Africa’s Top Companies 2024: West Africa holds steady

Given the overwhelming size of the country’s economy, Nigeria dominates our regional table with 14 of the 20 biggest listed companies in West Africa, leaving four for Côte d’Ivoire and two for Ghana.


Image : Benson Ibeabuchi/AFP

West and Central Africa contains more countries than any other African region, yet just three are represented in both our African Top 250 and the West African Top 20: Nigeria, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Nigerian companies account for 7.78% of our Top 250, down from 9.25% last year. Ghanaian companies comprise 0.44% of the value of this year’s Top 250, up from 0.34% last year, but this rise was overshadowed by Côte d’Ivoire’s increase from 1.53% to 1.81% over the same period. Dangote Cement heads up our regional West African Top 20 table with a value of $8.9bn. Although this is $1bn down on last year, it is still enough to overtake MTN Nigeria, which falls to fourth as a result of a massive $6.9bn decline in market capitalisation to $3.7bn. Second-placed BUA Foods has seen its value rise from $4bn in 2023 to $5.2bn in this year’s survey.

Telecoms firms are particularly well represented here, providing five of the ten biggest companies in the region. Airtel Africa has just overtaken MTN Nigeria to become the biggest telecoms operator in Nigeria by market capitalisation, although this does not directly reflect market share. According to Nigerian Communications Commission figures from February, MTN is the market leader with 80.9m subscribers, ahead of Airtel with 63m and Globacom with 62.1m. Sonatel of Senegal (listed on the BRVM Stock Exchange headquartered in Côte d’Ivoire), Orange Côte d’Ivoire and Scancom of Ghana all recorded steady increases in value as the telecoms sector provided stable growth with operators now expanding the range of services they offer.

Given the overwhelming size of the country’s economy, Nigeria understandably dominates our regional table with 14 of the 20 biggest listed companies in West Africa, leaving four for Côte d’Ivoire – one more than last year – and two for Ghana. Ecobank Transnational, which has Pan-African rather than specifically Ivorian operations, is a new entry into the Top 20, following a rise in market capital from $451m to $634m.

Central Africa does not have a single company listed in our continental Top 250 or regional Top 20, largely because the region’s economies are driven by the oil, gas and mining sectors, which are controlled by domestic state-owned enterprises and their partners from outside the continent. Thus Central Africa highlights the limited role of African private sector companies in many parts of the continent.

Many governments still rely on non-African multinational companies and their own state-owned utilities, rather than creating an economic environment within which the private sector can prosper. The Democratic Republic of Congo has a population of 105m and a relatively large economy, but is unrepresented, with much of its key mining operations under the control of foreign firms and state-owned Gécamines being one of the biggest mining companies in Africa.

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Neil Ford

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