FT ranking: Africa's Fastest Growing Companies 2023
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
After a recent period in which capital flows to emerging markets have slowed and start-up companies have been rattled by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, the FT/Statista 2023 annual ranking of Africa’s fastest-growing companies (below) casts its gaze back to encapsulate a time of corporate dynamism at what was the height of the pandemic.
The ranking, now in its second year, shows that companies in sectors including fintech, renewable energy, healthcare, commodities and agriculture were managing to grow their businesses while much of the world shut down.
As in the ranking’s inaugural year, Covid appears to have accelerated the move online, with companies providing digital services in finance, payments, trade facilitation and healthcare all making headway.
It also seems to have been the time in which Silicon Valley investors, as well as those in Asia and Europe, discovered potential in the African start-up scene, particularly in the tech hubs of Lagos, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Cairo.
“A lot of my friends . . . in Silicon Valley were getting FOMO [fear of missing out] about Africa,” says Steve Beck, co-founder of Novastar Ventures, a Nairobi-based venture capital firm. “They were starting to put money to work on the continent, flying in and out and pushing up valuations.”
Figures from San Francisco-based tech and digital investment platform Partech, Beck notes, show that African tech start-ups raised $5.2bn in 2021, three times more than the previous year. Valuations, however, have come under pressure in recent months.
Two Nigerian companies top the latest list of the continent’s fastest growing companies. Abuja-based Afex Commodities Exchange, which provides brokerage and trade finance services for commodities such as maize, sorghum, cocoa and rice, is in first position, with a compound annual growth rate over three years of more than 500 per cent.
Moniepoint, a Lagos-based company that offers banking for small businesses, rates second. Venture capital group Novastar was an early funder.
Third is Kenya’s Wasoko, which headed the list in the previous year. Headquartered in Nairobi, the ecommerce company helps small traders access inventory through more efficient supply chains in seven African countries.
As in the inaugural year, start-ups dominate, but do not monopolise, the list. More established companies in metals and mining, telecoms and construction also make the top 100.
The fintech and IT and software sectors are of key importance in the list, but a noticeable feature of the top 100 is the sheer variety of corporate activity. The fastest-growing companies include a Namibian winery, a Kenyan fish farm, a South African company that conducts remote hearing tests and renewable energy companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone.
As in the inaugural year, the list was compiled with Statista, a research company. It ranked companies by their compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in revenue, between 2018 and 2021.
Many fast-growing companies are privately held and do not publicly disclose detailed financial data. That makes a ranking like this an exercise in approximation and the list does not claim to be definitive.
But the screening process (see methodology, below), which also requires senior executives to sign off on the figures submitted by their companies, means, we hope, that the ranking offers a helpful guide to the companies and sectors that are managing to do business in a complex and fast-changing environment. Future years will reveal just how enduring their business models were.
Africa’s Fastest Growing Companies 2023 lists 100 companies, ordered by the highest compound annual growth (CAGR) in revenues between 2018 and 2021, based on the criteria outlined below.
Through research in company databases and other public sources, Statista has identified thousands of companies in Africa as potential candidates for the FT ranking. These companies were invited to participate in the competition by post and email. The project was advertised online and in print, allowing all eligible companies to register via the websites created by Statista and the Financial Times.
The application phase ran from October 5, 2022 to February 17, 2023. The submitted revenue figures had to be certified by the chief financial officer, chief executive or an executive committee member of the company.
Criteria for inclusion in the list
To be included in the list of the Africa’s fastest growing companies, a company had to meet the following criteria:
Revenue of at least US $100.000 generated in 2018 (1)
Revenue of at least US $1.5mn generated in 2021 (1)
The company is independent (the company is not a subsidiary or branch office of any kind).
The company’s operational headquarters are located in one of the African countries (2).
The revenue growth between 2018 and 2021 was primarily organic (ie “internally” stimulated)
1 Countries that do not use the dollar to express revenues had to provide the average local currency value equivalent over the course of the relevant fiscal year
2 All countries in the African continent were eligible to participate
Calculation of CAGR
The calculation of company growth rates is based on the revenue figures submitted by the companies in the respective national currency. For better comparability in the ranking the revenue figures were converted into US dollars. The average exchange rate for the financial year indicated by the company was used for this purpose.
The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) was calculated as follows:
((revenue 2021/revenue 2018) ^ (1/3)) — 1 = CAGR
Evaluation and quality assurance
All data reported by the companies was processed and checked by Statista. Missing data entries (employee numbers, address data, etc) were researched in detail. Companies that did not fulfil the criteria for inclusion in the ranking were deleted.
The minimum CAGR required to be included in the ranking this year was 7.89 per cent.
The ranking of the Africa’s Fastest Growing Companies 2023 was created through a complex procedure. Although the search was very extensive, the ranking does not claim to be complete, as some companies did not want to make their figures public or did not participate for other reasons.
Companies wishing to participate in next year’s ranking can pre-register here