West Africa’s Top Companies in 2023: Nigeria continues to dominate

Nigeria may still have the most entries for West Africa in our survey of Africa's Top 250 Companies but Côte d'Ivoire is progressing rapidly up the table.


Image : Terver

Companies from just three West African countries are represented in our survey of Africa’s Top 250 Companies in 2023: Nigeria with 22, Côte d’Ivoire with 11 and just two from Ghana. The lack of Ghanaian presence is particularly striking because of the level of economic growth the country has enjoyed over many years and the injection of oil and gas revenues into an already diverse economy. 

Yet inflation there reached 54.1% in December, forcing the Bank of Ghana to repeatedly lift its benchmark interest rate, most recently by 150 basis points to 29.5% in March. Ghana’s economic difficulties perhaps partly explain the country’s receding presence in our Top 250 in recent years.

Nigerian firms account for 9.2% of the combined value of our Top 250, up from 8.53% last year, while the number of Nigerian companies in the table has increased by three. However, this is still not proportionate with the size of its population.

A World Bank report published in 2022 confirmed the widely held view that the Nigerian economy has been stagnant over the past decade but still has huge untapped potential. It said that unlocking private investment is the only way to boost growth and create more employment but this is dependent on creating a stable macro-economy. It will be interesting to see whether new president Bola Tinubu can make progress where his predecessors failed.

MTN Nigeria is the biggest listed company in West Africa, with a market value of $10.6bn in this year’s table. Another Nigerian telecoms firm, Airtel Africa, is ranked fourth with $6.9bn. 

They sandwich Nigeria’s two big construction materials producers: Dangote Cement and BUA Cement, both of which are expanding across the continent as well as making the most of continued rapid construction in Nigeria itself. Dangote Cement reported that it was able to minimise the impact of high fuel prices by transitioning away from coal and gas, including by using compressed natural gas instead of diesel to fuel its trucks.

Côte d’Ivoire’s presence in our table continues to grow year on year: its 11 ranked companies represent a rise of three on last year, while their combined value jumped from 0.87% to 1.53% in just 12 months. With economic growth of 7% in 2021 followed by 6.7% last year, Côte d’Ivoire is re-establishing itself as the dominant economic power in francophone sub-Saharan Africa and is continuing to catch up from the lost years following the civil war.

Read our other regional rankings

The regional Top 20 for West 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 West 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.