Africa’s money, cash money, billionaire

2013-10-13 14:00

New rich list claims continent has 55 ‘legitimate capitalist fortunes’ over $1?billion – and possibly 20 more who are hard to pin down

Nigeria is brimming with dollar billionaires. This is the claim of a new rich list compiled by Nigeria-based Ventures Africa magazine.

The list, unveiled this week, counts 55 African billionaires in all and 20 in Nigeria alone.

The magazine is aiming to displace the rich list-obsessed Forbes as “the most accurate and most definitive guide” on Africa’s superwealthy after Forbes last year managed to find and list 16 African billionaires, with a stronger emphasis on the usual South African suspects.

“There are actually more than 55, but a lot of it is hidden,” says ­Chi-Chi Okonjo, Ventures’ publisher.

There are probably at least 15 to 20 more individuals who could have made the list, but whose fortunes could not be reliably estimated, he says.

Some of the listed billionaires very probably have more wealth than they are credited with, he adds.

There are also a “lot of people” with fortunes slightly less than $1?billion who did not make the cut, he says.

“We always suspected there are more dollar billionaires” and the list is the product of “extremely rigorous” research, he says.

According to him, the continent’s super-rich are a shy lot.

Okonjo says he personally cajoled some of the listed billionaires to play ball and be more transparent about their wealth. At least one of the listed 55 called Ventures and asked to be removed from the list while others raised fears about attracting “enemies” or “envy”, says Okonjo.

The magazine claims to count only “genuine capitalist fortunes” and not the wealthy scions of “political dynasties”.

Forbes this year infamously crowned Angola’s Isabel dos Santos the richest woman in Africa – then months later published a damning exposé on how most of her wealth originated from corrupt trading on the name of her father, the long-serving Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos.

Ventures admits that Dos Santos has traded on her family connections, but adds that she nonetheless “legitimately built a diverse portfolio of investments”.

“It took quite a lot of thought before we included Dos Santos,” Okonjo admits.

Altogether 12 of the 20 Nigerian billionaires are in the oil business and demonstrate a conspicuous mix of business and politics.

Of the 12, five are cited as having close ties to former Nigerian military rulers while one other was a minister and another was a state governor.

“If you think about it, it is difficult to list anyone with no political connections,” says Okonjo.

He points out that controversial politically connected people like Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz “who made their fortunes through politicians” get listed in rival rich lists.

“Half the list would disappear if you were strict about excluding people with political connections.”

“We would not list those who have stolen money outright,” Okonjo explains, refusing to name any names. “There are quite a number of people who would not be legitimate?...?there are so many political dynasties.”

Apart from Dos Santos, one other political dynasty gets the nod: the Kenyattas of Kenya.

“It is not just a celebration of wealth for wealth’s sake. That would be wrong from an African perspective.

“It shows there is entrepreneurial activity. It shows the economies are dynamic. There is a lot more taking place in Africa.

“What’s important is that they are building enterprises and employing people. “The world is not fair, even in a race where everyone starts out on the same footing, there will be a winner,” says Okonjo.

Part of the reason why Ventures has a far longer list than Forbes is that it counts anyone with African citizenship that “still identifies” with the motherland, while Forbes excludes a number of super-rich expats who have set up shop elsewhere.

A number of the “richest people in Africa” technically aren’t “in Africa”.

That includes UK-based billionaires like Sudan-born Mo Ibrahim and Egyptian Mohamed Al-Fayed, as well as South Africa’s Allan Gray.

Okonjo confirms they included expats who have left their countries for good.

Meet the superrich

Aliko Dangote

1 Nigerian cement mogul Aliko Dangote tops the list with an estimated fortune of $20.2?billion.

Allan Gray

2 He’s the man who founded the investment group. Ventures calls him the continent’s second-richest man, with $8.5?billion.

Mike Adenuga

3 The wealthiest of the Nigerian oilmen is the founder of Conoil. He is said to have $8.3?billion in assets.

Folorunsho Alakija

4 Ventures names her as the world’s richest black woman. The Nigerian has an estimated fortune of $7.3?billion.

Nicky Oppenheimer

5 The Oppenheimers may have sold their stake in De Beers, but they are still worth $6.5?billion.

Johann Rupert

6 Cigarettes and luxury goods give South African Rupert an estimated worth of $6.1?billion.

Nassef Sawiris

7 The Egyptian is one of three sons of the founder of Orascom and is the head of Orascom Construction.

Gilbert Chagoury

8 Lebanese-Nigerian Chagoury co-founded the Chagoury Group born out of a flour-milling operation.

Nathan Kirsh

9 Kirsh hails from Swaziland and his Kirsh Holding Group was the beginning of an empire that includes Jetro Holdings.

Christo Wiese

10 Mr Shoprite’s retail empire, in which he owns 15%, underpins his estimated $3.4?billion fortune.


Isabel Dos Santos

Ventures estimates Dos Santos’ controversial fortune at $2.4?billion.

The Kenyattas

At the bottom of the list sits Jomo Kenyatta’s widow, Mama Ngina Kenyatta and family. The Kenyattas scored big with a post-colonial programme that sold departing settlers’ land to Kenyan notables “dirt cheap”. This empire is worth $1?billion.

»?According to the Credit Suisse Annual Wealth Report, also released this week, the continent has 90?000 dollar millionaires, of whom 43?000 are in South Africa.

That number dropped from last year’s estimate of 47?491, mostly owing to the exchange rate eating away at the dollar value of rand assets.

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