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 Southern African countries that appeared in the ranking in 2021.
Covid-19 hit the Southern African economy the hardest in Africa, both because of heavy lockdown measures and commodity price declines. Overall the region’s economy shrank by 7% in 2020 and is set for only 3.2% recovery in 2021.
Southern Africa still dominates the market capitalisation rankings, with 120 companies amidst our Top 250, and valuations worth five times the value of the nearest rival (North Africa) even after the removal of Prosus and Compagnie Financière Richemont, two of its top three rankings.
The market capitalisations of its giants are boosted by the extraordinary gains of the JSE, where at time of writing the FTSE/JSE Africa All Share Index was up 40%-55% compared to last year, and a 20% gain in the currency compared to the US dollar.
The South African government is estimated to have spent up to 10.4% of GDP on support but the economy still contracted by 8.2% in 2020, after real GDP growth of only 0.2% in 2019. South Africa’s structural problems will slow the recovery to growth of only 3% forecast for 2021 and 1.6% in 2022.
About 2.6m South Africans are thought to have lost their jobs, bringing official unemployment to 31% by September 2020. Efforts by government to cut the cost of public sector salaries to the economy could mean strikes by the 1.3m government employees.
Mauritius took strict precautionary measures – there have been only 16 deaths due to the pandemic by mid-April 2021 – but the hit to tourism shrank the economy by 15% in 2020. It is likely to bounce back strongly if tourism resumes.
Mauritius also topped the chart for an economic stimulus package equal to 32% of GDP and is expected to grow by 7.5% in 2021 and 6.7% in 2022, topping the regional growth tables.
The biggest Mauritian company on the list is bank MCB Group, which boosted its market capitalisation but slid back from #72 to #94 in the overall ranking.
Zimbabwe is the regional laggard economically but paradoxically Africa’s top-performing stock exchange. Its economy already contracted by 6% in 2019 because of economic instability and the removal of many subsidies, and poverty was already at 70.5% in 2019 before the pandemic. GDP contracted by another 10% in 2020, while inflation averaged 623% in 2020, up from 227% in 2019.
That has not stopped rocketing share prices for local investors, who have seen significant gains in 12 months (the best performer was up 12,093% in 2020). The massive gains in market capitalisation at official FX rates saw many new Zimbabwean companies join the Top Companies ranking, including finance firms CBZ (#147) and Cassava SmarTech (#186), and consumer firm Hippo Valley Estates (#218).
Angola’s GDP contracted by 4.5% in 2020 due to oil price falls and non-performing bank loans soared past 30% of total loans. Growth is not forecast to be strong unless the oil price beats expectations.
© 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. Dual listings on African exchanges were excluded.