Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, CEOs continued to face pressure in many parts of the world, including Africa. Other challenges facing corporate Executive Officers during the pandemic include rising inflation, supply chain disruptions and the Great Resignation. Despite the shifting corporate climate, the CEOs surveyed in a PwC study are the most optimistic they have been in 10 years about the prospects for a stronger economy in the coming year.

The PwC 25th Annual Global CEO Survey, which polled 4,446 CEOs in 89 countries between October and November 2021, revealed that 77% of the CEOs surveyed predict the global economy will improve. Only 15% expect worsening conditions. In Africa, 85% of CEOs expect that global economic growth will improve and 8% expect it to decline. CEO optimism for 2022 is a tick higher than the 76% optimism level from a year ago and fully 54 points higher than 2020, when 53% of CEOs predicted a declining economy.

While there is general optimism among CEOs for economic growth in 2022, the perspective varies widely across individual countries and territories. Among the largest territories, optimism is highest in India, where 94% of CEOs anticipate global growth in the coming year, up from 88% last year. Optimism is also trending up solidly among CEOs in Japan, and is modestly higher in the UK at 82%.

Based on CEO responses to a series of questions about their customers’ behaviour, the survey shows a correlation between customer trust and CEO confidence. CEOs of companies ranking highest on perceived customer trust are more confident in their growth prospects in the coming year. 71% of CEOs of companies with the highest levels of trust are very or extremely confident in their companies’ prospects for revenue growth in the next 12 months, compared to just 47% of those with the lowest levels of trust.

In terms of top concerns for CEOs, cyber and health risks rank as the leading global threats, identified by 49% and 48% of CEOs, respectively. Not far behind is macroeconomic volatility, with 43% of CEOs either very or extremely concerned about the potential impact of inflation, fluctuations in GDP and labour market issues in the coming year. Another major underlying concern is the ability to attract and retain talent. 69% of CEOs concerned about social inequality risks cite this as an impact, as do 62% of CEOs concerned about health risks.

The report further revealed that CEOs view that US as offering the greatest potential for business growth outside their own countries. 41% rank the US as one of the top countries for their companies’ growth prospects over the next 12 months, up from 35% in 2021. China is ranked second overall, at 27%, followed by Germany at 18% and the UK at 17%.

Speaking on the just releases survey report, Bob Moritz, Global Chairman of PwC said, “While the ongoing pandemic and emergence of new variants cast a shadow over the year, the high level of CEO optimism we found speaks to the strength and resilience of the global economy and the ability of CEOs to manage through uncertainty.”