Southern Africa’s Top Companies in 2023

Firms from South Africa continue to dominate the rankings in both our regional survey of Southern Africa's Top Companies and our ranking of the continent's Top 250 Companies.


Image : ralf werner froelich / Adobe Stock

Southern Africa accounts for 71.2% of the entire value in our survey of Africa’s Top 250 Companies in 2023, a fall of 2.8 percentage points on last year but still hugely dominant. South Africa contributes an enormous 67% of this, down 2.6 percentage points on 2022. Besides being by far the biggest corporate power on the African continent, South Africa is utterly dominant in Southern Africa, so we present notes on the best that the other countries in the region have to offer.

South African banks enjoyed a good 2022 in terms of profitability, benefitting from the post-Covid-19 recovery and higher interest rates. FirstRand recorded a 15% increase in earnings to R18bn with a strong return on equity (RoE) of 21.8% and increased business in all lending portfolios. For its part, Standard Bank Group generated a 33% rise in profits, with its RoE increasing from 13.5% in 2021 to 16.4% last year, still slightly below pre-pandemic levels but the company is confident of achieving a RoE of 17-20% by 2025.

However, continued difficulties in the South African economy, potential sovereign debt defaults and continued fallout from the war in Ukraine could affect the performance of South African banks operating across the continent.

South African banks have also warned of another possible negative outcome from the war in Ukraine – Pretoria’s continued warm relations with Russia and refusal to condemn its invasion.

Announcing his bank’s annual results, FirstRand CEO Alan Pullinger said: “Our government’s open support for Russia, which is increasingly being called out by our major trading partners… could have extremely negative consequences for the country which benefits far more from trade with and investment from the USA, UK and Europe than from Russia.”

He added: “The South African banking sector, and this includes our central bank, crucially relies on access to the US dollar, global clearing and settlement, which is a privilege and can be revoked at any time. For all of these reasons, FirstRand does not share government’s enthusiasm for Russia.”

Among non-South African companies, Namibia’s B2gold Corporation moves up from 38th last year to 33rd in this year’s rankings, on the back of market capitalisation of $4.8bn.

B2gold is followed by Afreximbank and Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB), both listed in Mauritius; and then, perhaps surprisingly, by three Zimbabwean firms: Innscor Africa, Delta Corporation and Econet Wireless with valuations of $1,165m, $228m and $1,031m – despite falls from $2,206m,  $1,230m and $3,479m respectively.

Some consider Zimbabwean stock values to be high given the extent of problems in that country’s economy. This could be due to the tendency of Zimbabweans to invest in the stock market rather than placing their money in savings accounts given continued high inflation.

Read our other regional rankings

The regional Top 20 for Southern Africa

The African Business Top 250 Companies survey focuses on the biggest companies on Africa’s stock exchanges, with the ranking determined by the market capitalisation (total value of the listed shares) at 31 March 2023. Some of the African giants not in the Top 250 ranking are government-owned companies, including state-owned enterprises such as Commercial Bank of Ethiopia and Sonangol in Angola.  

The Top 250 survey excludes companies that have African heritage and roots but no longer earn at least 50% of their revenues in Africa. Companies with more than 50% of their revenues from Africa are excluded if they are not listed on an African stock exchange. 

The table below lists the 20 top companies in our survey from the Southern African region along with their position in the overall ranking.

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Neil Ford

Neil is a journalist, writer, editor and consultant, specialising in international and African affairs.