McKinsey & Co. Inc. has identified 700 African companies with annual sales of more than $500 million, many of which are growing and reinvesting and are a reason for optimism about economic prospects on the continent, the consultancy’s global managing director said.

“That’s a lot more than most people would think,” Dominic Barton said Friday in an interview at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. “Two-thirds of them are private, that’s probably why we don’t know about them. And they’re growing.”

The extent and caliber of businesses in Africa, certainty that commodity markets are at, or near, a bottom and will eventually rebound, as well as the demographic outlook with a growing middle class, are all reasons to be bullish on the continent’s prospects, Barton said.

Of the companies identified with annual revenue larger than $500 million, 300 are in South Africa, 133 in North Africa, and 56 are in Nigeria, Barton said, citing McKinsey research for a report to be published in October.

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