information on the EU's main partners, main products traded, specific characteristics of trade as well as background information.

Full article
Map 1: African regions according to the United Nations geoscheme.

Africa’s main trade in goods partner is the EU

The largest export and import partner for Africa is the EU-27 with 31 % of exports and 29 % of imports. In exports it was followed by other African countries (16 %) and China (11 %). For imports these two had switched places, second was China (16 %) and third were other African countries (13 %).

Figure1: African export and import shares with main partners, 2019
Source: UNCTAD

in 2009 EU exports to and imports from Africa were very close and the trade balance was only EUR 2.3 billion (see Figure 2). In the following years, both imports from and exports to Africa picked up, with imports growing slightly stronger. This trend continued until 2012, when the trade deficit reached EUR 25 billion. However, afterwards imports from Africa decreased, while exports continued to grow. The year 2014 was a turning point and the deficit turned into a surplus of EUR 5.1 billion. Two years later, in 2016, the EU had a record surplus in trade in goods (EUR 33 billion). After that, growing imports from Africa saw the trade surplus decline. It was EUR 8.8 billion in 2019.

Figure2: EU-27 trade in goods with African countries, 2009-2019
(EUR billion)
Source: Eurostat - Comext DS-018995

Manufactured goods dominate exports to Africa

In 2009, 77 % of goods exported from the EU to Africa were manufactured goods (see Figure 3). This share fell to 70 % in 2019, while the share of primary goods rose from 20 % to 28 %. The declining share of manufactured goods was mostly caused by the declining share of machinery and vehicles, from 42 % in 2009 to 36 % in 2019.

Figure3: EU-27 exports to Africa by product group, 2019
(shares of total exports in value)
Source: Eurostat - Comext DS-018995

Primary goods dominate imports with Africa

For imports from Africa, primary goods are the largest group (see Figure 4). However, between 2009 and 2019 there share decreased from 77 % to 66 % mainly 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 21 % to 32 %. This was mainly due to increasing imports of machinery and vehicles from 7 % to 15 %.

Figure4: EU-27 imports from Africa by product group, 2019
(shares of total imports in value)
Source: Eurostat - Comext DS-018995

Northern Africa largest trade in goods partner

EU exports of goods to Northern Africa rose from EUR 54 billion in 2009 to EUR 76 billion in 2019 (see Figure 5), equivalent to an average annual growth rate of 3.5 %. The growth rate was highest in Eastern Africa (5.7 %) followed by Western Africa (5.4 %) and Southern Africa (5.2 %). Exports of goods to Middle Africa (-2.3 %) declined in this period .

Figure5: EU-27 exports of goods to Africa by region, 2019
(EUR billion)
Source: Eurostat - Comext DS-018995

Figure 6, depicting the evolution of imports from the five African regions, shows a small decline of imports from Middle Africa between 2009 and 2019. Western Africa (7.1 %) had the highest growth rate, followed by Southern Africa (6.2 %) and Eastern Africa (5.4 %). Although imports from Northern Africa (1.8 %) grew less strongly, they still made up almost half of all imports from Africa.

Figure6: EU-27 imports of goods from Africa by region, 2019
(EUR billion)
Source: Eurostat - Comext DS-018995

In 2019, the EU had trade in goods deficits Middle Africa (EUR 2.0 billion) and Western Africa (EUR 2.4 billion) as shown in Figure 7. In contrast, there were trade in goods surpluses with Eastern and Southern Africa (both EUR 2.4 billion) and Northern Africa (EUR 8.4 billion). The trade balance with Northern Africa has varied strongly in the past 10 years; there was a deficit of EUR 17.5 billion in 2012 and a surplus, of EUR 25.2 billion in 2016.

Figure7: EU-27 trade in goods balance with Africa, by region, 2009-2019
(EUR billion)
Source: Eurostat - Comext DS-018995

Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy largest EU trade in goods partners for Africa

France (EUR 27 billion), Germany (EUR 24 billion), Spain (EUR 19 billion), the Netherlands and Italy (both EUR 17 billion) were the largest exporters of goods to Africa in 2019 (Table 1). Cyprus (25.3 %), Portugal (21.1 %) and Malta (18.6 %) had the highest shares for exports to Africa in their total exports to countries outside the EU.

Table 1: Exports of goods to Africa by Member State, 2019
(EUR million and %)
Source: Eurostat - Comext DS-018995

The five largest exporters were also the largest importers of goods from Africa in 2019 (Table 2). Spain (EUR 27 billion) led, followed by France (EUR 24 billion), Italy, Germany (both EUR 21 billion) and the Netherlands (EUR 16 billion). The highest shares of imports from Africa in total extra-EU imports were found in Portugal (18.8 %), Spain (17.8 %), France and Italy (both 11.7 %).

Table 2: Imports of goods from Africa by Member State, 2019
(EUR million and %)
Source: Eurostat - Comext DS-018995

In 2019, 21 EU Member States had a trade in goods surplus with Africa. The highest surplus, EUR 4 billion, was found in Belgium followed by Germany and France (both EUR 3 billion). The six countries that had a trade in goods deficit with Africa were Croatia (EUR -86 million) Slovenia (EUR -149 million), Estonia (EUR -154 million), Portugal (EUR -252 million), Italy (EUR -4 billion) and Spain (EUR -8 billion).

Figure 8: Trade in goods balance with Africa by Member State, 2019
(EUR million)
Source: Eurostat - Comext DS-018995

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

EU data is taken from Eurostat's COMEXT database. COMEXT is the reference database for international trade in goods. It provides access not only to both recent and historical data from the EU Member States but also to statistics of a significant number of third countries. International trade aggregated and detailed statistics disseminated via the Eurostat website are compiled from COMEXT data according to a monthly process.

Data are collected by the competent national authorities of the Member States and compiled according to a harmonised methodology established by EU regulations before transmission to Eurostat. For extra-EU trade, the statistical information is mainly provided by the traders on the basis of customs declarations.

EU data are compiled according to Community guidelines and may, therefore, differ from national data published by the Member States. Statistics on extra-EU trade are calculated as the sum of trade of each of the 27 EU Member States with countries outside the EU. In other words, the EU is considered as a single trading entity and trade flows are measured into and out of the area, but not within it.

The EU-27 data reflect the political change in the EU composition. Therefore the United Kingdom is considered as an extra-EU partner country for the EU-27. However, the United Kingdom is still part of the internal market until the end of the transitory period, meaning that data on trade with the United Kingdom are still based on statistical concepts applicable to trade between the EU Member States. As a consequence, while imports from any other extra-EU-27 trade partner are grouped by country of origin, the United Kingdom data reflect country of consignment. In practice this means that the goods imported by the EU-27 from the United Kingdom were physically transported from the United Kingdom but part of these goods could have been of other origin than the United Kingdom. For this reason data on trade with the United Kingdom are not fully comparable with data on trade with other extra-EU-27 trade partners.

Data from the perspective of Africa (as used in figure 1) is based on statistics from UNCTAD, combining data from UN Comtrade, IMF, Eurostat, UNCTADstat and UNCTAD secretariat calculations.

Methodology According to the EU concepts and definitions, extra-EU trade statistics (trade between EU Member States and non-EU countries) do not record exchanges involving goods in transit, placed in a customs warehouse or given temporary admission (for trade fairs, temporary exhibitions, tests, etc.). This is known as ‘special trade’. The partner is the country of final destination of the goods for exports and the country of origin for imports.

Product classification Information on commodities exported and imported is presented according to the Standard international trade classification (SITC). A full description is available from Eurostat’s classification server RAMON.

Unit of measure Trade values are expressed in millions or billions (109) of euros. They correspond to the statistical value, i.e. to the amount which would be invoiced in case of sale or purchase at the national border of the reporting country. It is called a FOB value (free on board) for exports and a CIF value (cost, insurance, freight) for imports.


Trade is an important indicator of Europe’s prosperity and place in the world. The block is deeply integrated into global markets both for the products it sources and the exports it sells. The EU trade policy is an important element of the external dimension of the ‘Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ and is one of the main pillars of the EU’s relations with the rest of the world.

Because the 28 EU Member States share a single market and a single external border, they also have a single trade policy. EU Member States speak and negotiate collectively, both in the World Trade Organization, where the rules of international trade are agreed and enforced, and with individual trading partners. This common policy enables them to speak with one voice in trade negotiations, maximising their impact in such negotiations. This is even more important in a globalised world in which economies tend to cluster together in regional groups.

The openness of the EU’s trade regime has meant that the EU is the biggest player on the global trading scene and remains a good region to do business with. Thanks to the ease of modern transport and communications, it is now easier to produce, buy and sell goods around the world which gives European companies of every size the potential to trade outside Europe.

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International trade in goods - long-term indicators (t_ext_go_lti)
International trade in goods - short-term indicators (t_ext_go_sti)
International trade in goods - aggregated data (ext_go_agg)
International trade in goods - long-term indicators (ext_go_lti)
International trade in goods - short-term indicators (ext_go_sti)
International trade in goods - detailed data (detail)
EU trade since 1988 by SITC (DS-018995)