This year's table of the top 50 companies in North Africa presents a very different situation to the rest of the continent. While Egypt and Morocco have always dominated the ranks of the largest firms in North Africa, the two nations at opposite ends of the Mediterranean Sea now hold a duopoly over the rankings.
Tunisia's three listed companies last year have all dropped out of the table, while Algeria and Libya have no listed entrants, largely because so much of the economic activity in those two great oil and gas producers remains in state hands.
Egypt certainly holds a numerical supremacy with 33 companies in the top 50 but the situation among the very largest firms is more mixed. Five Moroccan corporations are among the top eight, led by Itissalat Al Maghrib and Attijariwafa Bank in third and fourth spots respectively.
However, Egypt's Orascom continues to win out overall: the market capitalisation of Orascom Construction Industries increased from $14.4bn in the 2007 survey to $20.8bn this year; closely followed by Orascom Telecom, with even more impressive growth from $9.6bn to $18bn.
Orascom Construction looks set to build on its lead having recently announced plans to expand its operations in the new industrial and port complex of Sokhna through its National Steel Fabrication (NSF) offshoot. It plans to construct a new E[pounds sterling]450m steel fabrication plant with production capacity of 80,000 tonnes a year.
Another Orascom subsidiary, Contrack International, was awarded a $1.1bn contract by the Qatari Foundation to construct the SIDRA medical and research centre in Qatar in January. The company is gradually establishing itself as a construction giant across the Middle East (although not yet south of the Sahara) and so should be able to sustain steady growth for a long time to come.
Banking and telecoms firms remain as popular as ever, partly because deregulation in both sectors has resulted in very competitive markets in Egypt. Although Cairo has yet to complete its banking reforms, the healthy financial services sector in Cairo is represented by five companies inside the largest 25 firms in the region.
Four Egyptian telecoms companies: Orascom, Telecom Egypt, Talaat Mostafa Group Holding and Vodafone Egypt all figure in the top 12, reflecting the benefits of introducing a liberal operating environment early in the mobile telecoms boom.
The landline sector could also be set for a...