For over 15 years African Business has been running an annual ranking of Africa’s 250 Top Companies, taking the top listed companies from national and regional stock exchanges across Africa. In this article we focus on the top 20 companies from North African countries that appeared in the ranking in 2021.
The biggest listed North African companies enjoyed strong gains compared to 2020. The top three are based in Morocco and listed on the dynamic Casablanca Stock Exchange, where the MASI Free Float Index climbed 22% and the Dirham currency gained 11% against the dollar.
Maroc Telecom reflected the gains as its market capitalisation rose from $11bn in 2020 to $13.5bn by March 2021, holding its place at #8, even as national GDP shrank 5.9% over the calendar year, with economic damage from lower tourism and drought in some areas as well as sudden slowdowns in its main export markets in Europe.
Exports of automotive parts and phosphates started to pick up again in the third quarter of 2020 and the economy is forecast to bounce back strongly with 4.5% growth in 2021 and 3.2% in 2022. Tackling high unemployment, especially for young people, remains a challenge.
Other top Moroccan performers were Attijariwafa Bank (#15 in the main table) and Banque Centrale Populaire (down to #29 from #28 in 2020 despite a strong gain in market value).
Covid-19 had a severe impact on Egypt but the country managed to keep economic growth at 3.6% in 2020 and the momentum will continue with forecast 3% growth in 2021 and 4.9% in 2022. According to the AfDB, “Egypt’s economic growth has been strong and resilient since the economic reforms initiated in 2016.”
The bank of Egypt cut the overnight lending rate in March, September and November 2020 to end at 9.25% in a successful bid to stimulate the economy. Tourism is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels for some years.
The top Egyptian company on the list is Commercial International Bank, down from #18 in 2020 to #30 as its market capitalisation slid back a little. The Egyptian pound stayed stable against the dollar.
Tourism-dependent Tunisia was hammered, with an 8.8% economic contraction overall and relatively anaemic 2% growth in 2021. Covid-19 hit hard and there were sharp falls in investment and exports. However, the top Tunisian company on the list, Société de Fabrication des Boissons de Tunisie (SFBT), gained dramatically in market capitalisation and climbed from #80 to #67.
Libya, which does not feature on the Top Companies list as it has no stock exchange, was hardest hit by Covid-19, collapsing oil prices and conflict, leading to a 60% fall in GDP, although 131% growth is predicted this year. Overall the region contracted 1.1% in 2020 and is set for a good recovery of 4% in 2020 and 6% in 2022.
North Africa does well in terms of diversified economies, and this is reflected in the biggest companies which include telcos, banks, cement makers, energy and consumer companies and private utilities.
© Data provided by Emerging Markets Investment Management Limited and also in-house research. Data as at 31/03/2021. Data relates to listed companies only.