25 years ago, a group of African companies began breaking out of their domestic economies and expanding across the continent. They expanded in pursuit of market opportunities and return on investment for their shareholders. In the process they invariably achieved something even grander: they have become powerful drivers of African integration – through their cross-border operations and groundbreaking intra-Africa investments. And they have given Africa something to boast about that it previously lacked: its first generation of multinational giants – the African multinationals.
From the banking giant Ecobank, which sprawls 36 African economies to the telecoms giant MTN which operates across 16 economies, these companies have made the African multinational a dream come true. In every sector and industry they are giving global multinationals a terrifying run for their money and ideas, and in many niche plays they are beginning to outcompete the foreign giants that have hitherto dominated big business in Africa.
They are integrating African expertise, African investments, and African innovation. They are inventing solutions that tear down the barriers to intra-Africa trade. They prove that Africans can build and manage world-class, complex operations that out-compete global multinationals from Europe, North America and Asia. They are powerful symbols of African management capability. They remind us that if Africans can build world-class operations in the private sector, they can build world class nations as public sector managers. As such there is something deeply special about their emergence that goes beyond just the benefits to their shareholders. They are not just African multinationals. They are Champions of Africa – they are Afrochampions – a new class of players, whose emergence and achievement represents inspiration and role models/points us to the Africa we want: successful, connected and defying stereotypes.
The term Afrochampion has been coined by Konfidants to describe entities and players (in this case private companies) whose operations and activities across all sectors – private, public and social sectors – are directly or indirectly, helping integrate and grow Africa in consequential or potentially consequential ways. To provide a benchmarking tool that enables all of Africa to tell who an Afrochampion is, and what their impact is, Konfidants also created The Afrochampion Index, as the benchmarking apparatus, containing innovative indicators, that ranks and shows how these companies are integrating Africa.
Our findings are as fascinating as they are revealing: 544 intra-Africa investment project footprints, by 45 African multinationals in 50 African countries across 8 sectors.