For the second year in a row, the AFRICA CEO FORUM and Deloitte have published their Africa CEO Survey. Carried out in unusual circumstances brought on by the health crisis, this survey of more than 150 CEOs provides us with insights on the climate, situation and outlook of the African private sector.
Predictably, the Covid crisis has had negative consequences in Africa across all sectors and geographies. Attesting to this, 95% of the African CEOs we surveyed say the crisis has had a negative impact on their business activities.
However, this percentage encompasses a wide variety of circumstances from one sector to another in terms of the extent of the damage. Although the Consumer Business, Financial Services and Energy sectors were the most optimistic prior to the crisis, today they are the most concerned about the future. By contrast, the morale of stakeholders from the Food, Health and Education industries has been impacted the least.
Nevertheless, across all sectors the sense of resilience is striking: 80% of survey respondents exhibit a high degree of confidence about the continent’s long-term outlook, compared with just 73% one year earlier. This is illustrated by the fact that a majority of them (60%) are confident that business will “return to normal” in 2021.
Respondents are also pleased about current and future developments in terms of increasing local production, but above all in terms of digitalisation – for which they expect significant support from public authorities.
However, their confidence is also anchored by their hopes regarding the continent’s further economic integration. Accordingly, they share the same level of enthusiasm for the single continental market initiative (AfCFTA), considered to be a significant driver in accelerating the pace of growth. Far from leaving it entirely in the hands of public authorities, they are aware that the success or failure of this undertaking is also their responsibility. But this willingness does not keep the CEOs surveyed from expressing a certain amount of scepticism as to the short-term feasibility of the AfCFTA’s effective launch.
In parallel, the CEOs surveyed identify, like last year, business climate and quality of infrastructure as the main roadblocks to accelerating their strategy.
Relationships with authorities remain a point of contention and African CEOs continuously expect more as well as improvement from their country’s government. While they acknowledge that the Covid-19 health crisis has given a boost to partnerships between public and private stakeholders and that, faced with an emergency, public stakeholders were able to quickly adapt and eliminate bureaucratic hurdles, 93% of respondents feel that private sector recommendations continue to be inadequately taken into account by public authorities.