Takeaways from FrontierView’s Johannesburg Executive Roundtable
On April 18, 2023, FrontierView held its biannual Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) Executive Roundtable in Johannesburg. Executives from a broad range of multinationals shared their views on the most important strategies and tactics they will be pursuing to ensure they thrive in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) over the coming year.
Firms will need to adopt increasingly creative solutions to secure access to FOREX and manage currency volatility. For example, reviewing channel partnerships to ensure local distributors are financially resilient to withstand chronic FOREX shortages will help MNCs maintain business continuity in SSA’s most challenging markets. In response to pronounced downside risks that could disrupt commercial performance (for example, worsening currency volatility in Kenya, and extensive power shortages in South Africa), MNCs are developing sophisticated scenarios and contingency plans. Firms are also bringing forward investments that facilitate cost-cutting or efficiency gains to protect their margins. Additionally, MNCs are exploring opportunities in new, smaller growth markets to help offset underperformance in the large markets of South Africa and Nigeria. In tandem, firms are reviewing product portfolios to focus on resilient customer segments.
- Currencies in SSA have exhibited greater volatility. For example, the rand lost 28% of its value against the dollar in the 12 months to April 2023, the Ghanaian cedi has dramatically swung in value since the country’s sovereign default in January, and the Kenyan shilling’s depreciation accelerated in February.
- Increasingly widespread FOREX shortages in a growing number of SSA markets have exerted severe pressure on MNCs’ distributors and customers, resulting in lengthy payment delays.
- Private sector sentiment in the region’s largest markets of South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria has slumped in response to domestic operational challenges, including worsening power cuts, creaking public finances, rising inflation, and politically driven social unrest.
Underperformance in the region’s largest markets—notably South Africa and Nigeria, and in the traditionally buoyant economies of Ghana and Ethiopia—will contrast with emerging opportunities in the increasingly upbeat economies of Angola, Congo (DRC), Cote d’Ivoire, and Mozambique. Stronger opportunities in service industries, extractive industries, and high-income households will diverge from softer demand trends in heavy industries, low-income households, and public sector customers. Firms across industries face squeezed margins, because rising cost pressures—driven by currency volatility, high commodity prices, and rising interest rates—will coincide with low tolerance among customers for price increases because of muted purchasing power.
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