Nigeria, Africa's largest economy, is attracting attention from investors around the world, especially from companies in fast-growing sectors like mobile banking and information technology (IT).
Despite continued problems with corruption and political instability, the country continues to have an impressive economic growth rate, a growing middle class and a skilled youth population that's embracing a wave of technological development, which together make Nigeria a fertile ground for business. Nigeria's prospects dominated the discussion among global policymakers and business leaders at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, which was held in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, this week.
The group's list of “Global Growth Companies” includes more than 360 firms from 65 countries, which the WEF's experts believe have “clear potential to become global economic leaders” based on their business models, growth record, leadership and their respective markets.
“Although they come from a variety of market backgrounds, what brings them together is their ability to exceed industry standards in revenue growth, promote innovative business practices, and provide excellent track records of leadership and corporate global citizenship,” David Aikman, managing director of the World Economic Forum, wrote in a blog post.
Of the 16 new businesses added to the elite group this year, six are based in Nigeria and are in fast-growing sectors such as mobile banking, agriculture and IT. Here are thumbnail sketches of each one:
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Interswitch is a mobile-payment company that works with governments, banks and private companies to process payments and transactions through ATMs, kiosks and, most important, mobile phones.
Founded in 2001, the Lagos, Nigeria, company now has partnerships with 21 banks across Nigeria and works with partners across sub-Saharan Africa.
UAC of Nigeria PLC
Founded in 1879 and incorporated by a subsidiary of Unilever in 1931, the company took its most recent name in 1973. Today, it's a holding company for a variety of businesses in the food, beverage, real estate and logistics sectors, and it has lucrative partnerships with major regional companies.
Last year, its profit before taxes was $8.6 billion, up 30 percent from the year before, according to the company's most recent financial report.
Computer Warehouse Group
Now one of the fastest-growing communication and technology companies in Nigeria, Computer Warehouse Group began with four staff members in 1992. Two decades later, it's created offices in Ghana, Uganda and Cameroon “in pursuit of its pan-African vision,” according to the company's website.
Computer Warehouse Group was listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in November 2013. Last year, the company's revenues increased by 10 percent, and its after-tax profits grew by 81 percent.
Notore Chemical Industries Ltd
Notore is a fertilizer and agriculture company that focuses on green development. Founded in 2005 and based in the strategic port of Onne on the Niger Delta, Notore operates the only plant in sub-Saharan Africa that manufactures urea, a by-product of the oil and gas industry.
“By making fertilizer more accessible to farmers through its supply chain and pricing, Notore is helping stimulate the local production of foods, such as rice and sugar,” wrote Forbes columnist Mfonobong Nsehe, who added that this type of business will decrease the country’s dependence on imports.
Seplat Petroleum Development Company PLC
The Lagos-based oil company was formed by the merger of two smaller Nigerian companies in 2009. By the end of last year, it had 60 million barrels worth of reserves from its holdings in the Niger Delta.
In April, the company raised $500 million in its initial public offering, and although it currently pumps about 62,000 barrels of oil per day, it relies on Shell's infrastructure to export its oil, according to Bloomberg.
Nagode is a manufacturing, distribution and logistics firm based in Lagos. Incorporated in 1988, the company slowly diversified its business lines away from the the textile industry. Today, its revenue is roughly $200 million per year, and it has offices in Cameroon, India, China, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.