What Are The Biggest Industries In Nigeria?

Nigeria is known for its status as the largest country in Africa by population. Additionally, with a GDP of about $1.118 trillion, the country has the largest economy on the continent and among the largest in the world.
The largest industries which drive the country’s economy and account for the bulk of its annual GDP are its petroleum, tourism, agriculture, and mining industries. The biggest industries in the country also employ a large number of the country’s workforce with the agricultural industry alone employing about 30% of the country’s total labor force. These industries are also responsible for the bulk of the country’s exports.
The chief export commodities from Nigeria include petroleum, chemicals, palm oil, and cocoa. The total exports from the country are valued at $40.81 billion each year. After emerging from a brutal and violent past and despite currently grappling with rampant corruption in government institutions, the country is on an upward trajectory, and its economic growth is a manifestation of this growth.

Petroleum Industry

The largest and most economically important industry in Nigeria is the country’s petroleum industry. The country is among the top ten largest producers of oil globally and has the largest oil producer in the continent. Crude oil and petroleum products are the country’s chief export commodities which account for over 98% of the country’s annual exports. Oil exports generate an estimated 14% of Nigeria’s GDP and are responsible for about 83% of the government’s revenue.

The prominence of the petroleum industry in Nigeria is evident on the immense oil deposits found in the country which are estimated to be over 16 billion barrels. Some sources have the proven oil deposits in the country to be as high as 35 billion barrels. Oil was discovered in the country in the 1950s, but the history of oil exploration in the country goes back to the turn of the 20th Century. The bulk of the oil produced in the country is sourced from the Niger Delta region.

The huge oil deposits found in the region has attracted giant multinationals to the country including Royal Dutch Shell whose oil production in Nigeria represents 50% of the country’s total production. Other companies which have a presence in the country’s petroleum industry include Agip, Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, and Total.

Problems Facing The Petroleum Industry

The wealth that oil brings to the country’s economy was also the reason the country was engulfed in the flames of a bitter civil war known as the Nigerian Civil War. The civil war was triggered by the secessionist movement in the rich Niger Delta drawn primarily from the populous Igbo tribe. The war led to an estimated two million deaths and millions more in injuries. The war also had an economic cost and badly affected the oil production in the delta which dipped to about 0.42 million barrels per day. One problem that the industry currently faces is the theft of oil which is believed to cost the country potential revenues valued as much as $10.9 billion. The industry also losses a significant amount of oil from oil spills. Old corroded tankers and pipelines are responsible for an estimated 50% of all the oil spills recorded in the country. Another reason behind the oil spills witnessed in the country is sabotage through the taping of oil pipelines by saboteurs who sell the oil in the black market. This illegal extraction of oil can lead to the destruction of the pipeline.

Tourism Industry

One of the key foreign exchange earning industries in Nigeria is the country’s tourism industry. The country’s diverse landscape and wildlife make it a prime tourist destination in West Africa. The southern part of the country consists of sandy beaches and tropical jungles.

The forests of the Yankari National Park are home to herds of elephants which are a rare spectacle in a country where elephants are critically endangered. However, the tourist attractions can also be found in the country’s major cities. As an example, Lagos has large modern-park known as Millennium Park which is an important tourist attraction in the city.

The nightlife experienced in many of Nigeria’s largest cities is another tourist attraction. The country’s entertainment industry has produced celebrity musicians and actors who have millions of fans from all corners of the world. Therefore, local concerts where these musicians perform draw in thousands of international tourists.

The government of Nigeria knows the importance of the country’s tourism industry and has established a ministry, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and National Orientation whose mandate is to develop the industry. The ministry which is allocated a hefty budget is focused on marketing the innumerable tourist attraction sites in the country to foreign and local tourist markets.

Agricultural Industry

Agriculture is one of the most dominant industries in Nigeria and accounts for an estimated 18% of the country’s GDP. The industry is also an important source of employment for millions of Nigerians as it employs about 30% of the country’s labor force. Most of the country’s agricultural production is carried out in the southern part of Nigeria which has ideal climatic conditions for agriculture.

The northern part of the country is largely dry and primarily supports herding of livestock. Poor policies and lack of government willpower have in the past crippled the agricultural industry in Nigeria. The industry nearly grounded to a halt in the years which followed the Nigerian Civil War, and the majority of the population relied on food imports.

Main Agricultural Products

Oil palms are among the chief export agricultural commodities in Nigeria. The country produces an estimated 8 million tons of oil palms each year and the bulk of which is destined for international markets.

The demand for the crop is huge as it is used in numerous industries including the cosmetics, bioenergy, plastics, and pharmaceutical industries. Another chief agricultural foreign exchange earner in Nigeria is cocoa. The annual production of cocoa in the country is estimated at 0.23 million tons.

However, experts believe that the country has the potential to produce over 0.3 million tons of cocoa but attaining this potential is hindered by the reliance on small-scale farmers.

Banking and Finance:

Nigeria’s banking sector is a vital component of its economy, providing essential financial services to individuals, businesses, and the government. Commercial banks, microfinance institutions, and other financial institutions play a crucial role in facilitating transactions, credit access, and investment activities.


The telecommunications industry in Nigeria has experienced remarkable growth in recent years. With a large population and increasing mobile phone penetration, telecommunication companies have expanded their services, providing mobile communication, internet connectivity, and digital solutions to individuals and businesses across the country.


Nigeria has a growing manufacturing sector, contributing to job creation and the production of goods for both domestic consumption and export. Industries such as food processing, textiles, cement, automobile assembly, and consumer goods manufacturing are prominent in Nigeria’s manufacturing landscape.


Infrastructure development is a key focus for Nigeria’s government, driving growth in the construction industry. Projects encompass residential and commercial buildings, roads, bridges, airports, and other critical infrastructure, creating employment opportunities and supporting economic expansion.

Entertainment and Creative Industries:

Nigeria’s entertainment industry, including Nollywood (the Nigerian film industry) and the music industry, has gained international recognition. The creative sectors, including fashion, arts, and crafts, also contribute significantly to the economy through job creation and revenue generation.

These industries, among others, drive Nigeria’s economic growth and provide employment opportunities for its population. The government continues to prioritize diversification and sustainable development to further strengthen these sectors and propel Nigeria’s economy forward.