Africa’s Top 250 Companies in 2023
At first sight, our survey of the Top 250 biggest listed companies in Africa suggests that they have endured a difficult year. Combined market capitalisation has fallen considerably since our 2022 survey, from $701bn to $561bn, and is well below the record $948bn achieved in 2015.
The 2022 figure represented, however, a strong recovery from the low of $556bn recorded in 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many companies enjoyed a temporary bounce from the release of pent-up demand. Yet this year’s market capitalisation has drifted below the lows of the pandemic – and much more needs to be done to support the growth of a vibrant private sector across the continent.
Our table is based on market value at the end of March 2023. As always, many of Africa’s biggest companies, including state-owned firms and those held in private hands, are not included because they are not listed on any stock exchange.
According to a recent McKinsey study, of the 438 African companies with revenues in excess of $1bn, 60% were privately owned and 25% were subsidiaries of foreign-domiciled multinationals.
The continent’s biggest oil firms, such as Sonatrach from Algeria and Sonangol from Angola, would be among the very largest companies if they were listed. The Angolan government has pledged to list Sonangol on the Angola Stock Exchange, but the timetable for this has repeatedly slipped and the current target date is in 2027.
South African companies still dominate
The lion’s share of this year’s fall is due to big drops in the value of South African stocks, from $488bn to $375bn over the past year. The position of South African companies within the pan-African corporate landscape is particularly interesting.
Stock values on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) have tumbled in dollar terms over the past year through a variety of factors, including the falling value of the rand; the underlying weakness of the South African economy; and the impact of low infrastructural investment on power supplies and transport reliability. This is reflected in our survey, with the number of South African entries in our Top 250 falling from 133 last year to 96 in our 2023 rankings.
However, it is important to note that cyclical fluctuations in demand for mining commodities have also played a role. Commodity prices soared as the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdown measures were lifted, driving up the value of the mining companies that comprise a significant proportion of the JSE. For instance, the value of the highest-ranked mining company in our table, Anglo American Platinum, jumped from $11.3bn in March 2020 to $38.6bn in 2021 and then $36.4bn the following year, before crashing to $14.2bn this year, with its value mainly determined by wide fluctuations in global demand.
The total value of the Top 250 was also affected by several delistings, notably South Africa’s Massmart and Danone Centrale in Morocco. The lack of medium-term growth in the value of Africa’s biggest corporations is, however, also partly a function of general African economic trends, with the optimism generated by moderately robust growth in the first part of the new millennium giving way to more patchy growth punctuated by a handful of stronger growing economies.
The lack of progress is also reflected in the lack of strength in depth. The 250th position in our rankings was achieved with $394m in 2018; but that figure fell this year to the $229m valuation of Cleopatra Hospital in Egypt.
Despite continued weak economic growth in South Africa, the country’s 96 corporations listed in our table of the continent’s Top 250 companies completely dominate it, taking 67% of its entire value this year, with combined market capitalisation of $375bn out of the $556bn total for the Top 250.
Nine of the top ten slots in our table are filled by South African companies, with only telecoms company MTN Nigeria intruding into a perfect ten, while 15 out of the top 20 are South African. Of the remaining five, three are Nigerian and two Moroccan, which fairly reflects the balance of power in our overall table.
Read full report at African Business