East Africa’s Top Companies in 2023: Safaricom decline overshadows performance

A big fall in the market capitalisation of East African companies in our annual survey is due in large part to a huge fall in the value of telecoms giant Safaricom.



The top 20 East African companies in our survey of Africa’s Top 250 Companies in 2023 are valued at just 3.29% of the worth of our entire Top 250, a significant fall from the 3.52% recorded last year – though the number of entrants remains the same at 19. The fall is entirely explained by lower values for Kenyan companies, which are now collectively valued at 2.1% of our pan-African table, down from 2.7% in our 2022 rankings, while there were actually small rises for the listed Tanzanian and Ugandan companies. 

The national breakdown in the number of East African firms remains exactly the same, with 11 Kenyan, six Tanzanian and two Ugandan companies listed both this year and in 2022. Given the size of the region’s population, it continues to underperform – but with some of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, it seems likely that East Africa will increasingly make its presence felt over the next few years. 

The combined value of the Kenyan companies listed in our continental table has fallen from $19bn in 2022 to $12bn this year, in large part because of a huge fall in the value of telecoms giant Safaricom. Its share price reached a two-year low at the end of 2022 – but until recently Safaricom had comprised more than 50% of the total value of the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), peaking at 63% in mid-2021.

Although still the biggest listed company in East Africa, its market value dropped from $13.2bn in our 2021 table to $11.8bn last year and now to just $5.4bn, though it is well ahead of Tanzania Breweries, in second place with $1.4bn.

Safaricom’s revenues have been affected by a cut in Kenya’s mobile termination rate – the (regulated) charge that one phone company makes another for connection to its customers. It has also been hit by the cost of entering the Ethiopian market in July 2021, although that strategy has at least the potential to pay dividends in the longer term. In some ways, its falling value is actually good news for the NSE, as such market concentration creates an unbalanced bourse. A more positive way for that to be rectified, though, would be for the value of other companies to increase and for new firms to seek listings.

MTN Uganda is the biggest company in neighbouring Uganda, with market capitalisation of $1bn. Ranked fifth in our East African regional table, it is following a wider trend on the continent by seeking to expand beyond reliance on voice calls and into internet service provision and mobile financial services in order to increase its average revenue per user.

Read our other regional rankings

The regional Top 20 for East 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 East African region along with their position in the overall ranking.

Want to continue reading? Subscribe today.

You've read all your free articles for this month! Subscribe now to enjoy full access to our content.

Digital Monthly

£8.00 / month

Receive full unlimited access to our articles, opinions, podcasts and more.

Digital Yearly

£70.00 / year

Our best value offer - save £26 and gain access to all of our digital content for an entire year!

Neil Ford

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