British companies are failing to realise Africa’s potential, according to a new Barclays report.

The research, which includes a survey of 250 UK companies currently exporting to Africa, found that the vast majority (92%) believe there is opportunity for UK businesses in Africa, including around a third (29%) that believe there is ‘huge opportunity’.

However, when compared with other developing regions, Africa is still viewed as having the least potential at present, with Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America all ranked above Africa by survey respondents.

Tan Kah Chye, Barclays global head of trade and working capital, says that while the findings appear broadly positive, the potential for UK producers in Africa is still being significantly underestimated.

“For many exporters Africa is the final frontier, and the vast and diverse nature of the continent and its people can make trading with Africa seem simply too much of a challenge. However, the infrastructure across many of Africa’s largest economies is improving rapidly, and I encourage all UK businesses to view Africa as a fast growing new market to be explored,” Tan states.

70% of the businesses surveyed describe doing business in Africa as challenging. According to Barclays, corruption remains the biggest single issue for UK exporters, followed by poor payment systems and infrastructure.

Tan continues: “With more than 50,000 employees on the ground in Africa, we know very well the challenges that businesses face. This is a ‘ground floor’ moment in many Africa economies, in which UK suppliers have the opportunity to build their brand in Africa at a time when a growing middle class is beginning to make long-term brand decisions. The UK should not be missing out.”

South Africa is the top country for exporters, with 60% currently exporting there. Nigeria is second with 37%, followed by Egypt at 35%. Ghana and Kenya are mentioned by a quarter, 24% and 23% respectively, Barclays reports.