Women-led companies outperform African stock exchanges

The share prices of African companies run by women outperformed the continent's leading stock exchanges in 2022, according to a new report on Africa's top women CEOs.


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While only a fraction of companies listed on Africa’s 24 stock exchanges have women CEOs, those that are led by women outperform financially by a wide measure according, to a new report from Africa.com.  

Women-led companies remain a rarity across Africa, despite a growing body of evidence that more diverse management produces better results. For the third year running, Africa.com analysed the companies listed on Africa’s 24 stock exchanges to establish a definitive list of the continent’s top businesswomen.

It also examined the performance of companies where women hold the top position as CEO and found that the collective market capitalisation of the 34 African companies that had women group CEOs was up 2.8% for the year ended 31 December 2022, outperforming many stock exchanges in Africa and across the world.

“This was a remarkable performance in light of conditions globally, and especially in Africa,” said Teresa Clark, chair of Africa.com as she presented the results by video link.

The share prices of the firms run by women CEOs outperformed the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (FTSE/JSE All Share) by 506 basis points, the Nairobi Securities Exchange Index (NSEASI) by 2,712 basis points, the London Stock Exchange (FTSE All Share Index) by 1,202 basis points, and the S&P 500 by 1,714 basis points.

The top four companies were all in financial services, all with gains in excess of 40% – it was a good year for Africa’s financial sector due to interest rate increases. The fifth highest performer was in the beverages sector, with growth in excess of 30%.

Teresa Clark, chair of Africa.com, presents the results of the survey. along with profiles of the women leaders and interviews with Vera Songwe and Patricia Lizarraga.

Why do women-led firms outperform?

“In my work with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the World Bank, when we started the gender conversation nearly 20 years ago, we saw that when you invest in women you have a much higher return,” said Vera Songwe, fellow at the Brookings Institution and former head of the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

“Less than 1.3% of the $69 trillion global assets today are under management by women, let alone women of colour, but those women actually deliver a higher [return] than the men, on average. Clearly, women’s performance is stronger.

“When we did the studies 20 years ago we were looking at women in business, women traders, and there we saw they had a higher return, they paid their principal and serviced their debt much faster, and were able to borrow and grow bigger businesses faster.

“We see exactly the same thing when we look at the private equity and venture capital spaces. When you look at 1.3% of $69 trillion you know there is a problem.”

Another participant in the presentation, Patricia Lizarraga, founder of Hypatia Capital, commented: “Why do women outperform? Because it’s just harder for women to get to the top. So the ones that do by definition have something extra.”

Her opinion was echoed by Owen Omogiafo, president and CEO of Transcorp, who said: “We have to work harder, that is the reality. And while you have people rooting for you to succeed, there are also people watching for you not to succeed so that they can confirm that a woman could not do it. So for that reason, we’re very deliberate, we’re very driven to succeed and we think beyond just the numbers… we look at the soft side too.”

She suggested that companies run by women have better employee engagement and that this was an area that merited more empirical research. Emphasising that companies with happier employees produce better results, she argued that women raise employee engagement due to their superior skills in nurturing, and that women were less egotistical as bosses. “When a woman is leading, it’s more about ‘us’ and less about ‘me’,” she said.


To create its third annual Definitive List of Women CEOs, sponsored by Standard Bank Group, Africa.com screened 2,020 companies listed on the 24 African stock exchanges for those with revenue of $100m or more, or a market cap of $150m or more, which yielded a list of 787 companies. The data was provided by Bloomberg.

The public websites of the 787 companies were then reviewed by Africa.com to identify female C-suite executives. The researchers then examined the list of these women to determine those who have a title of chief executive officer or managing director or president and conducted a review to confirm that these executives have bottom-line profit-and-loss responsibility for the companies. This produced the list of 34 companies headed by women.

Two additional groups of women were selected through this process to identify division heads of African corporates and regional heads of global corporations. This resulted in Africa.com’s final Definitive List of 93 women CEOs. The list includes 40 women from South Africa, 12 from Nigeria, and 6 from Egypt, Ghana and Kenya respectively. The full list can be seen at Africa.com.

To determine overall performance of the 34 companies that were headed by women, the researchers used data from Bloomberg to evaluate the change between the last closing share price on 1 January 2022 compared to December 31 2022.

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