JOHANNESBURG: A new breed of challenger brands are emerging in Africa, with a particular strength in sectors like financial services and telecoms.

According to a report by the Boston Consulting Group, a large number of companies from the region have seen a rapid increase in their revenues, even if their progress has often been “hidden from plain view”.

The 500 biggest corporations in Africa outside of the banking category have recorded an annual uptick of 8.5% in sales since 1998, tapping into broader positive economic trends.

From 2000 to 2008, Africa's GDP expanded by 5.8% when adjusted for purchasing power parity, ahead of the global figure of 4%, while the continent also saw average growth of 2% in 2009 despite the downturn affecting much of the rest of the world.

At present, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa account for 60% of the region's GDP, with per capita totals ranging from $330 in the Democratic Republic of Congo to $15,000 in Botswana.

The 40 challengers identified by BCG currently take between $350m and $80bn a year in revenue, alongside displaying an “international footprint and ambitious plans to further expand overseas.”

Some 25% of firms are in the banking industry, with 20% focused on natural resources and 15% in the media, telecoms and technology segment.

Elsewhere, 13% specialised in in logistics, 8% in the consumer/retail market and 8% taking the form of conglomerates.

South Africa housed 18 of these companies in all, including Vodacom and MTN, the telcos, Allied Electronics, the ICT giant, and Shoprite, the retailer.

Egypt claimed second position with seven challenger brands, from the air carrier Egyptair, EFG-Hermes the investment bank.

Six of the organisations which were hotly-tipped by BCG were based in Morocco , like Attijariwafa and BMCE banks, as well as Maroc Telecom and Royal Air Maroc.

Cevital, the food manufacturer , and Sonatrach, the energy company, made the list from Algeria, as did Groupe Elloumi and Poulina Groupe, two conglomerates headquartered in Tunisia.

Nigeria's Dangote Group, another diversified organisation, and the United Bank for Africa claimed two places, alongside Banco Aficano de Investimentos and Sonangol from Angola and Ecobank from Togo.

BCG suggested 17 of these firms could be described as “multicontinental players” as at least 10% of their assets were generated from outside Africa.

This cohort featured Egypt's Orascom Telecom, which has a presence in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America, and South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare, in which GlaxoSmithKline holds a 19% share.

Another 12 companies are “regional players” with 10% of their assets drawn from beyond the confines of their home market but still within Africa.

Shoprite, for example, runs a network of stores in 17 nations, but has yet to extend its reach beyond one continent.

Just three operators were argued to be “global players”, all of which were founded in South Africa but are now listed on the London Stock Exchange.

The members of this list were SABMiller, the brewer, Old Mutual, the financial services provider, and Anglo-American, the mining and natural resources specialist, responsible for combined revenues of $47bn.

Overall, the 40 corporations in the report were said to have a “long-term vision” and to be focused on long-term gains rather than short-term profits, often because they are owned by families or national governments.

These firms also demonstrate “creativity”, such as MTN's solar-powered phone and SABMiller's Eagle Lager, which uses locally-grown sorghum rather than more expensive exported malt.

Data sourced from Boston Consulting Group; additional content by Warc staff