A listing of Africa’s fastest-growing firms that’s topped by Kenyan tech disrupters, South African platinum miners and Nigerian commodity merchants makes one factor clear: the companies thriving within the continent’s main economies are as various as they arrive.
This inaugural FT rating, compiled with information firm Statista and primarily based on compound annual development fee (CAGR) in revenues from 2017 to 2020, displays large themes throughout African markets, each previous and new.
Miners owe their place to a standard tailwind for African company development: booming commodities. But their presence additionally reveals that African producers are on the forefront of enabling new clear applied sciences around the globe — demand for catalytic converters for vehicles, for instance, has contributed to the run-up in platinum costs that has pushed revenues in recent times.
But the checklist is characterised much more by start-ups, such because the frontrunner, Kenya’s Wasoko, which might be tailoring the web’s worldwide disruption of enterprise fashions to basic African sectors, equivalent to casual commerce. In 2017, a few fifth of sub-Saharan Africa’s inhabitants was on-line. By 2020, that had risen to simply underneath a 3rd, in response to the World Bank.
While the rating doesn’t prolong past income development to the price of gross sales, or to profitability, Africa’s markets characterize a extra battle-hardened atmosphere for fast-growing firms than different areas.
When elevating funds, African start-up founders typically say that they face better strain to indicate a path to revenue sooner than firms in different elements of the world as a result of their markets are thought of much less acquainted to worldwide buyers.
And they’re clearly doing so, as enterprise capitalists and different buyers are coming to African markets with larger cheque books than ever earlier than. Evidence suggests extra capital is discovering its approach to start-ups at later levels, when they’re already approaching important scale.
Last 12 months marked an explosion in funding for fintech, specifically. African start-ups raised about $5bn in personal markets, notably in enterprise capital, in 2021, in response to information and estimates from the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA), an investor consultant group, and Briter Bridges, a analysis agency.
While that was a sliver of the $600bn raised worldwide, it was extra fundraising than had been achieved on the continent within the earlier seven years mixed, in response to AVCA.
By the variety of offers, the greater than 600 transactions recorded by the physique final 12 months have been almost 10 instances 2014’s whole.
More than a dozen firms raised $100mn or extra in 2021, in contrast with three in 2019 — supporting the concept that growing quantities of capital are reaching start-ups when they’re already nearing notable scale.
Almost all may very well be classed as fintech, and a few, equivalent to Flutterwave and Opay, each Nigeria-based digital fee firms, broke by way of to “unicorn” billion-dollar valuations with these funding rounds.
Wasoko, the highest firm on this rating, got here near becoming a member of them. It raised $125mn, at a valuation of $625mn (though the corporate was ranked on CAGR to 2020). Opay’s $400mn spherical alone was bigger than the complete African start-up market’s fundraising in 2017.
However, even with this current surge in funding, “there remains too little capital and talent, when compared to the strong demand for both from the many entrepreneurs building the next generation of world class African companies,” in response to the AVCA.
One rising expertise bottleneck for high-growth African start-ups is the variety of skilled software program builders on the continent, which has been estimated by Google at about 716,000, almost half of whom are in Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. The common age of those builders, at 29, is youthful than the worldwide common of 36. One-third are underneath 25.
At the present fee of enterprise capital dealmaking, it’s a truthful guess that subsequent 12 months’s checklist will characteristic many extra tech teams. But the rating additionally displays how capital markets past Africa have been swayed by firms from the continent. Revenue development at South Africa’s Naspers (quantity 37 on this checklist and the continent’s largest firm by market capitalisation) displays its stake of just below a 3rd in China’s Tencent, and different worldwide web belongings that at the moment are housed in Prosus, its European funding automobile that was created in 2019.
A number of rungs up the checklist is IHS Towers, the continent’s largest unbiased cell phone mast operator, benefiting from a growth within the infrastructure wanted for Africa’s surging web use. IHS listed in New York final 12 months within the largest preliminary public providing by an African firm on US markets.
Especially placing is heavy illustration for South African miners of platinum group metals, of which the nation is a big world provider, together with Northam, Royal Bafokeng and Anglo American Platinum.
That displays the character of a revenue-based development rating — miner gross sales in recent times have been boosted by surging platinum costs and depreciation of the South African rand, wherein many prices are priced, relative to the US greenback.
It is a risky combine. In 2020, the final 12 months used for this rating, the common platinum value was $885 per ounce — however this hid highs of about $1,070 and lows of round $605. Palladium costs have been simply as wild, ricocheting between $2,800 and $1,600 per ounce beneath a 2020 common of $2,200.
Even although analysts level to indicators of a maturing cycle, equivalent to rising prices, mining executives insist that long-term demand for platinum is right here to remain, given lack of provide and the requirement for the steel in clear power applied sciences — producing gasoline cells, for instance.
“There is a systemic global primary supply problem, and it boils down to the scarcity of new mining projects to replace the depleting profiles of currently operating, mature mines,” stated Paul Dunne, Northam’s chief government, in March.
The platinum mining growth additionally exhibits that, whereas the rating methodology stresses that it’s tilted to “primarily organic” development, growth by way of acquisitions is necessary, too. In current months, Northam has constructed a stake of round a 3rd in Royal Bafokeng throughout a bid battle with Impala Platinum, one other miner. Sibanye-Stillwater, a South African platinum miner that isn’t on this checklist, tripled revenues from 2018 to final 12 months because it made offers together with an entry into battery metals.
M&A-driven development might additionally change into a part of the lifeblood of Africa’s largest fintech start-ups, each on and off this rating.
MFS Africa, a South Africa-based digital funds gateway, pulled off one among final 12 months’s $100mn-plus fundraising offers. It has additionally been extremely concerned in pan-African M&A, making two massive acquisitions to increase in each west and east Africa, in addition to three minority investments, over 2020 and 2021.
Deals equivalent to these by MFS “are critical building blocks in building an expansive fintech infrastructure business on the continent”, due to the significance of scale in funds, Renaissance Capital analysts stated final month.
“We think the trend of consolidations in the ecosystem is likely to continue, spurred on by access to venture funding, with fintech companies leading the charge,” they added.