Africa's CEOs anxious about growth and tax policy, says PwC report

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According to the PwC Africa Business Agenda report, African CEOs are anxious about tax policy, general policy certainty and overregulation.
According to the PwC Africa Business Agenda report, African CEOs are anxious about tax policy, general policy certainty and overregulation.
Andrew Brookes
  • Chief executive officers of large companies on the African continent are optimistic about the global economic outlook.
  • The PwC report said 30% of African CEOs were "very confident" about company growth in the year ahead, compared to 36% of global CEOs.
  • The confidence gap comes from African countries still being at an earlier stage of the Covid-19 pandemic life cycle.

Chief executive officers of large companies on the African continent are optimistic about the global economic outlook. But optimism about economic recovery is tepid compared to CEOs elsewhere in the world.

This is according to PwC's Africa Business Agenda report for 2021, which contains the results of a survey of 1 779 interviews in 100 countries, including 50 CEOs in 14 African countries.

It seeks to gauge the sentiments of CEOs working in Africa compared to those working elsewhere on the globe.

Africa has faced a unique set of challenges during Covid-19, where cases surged much later than they did elsewhere, but the rate of vaccinations has been a key weakness.

The PwC report said 30% of African CEOs were "very confident" about their company's growth prospects in the next 12 months, compared to 36% of global CEOs.

It said 60% of CEOs in Africa are concerned about uncertainty compared to 38% of CEO globally.

Still, there were bright spots, with more African CEOs expressing the intention to hire in the short term.

Confidence gap

According to the report, the discrepancy in results could be due to African countries seeing the pandemic surge later on.

"The reasons for this confidence gap from African countries still being at an earlier stage of the pandemic life cycle to uncertainty about governments' Covid-19 response and policy direction in its aftermath," the report said.

However, it also flagged regulatory environments as a potential problem area.

The report added that 56% of CEOs in Africa are concerned about tax uncertainty compared to 31% globally while 48% of African CEOs were worried about overregulation, compared to 42% of CEOs globally. Concern about cyberthreats were more even, with 54% of Africa's CEOs and 47% of CEOs globally citing this as a concern.

"Although CEOs' confidence in their own company's revenue prospects has rebounded, they are anxious, too, about policy uncertainty, tax policy uncertainty, cyber threats and overregulation," the report stated.

The report said pandemics concerned 48% of African CEOs, compared to 52% of CEOs globally. It said 52% of CEOs in Africa, compared to 49% of global CEOs, plan to increase their long-term investments in digital transformation by more than 10% in the short term.

"[Regarding employment] 42% of CEOs in Africa, compared to 34% of global CEOs, say they plan to increase headcount, up from 30% in the previous survey and a return to the long-term average. Sixty-four per cent of African CEOs have not yet factored climate change into their strategic risk management activities," the report said.

Overall, the report said most African business leaders are more optimistic about recovery in the global economy than they were a year ago. CEOs are also more confident in their companies' ability to grow revenue in the year ahead than they were a year ago. 

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