Family-owned Businesses Are Central to West African Region Economies


Tuesday, April 06, 2021 / 06:45 PM / by Asoko Insight/ Header Image Credit: Asoko Insight

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Executive Summary

Home to Africa's largest market and nearly a third of the continent's population, West Africa boasts a vibrant business community with some of the most recognisable indigenous brand names on the continent. Family-owned businesses (FOBs) are central to the region's economies, both at the top of the market where they form some of the biggest businesses, and in the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) segment, where they provide the foundation of employment and economic growth en masse.


With a strong entrepreneurial spirit at their core, deep roots in their local markets and experience or ambitions for growth, family firms offer unique opportunities for investment and partnerships for the Africa-focused global finance and corporate communities.

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The main obstacle to connecting capital and opportunities with the space has been its opacity, as details on these companies' nature, size and shareholding are largely unavailable. This report, produced by Asoko in partnership with Business Day, brings those details to light using a transparent and data-driven methodology to highlight 500 leading family-owned businesses from across the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). We're pleased to introduce the FOB500.


Rather than a listing of the largest players, we have sought to balance the big names with lesser-known, up-and-coming firms to provide a representative sample of family businesses across the full corporate landscape. Within the dataset, 55% of businesses have revenues over $10 million a year while 45% earn less than $10 million, but over a threshold of $1 million. A similar breakdown is seen in employment, with 60% of firms having a workforce of under 200 and 40% employing more than 200 staff.


In line with its dominance of the ECOWAS economy, Nigerian businesses form the crux of the dataset, with 36% of firms. Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and Mali together account for 42.5% with the remaining ECOWAS markets making up 21.5%. Agribusiness is the largest single sector among the FOB500 with 27%, followed by manufacturing and construction at 20%. Firms across the services sector make up a combined 33% of the dataset, with transport being the largest segment within it at 10% of the total. Nigeria's outsized influence can be seen in the fact that some 10% of the FOB500 operate in the oil and gas sector, just behind consumer goods and retail businesses at 11%.


We have given special focus to firms that exemplify the thematic topics covered in the report:

  • Companies with a regional reach which are likely to find themselves at the forefront of trade integration under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA);


  • Family firms that have taken on external capital, either from private equity or via public stakes on local exchanges, to support their growth;


  • Women-led businesses that showcase the strong female entrepreneurial spirit on the continent, which has the largest proportion of female founders globally;


  • Multi-generation firms with successful succession under their belts; and


  • Firms with a business structure or mission that puts innovation and impact at the forefront of their strategy, including a purposeful shift into manufacturing in support of self-sufficiency and employment.


Complementing these company profiles is our analysis and insights from sector stakeholders on the major challenges and opportunities facing family businesses today within the context of the ECOWAS market and the five largest economies within the bloc.


Our selection of companies to highlight was informed by their relative weight in the market, based on size metrics including revenue and employment, alongside the factors relevant to the topic they are profiled under, such as age of the business and geographic reach. The profiles are by no means exhaustive; most companies would easily fit into several categories, as would any number of the 500 firms that form the foundation of the report. A directory is included to support further research, identifying each firm's HQ country and sector of operation


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