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 West African countries that appeared in the ranking in 2021.
Prospects were bad for West Africa soon after the pandemic hit, particularly when oil prices crashed in the first half of 2020. In the second half oil recovered and by the end of December the West African region as a whole had seen 1.5% contraction, much less than forecast mid-year.
In addition, Covid-19 did not spread as fast as in some other parts of Africa and lockdowns were more targeted and less restrictive.
Several West African countries even managed to keep growth positive in 2020, including Côte d’Ivoire which maintained 1.8% growth (after 6.4% growth in 2019) and Ghana with 1.7% growth (after 6.5% in 2019). Oil-dependent Nigeria contracted by 3% but the Economic Sustainability Programme (ESP) rescue package made an important contribution.
Despite the economic gloom, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (now NGX, rebranded from Nigerian Stock Exchange after its demutualisation a few weeks before time of writing) had a record-breaking 2020.
Airtel Africa, a telco based in London but operating across Africa and dual-listed on the NGX, continued to soar up the main table of the Top Companies rankings from #37 in 2020 to #16 in 2021, as market capitalisation tripled to $9.3bn. Its valuation does diverge with its London listing which has a valuation of $4bn at the time of writing.
Giant Dangote Cement was at #20 (up from #21) with strong gains in market capitalisation to $8.9bn with telco MTN Nigeria not far behind (#23). BUA Cement, which listed in January 2020 and was a dynamic new entry to last year’s top 250 at #34, climbed well to #27 this year, with market capitalisation almost doubled to $6.1bn.
Valued at $2.3bn, Senegal’s Sonatel, a telco operating across many African countries, is by far the biggest company listed on the Bourse Régionale des Valeurs Mobilières (BRVM), the regional market for eight West African economies.
The two other BRVM issuers that make our top 20 for West Africa are both banks: Oragroup, a regional bank based in Benin, and the Société Génerale de Banques en Côte d’Ivoire.
Ghana’s listings are Tullow Oil, dual listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange at #111 and MTN Ghana (for this year’s ranking called Scancom), which climbed to #68 on the ranking.
Growth prospects are good in many countries. Star performer Côte d’Ivoire is forecast at 6.2% growth in 2021 and 6.5% in 2022, driven by many sectors including agriculture, construction, investment and consumption. Still, not many Ivorian companies are listed on the regional bourse.
Senegal expects 5.1% and 6% growth driven by restored public investment and the hydrocarbon sector. There is optimism in Ghana, with forecast growth of 4.1% in 2021, buoyed by gold and cocoa prices and recovery in construction and manufacturing.
© 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. For accuracy, Tullow Oil’s valuation is based on its London valuation rather than that in Ghana.