/ 23 July 2022

Africa’s chief executives focus on Francophone markets

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Disillusioned: Kenyans queue for cash handouts at a rally in Kisumu. The number of young voters registered for Kenya’s August 2022 elections has dropped since the last poll five years ago, pointing to disenchantment caused by economic hardship and corruption. Photo: Brian Ongoro

French-speaking African nations are emerging as a focus for the continent’s top business leaders scouting for markets that can weather the global supply chain shocks created by the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Out of a list of the 10 most attractive investment destinations on the continent, six are Francophone countries, according to the Africa CEO Forum’s 2022 survey by audit firm, Deloitte.

Côte d’Ivoire, which recently hosted the continent’s annual African CEO Forum, topped the list with the highest rating, driven by a favourable business environment, market access and size.

“The market access/size and the business environment are the two main criteria when choosing a site,” according to the survey.

Business environment was the top factor voted by 27% of the leaders while 22% said they were more interested in market access and size for their business expansion.

Other key factors include country risk, infrastructure, tax and regulations, as well as human resources.

Côte d’Ivoire scored 31% on overall attractiveness, followed by two English-speaking countries — Ghana (29%) and Nigeria (28%) — in second and third places, respectively.

Other French-speaking countries — Senegal (26%), Rwanda (19%), Morocco (16%) and Togo (14%) — were in fourth, sixth, seventh and ninth places.

Benin tied with South Africa, one of Africa’s biggest economies, for 10th slot, with Benin’s position probably lifted by an economic boom that has seen the West African country almost double economic growth, from 3.8% in 2020, to 7.2% in 2021.

East African nations Kenya (23%) and Tanzania (15%) were ranked the fifth- and eighth-most attractive markets on the continent.

Chief executives are altering operation models for each market, strengthening governance structures and other foundations for sustainable growth as their business confidence in African markets grows beyond pre-pandemic levels.

“While some international companies are stepping back from the continent for strategic concerns, pan-African champions are growing and imposing their tailored business models for Africa,” said Deloitte Francophone Africa managing partner Emmanuel Gadret.

More than three quarters (78%) of the chief executives survey expressed positive sentiments about the continent’s economic prospects. 

Although a majority expressed feeling the heat of high supply costs and falling revenues on the back of the Ukrainian crisis, 74% are looking to diversify their supply sources.

“Our confidence in the African economy is strong and we will continue to contribute to its sustainable growth by investing and innovating. Despite the challenges, we are still growing our pan-African footprint with a target presence in 25 African countries by 2025,” said Vista Bank Group chairperson Simon Tiemtore.

Kilani Group chief executive Sara Masmoudi said the Tunisian pharmaceutical company with operations in Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire has begun breaking its dependence on China for logistics and imports. She affirmed the African continent is now a global player able to shape future partnerships with international players.

Pan-African higher education network Honoris United Universities — with a presence in 10 countries — has developed a tailor-made academic model designed to address Africa’s key education problems. It is leveraging partnerships with public regulators and pan-African industries to meet dynamic employment needs in a fast-changing and globalised world.

GoMyCode, an interactive and gamified learning platform, is also building an African learning model to address the gap between the standard training offered and accessible jobs. The startup has operations in Tunisia, Algeria, France, Morocco, Egypt, Bahrain, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire.

“Cross-pollination between public regulators and the private sector is essential to shape students’ employability in Africa through accessible and affordable education,” said Honoris United Universities Group’s chief executive, Jonathan Louw.

Optorg Group, a vehicle and spare parts distribution company, has its eyes fixed on sustained investments in countries with critical size and diversified economies in North, East and West Africa — risks notwithstanding.

“Even if we analyse risk through our African vision, we do consider pan-African governance, political stability and currency volatility as key decision factors,” said Optorg Group deputy managing director  Laila Ait El Mkadem. 

Despite access to finance projects remaining low on the continent, top business leaders are keen on using their own funds to develop their businesses. They consider bank financing and private equity investment funds as alternative financing options, according to the report. — bird story agency