How multinationals have seized the African opportunity

Throughout the 1990s, Tullow expanded rapidly and acquired licences in other countries, and in 2004 bought Energy Africa. Tullow has also made onshore discoveries in largely uncharted territories. In 2007 the company made its largest ever discovery in Ghana – the Jubilee Field – which moved into production in 2010. It has also made major oil discoveries in Uganda and Kenya. In 2012, Tullow sold a share in its rights in Uganda to the China National Offshore Oil Corporation and Total for US$2.9bn.


Swedish bearing multinational SKF entered Africa in 1914 and later established a factory in South Africa to supply local and multinational manufacturers. However, its business suffered during the apartheid sanctions era of the 1980s.

SKF’s post-apartheid reinvestment has made it a market leader, serving clients via more than 40 distributors across several Southern African countries, including Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique. It has also expanded to other parts of Africa.

SKF has traditionally managed markets in a fairly fragmented manner, with different countries and sub-regions having different reporting lines into European countries. However, this has changed dramatically over the last few years. In 2011 SKF consolidated the entire African region under a single, dedicated management team. Its focus has now shifted to scaling up some existing operations and expanding into several sub-Saharan markets.

Mara Group

Mara Group started out as a small IT business in Uganda nearly two decades ago. It now has a presence in 19 African countries, as well as in India and the United Arab Emirates. Through its investments and operations the group employs more than 8,000 people.

Founder Ashish Thakkar started the business when he was 15. He dropped out of school and began flying to Dubai on weekends to purchase computers and sell them to friends in Uganda. Over a period of 18 years that initial foray into IT has expanded into one of Africa’s largest tech companies in terms of footprint. Today Mara Group has evolved into an investment company.


Switzerland-based consumer company Nestlé started doing business in Africa in the 1880s and established its first production facility in South Africa in 1927. Since 1957 the company has expanded its presence in virtually every African country.

Nestlé generates revenues of more than $3bn in Africa, and employs more than 15,000 people across the continent. However, it aims to double revenue by 2020, and has scaled up investment in recent years. More than $1bn has been invested in more than 20 foreign direct investment projects over the past decade, building up local manufacturing capabilities, expanding distribution networks and developing products that cater to local tastes.

Local relevance is a critical element of Nestlé’s success in Africa. In 2008 the company set up its Equatorial Africa Region, combining 21 countries with growth potential to better understand consumer insights and develop these countries faster. The company currently has 30 manufacturing facilities across the continent.

Other companies featured in EY’s report include Africa Infrastructure Investment Managers, British American Tobacco, Bharti Airtel, Coca-Cola Sabco, DHL Express, Ecobank and General Electric.