Africa-EU - international trade in goods statistics
Data extracted in April 2021.
Planned article update: May 2022.
In 2020, almost 70 % of goods exported from the EU to Africa were manufactured goods.
In 2020, over 61 % of goods imported to the EU from Africa were primary goods (food and drink, raw materials and energy).
Northern Africa: largest trade in goods partner of the EU among the African regions in 2020.
Imports, exports and trade balance between the EU and African countries, 2010-2020
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.
Africa’s main trade in goods partner is the EU
In 2020, the largest trade partner for Africa was the EU with 28 % of both exports and imports. In exports it was followed by other African countries (23 %) and China (8 %). For imports these two had switched places, China (16 %) was second and other African countries (13 %) were third.
In 2010, EU imports from Africa were smaller than exports to Africa resulting in a trade deficit of EUR 7 billion (see Figure 2). This grew to EUR 25 billion in 2012. Between 2012 and 2016 imports from Africa decreased significantly and the trade deficit became a trade surplus of EUR 33 billion. This surplus fell to EUR 8 billion in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, exports fell by EUR 20 billion while imports fell by EUR 35 billion. Thus the trade surplus grew to EUR 23 billion.
Manufactured goods dominate exports to Africa
In 2010, 75 % of goods exported from the EU to Africa were manufactured goods (see Figure 3). This share fell to 70 % in 2020, while the share of primary goods rose from 24 % to 28 %. The declining share of manufactured goods was mostly caused by the declining share of machinery and vehicles, from 40 % in 2010 to 34 % in 2020.
Primary goods dominate imports with Africa
For imports from Africa, primary goods are the largest group (see Figure 4). However, between 2010 and 2020 there share decreased from 77 % to 61 %, 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 22 % to 37 %. This was mainly due to increasing shares of machinery and vehicles from 7 % to 16 % and other manufactured goods from 13 % to 17 %.
Northern Africa largest trade in goods partner
EU exports of goods to Northern Africa rose from EUR 61 billion in 2010 to EUR 65 billion in 2020 (see Figure 5), equivalent to an average annual growth rate of 0.7 %. The growth rate was highest in Eastern Africa (3.6 %) followed by Western Africa (2.6 %). Exports of goods to Middle Africa (-3.4 %) and Southern Africa (-0.2 %) declined in this period. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic exports to all regions declined from 2019 to 2020.
Figure 6, depicting the evolution of imports from the five African regions, shows a decline of imports from Middle Africa (-3,6 %) and Northern Africa (-4.3 %) between 2010 and 2020. Southern Africa (2.5 %) and Eastern Africa (2.4 %) had almost equal growth rates while imports from Western Africa (1.1 %) grew less strongly. Similar to exports, EU imports from all five African regions declined from 2019 to 2020.
In 2020, the EU had trade in goods deficits Middle Africa (EUR 1.3 billion) and Southern Africa (EUR 0.4 billion) as shown in Figure 7. In contrast, there were trade in goods surpluses with Eastern Africa (EUR 2.1 billion), Western Africa (EUR 3.4 billion) and especially Northern Africa (EUR 19.3 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 and EUR 19.3 billion in 2020.
Exports of goods to Africa important for Cyprus, Malta and Portugal
France (EUR 22 billion), Germany (EUR 20 billion), Spain, the Netherlands (both EUR 16 billion), Italy (EUR 15 billion) and Belgium ( EUR 11 billion) were the largest exporters of goods to Africa in 2020 (Table 1). Cyprus (25.4 %), Malta (21.6 %) and Portugal (20.0 %) had the highest shares for exports to Africa in their total exports to countries outside the EU.
The largest exporters were also the largest importers of goods from Africa in 2020 (Table 2), although in a different order. Spain (EUR 19 billion) led, followed by France (EUR 18 billion), Germany, Italy (both EUR 15 billion), the Netherlands (EUR 13 billion) and Belgium (EUR 9 billion). The highest shares of imports from Africa in total extra-EU imports were found in Portugal (17.2 %), Spain (15.3 %) and France (10.3 %).
In 2020, 25 EU Member States had a trade in goods surplus with Africa. It was highest in Germany and France (both EUR 5 billion). Other countries whose trade surplus was higher than EUR 1 billion were the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Poland, Czechia, Ireland and Romania. The two countries that had a trade in goods deficit with Africa were Slovenia (EUR 111 million) and Spain (EUR 3 billion).
Source data for tables and graphs
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 United Kingdom is considered as an extra-EU partner country for the EU for the whole period covered by this article. However, the United Kingdom was still part of the internal market until the end of the transitory period (31 December 2020), meaning that data on trade with the United Kingdom are still based on statistical concepts applicable to trade between the EU Member States. Consequently, while imports from any other extra-EU trade partner are grouped by country of origin, the United Kingdom data reflect the country of consignment. In practice this means that the goods imported by the EU 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 trade partners.
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 (1 000 millions) 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 one of the main pillars of the EU’s relations with the rest of the world.
Because the 27 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.
- International trade in goods (t_ext_go), see:
- 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 (ext_go), see:
- 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)
- International trade in goods statistics - background
- International trade in goods (ESMS metadata file — ext_go_agg_esms)
- User guide on European statistics on international trade in goods