Top 20 Africa’s Billionaires List 2019 By Forbes
Buffeted by plunging stock prices and weaker currencies, the number of African billionaires has shrunk to just 20, down from 23 a year ago. Four people fell off Forbes’ annual list of the continent’s richest since last year while one returned to the ranks after a four-year absence. All but four members of the list have smaller fortunes than a year ago.
For the eighth year in a row, Aliko Dangote of Nigeria is Africa’s richest person. His estimated $10.3 billion net worth, however, is nearly $2 billion less than a year ago, primarily due to a roughly 20% drop in the stock price of Dangote Cement, his most valuable asset.
The continent’s second richest is Mike Adenuga, also of Nigeria, worth an estimated $9.2 billion. Adenuga owns Globacom, which is Nigeria’s third largest mobile phone network, plus oil exploration firm Conoil Producing, extensive real estate holdings in Nigeria, and a network of 12,000 cell phone towers. His net worth has climbed dramatically from $5.3 billion in January 2018 as a result of more detailed information provided by him about his assets.
Number three in Africa is diamond heir Nicky Oppenheimer of South Africa. His grandfather founded diamond mining firm DeBeers, which Nicky ran and then sold to mining giant Anglo American for $5.1 billion cash in 2012. He is currently worth an estimated $7.3 billion, down from $7.7 billion a year ago.
Among the few on the list who are richer than a year ago is Strive Masiyiwa of Zimbabwe, worth an estimated $2.3 billion, up from $1.6 billion last year. He’s richer due to a rise in the share price of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe and a new investment that boosted the value of his stake in fiber optic and satellite services firm Liquid Telecom.
In a per country ranking, Egypt and South Africa are tied with five billionaires each, followed by Nigeria with four and Morocco with two. Forbes found one billionaire each from Algeria, Angola, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
The three South Africans who fell off since last year’s list are Stephen Saad, founder of generics drug firm Aspen Pharmacare; Desmond Sacco, chairman of iron ore mining company Assore Group; and Christoffel Wiese, founder of retailer Pepkor and former chairman of furniture retailer Steinhoff International, which acquired Pepkor in 2015. Steinhoff is still reeling from an accounting scandal that was disclosed in December 2017, and shortly afterwards, Wiese stepped down as chairman of the company. The fourth dropoff is Onsi Sawiris of Egypt, who owns a stake in Netherlands-based fertilizer and chemical producer OCI N.V. All four fell off due to a decline in the stock price of their main asset.
Nigerian cement mogul Abdulsamad Rabiu, who runs and owns the BUA Group, returns to the list for the first time since 2015. He merged his Kalambaina Cement firm into publicly-traded Cement Company of Northern Nigeria, which he controlled, in late 2018. Rabiu now owns 97% of the list entity. Kalambaina, which operates a new cement production facility, started selling cement in mid-2018. Separately, Rabiu’s OBU Cement recently expanded its operations, adding a new production line.
Two of the 20 billionaires are women: Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s former president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos; and Folorunsho Alakija of Nigeria. Dos Santos’ fortune declined to an estimated $2.3 billion, down from $2.7 billion a year ago, primarily due to a drop in value of her stock holdings in oil firm Galp and communications firm Nos – both in Portugal – and a decline in the value of Angolan mobile telecom firm Unitel, of which she owns 25%. Unitel is in an arbitration with one of its shareholders, Brazilian telecom firm Oi, which claims it is owed $608 million in unpaid dividends from five years through 2014. (Unitel did not respond to a request for comment.)
Nigeria’s Alakija owns a stake in one of the most productive oil fields in Nigeria, currently operated by Chevron. Her net worth dropped due a decline in the value of the oil field, in part because its production has leveled off.
Altogether, the 20 African tycoons are worth $68.7 billion, down from $75.4 billion for last year’s list. However, the average net worth for each list member this year has climbed to $3.4 billion from $3.3 billion in early 2018.
Our list tracks the wealth of African billionaires who reside in Africa or have their primary businesses there, thus excluding Sudanese-born billionaire Mo Ibrahim, who is a U.K. citizen, and billionaire London resident Mohamed Al-Fayed, an Egyptian citizen. (Strive Masiyiwa, a citizen of Zimbabwe and a London resident, appears on the list due to his expansive telecom holdings in Africa.) We calculated net worths using stock prices and currency exchange rates from the close of business on Friday, January 4, 2019. To value privately-held businesses, we couple estimates of revenues or profits with prevailing price-to-sales or price-to-earnings ratios for similar public companies. Some list members grow richer or poorer within weeks– or days – of our measurement date.
Aliko Dangote is the richest man in Africa for the eighth year running
Net worth: $10.3 billion
Origin of wealth: Cement, sugar, flour
Nigeria is one of the best-kept secrets. A lot of foreigners are not investing because they’re waiting for the right time. There is no right time.
Did You Know?
Dangote’s grandfather was a successful trader of rice and oats in Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city.
Dangote told Forbes that when he was young, he bought sweets, gave them to others to sell, and he kept the profits.
Adenuga, Nigeria’s second richest man, built his fortune in telecom and oil production. His mobile phone network, Globacom, is the third largest operator in Nigeria, with 43 million subscribers. His oil exploration outfit, Conoil Producing, operates six oil blocks in the Niger Delta. Adenuga got an MBA at Pace University in New York, supporting himself as a student by working as a taxi driver. He made his first million at age 26 selling lace and distributing soft drinks.
Net worth: $7.3 billion
Origin of wealth: Diamonds
Country: South Africa
Oppenheimer, heir to his family’s fortune, sold his 40% stake in diamond firm DeBeers to mining group Anglo American for $5.1 billion in cash in 2012. He was the third generation of his family to run DeBeers, and took the company private in 2001. For 85 years until 2012, the Oppenheimer family occupied a controlling spot in the world’s diamond trade. In 2014, Oppenheimer started Fireblade Aviation in Johannesburg, which operates chartered flights with its fleet of three planes and two helicopters. He owns at least 720 square miles of conservation land across South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Oppenheimer owns Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, the largest private game reserve in South Africa.
Oppenheimer is a sports fan and plays squash, golf and cricket. Notepads in his office read: “Things I must do before cricket”.
Net worth: $6.3 billion
Origin of wealth: Construction, chemicals
Nassef Sawiris is a scion of Egypt’s wealthiest family. His brother Naguib is also a billionaire. Sawiris split Orascom Construction Industries into two entities in 2015: OCI and Orascom Construction. He runs OCI, one of the world’s largest nitrogen fertilizer producers, with plants in Texas and Iowa; it trades on the Euronext Amsterdam exchange. Orascom Construction, an engineering and building firm, trades on the Cairo exchange and Nasdaq Dubai. His holdings include stakes in cement giant Lafarge Holcim and Adidas; he sits on the supervisory board of Adidas.
A University of Chicago graduate, he donated $20 million to the school in 2015 to fund scholarships in his father’s name for Egyptian students.
Nassef Sawiris teamed up with Fortress Investment Group’s Wes Edens to purchase a majority stake in Aston Villa Football Club.
Net worth: $5.3 billion
Origin of wealth: Luxury goods
Rupert is chairman of Swiss luxury goods firm Compagnie Financiere Richemont. The company is best known for the brands Cartier and Montblanc. It was formed in 1998 through a spinoff of assets owned by Rembrandt Group Limited (now Remgro Limited), which his father Anton formed in the 1940s. He owns a 7% stake in diversified investment firm Remgro, which he chairs, as well as 25% of Reinet, an investment holding co. based in Luxembourg. In recent years, Rupert has been a vocal opponent of plans to allow fracking in the Karoo, a region of South Africa where he owns land.
He also owns part of the Saracens English rugby team and Anthonij Rupert Wines, named after his deceased brother.
Rupert says his biggest regret was not buying half of Gucci when he had the opportunity to do so for just $175 million.
Net worth: $3.7 billion
Origin of wealth: Food
Issad Rebrab is the founder and CEO of Cevital, Algeria’s biggest privately-held company. Cevital owns one of the largest sugar refineries in the world, with the capacity to produce 2 million tons a year. Cevital owns European companies, including French home appliances maker Groupe Brandt, an Italian steel mill and a German water purification company. Rebrab has plans to build a steel mill in Brazil to produce train tracks and improve transportation logistics for sugar, corn and soy flour exports. His five children work
Rebrab is the son of militants who fought for Algeria’s independence from France.
Cevital helped finance a biopic on Algerian resistance hero Larbi Ben M’hidi, who was executed by the French in 1957.
We [Algerians] have great potential; we can make up for lost time.
Net worth: $2.9 billion
Origin of wealth: Telecom
Naguib Sawiris is a scion of Egypt’s wealthiest family. His brother Nassef is also a billionaire. He built a fortune in telecom, selling Orascom Telecom in 2011 to Russian telecom firm VimpelCom (now Veon) in a multibillion-dollar transaction. He’s chairman of Orascom Telecom Media & Technology–renamed Orascom Investment Holding to reflect investments in other sectors. Family holding La Mancha has stakes in Evolution Mining, Endeavour Mining and Golden Star Resources, which operate gold mines in Africa and Australia. In 2017, he shifted ownership of La Mancha to his mother, Yousriya Loza-Sawiris, for estate planning purposes.
I want to feel good about having done something good. Provide me with the island and I will do the rest.
Net worth: $2.3 billion
Origin of wealth: media, investments
Bekker is revered for transforming South African newspaper publisher Naspers into an ecommerce investor and cable TV powerhouse. He led Naspers to invest in Chinese Internet and media firm Tencent in 2001 – by far the most profitable of the bets he made on companies elsewhere. Naspers has a 31% stake in Tencent, and Bekker serves as a non-executive director at the Chinese company. It sold a 2% stake in Tencent in March 2018, its first time reducing its holding, but stated at the time it would not sell again for 3 years. Bekker, who retired as the CEO of Naspers in March 2014, returned as chairman in April 2015.
His Babylonstoren estate, nearly 600 acres in South Africa’s Western Cape region, features architecture dating back to 1690, a farm, orchard and vineyard and more.
Over the summer of 2015, he sold more than 70% of his Naspers shares.
Origin of wealth: Investments
Dos Santos is the oldest daughter of Angola’s longtime former president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who stepped down in fall 2017. Her father made her head of Sonangol, Angola’s state oil firm, in June 2016, but Angola’s new president removed her from that role in November 2017. Forbes research found that while president, Isabel’s father transferred to her stakes in several Angolan companies, including banks and a telecom firm. She owns shares of Portuguese companies, including telecom and cable TV firm Nos SGPS. A spokesperson for Isabel told Forbes that she “is an independent business woman and a private investor representing solely her own interests.”
Isabel dos Santos is nicknamed “the princess” in Angola.
Santos’ mother, Tatiana Kukanova, met her father while he was a student in Azerbaijan. The couple later divorced.
Origin of wealth: Diversified
Mansour oversees family conglomerate Mansour Group, which was founded by his father Loutfy (D.1976) in 1952 and has 60,000 employees. Mansour established General Motors dealerships in Egypt in 1975, later becoming one of GM’s biggest distributors worldwide. Mansour Group also has exclusive distribution rights for Caterpillar equipment in Egypt and seven other African countries. He served as Egypt’s Minister of Transportation from 2006 to 2009 under the Hosni Mubarak regime. His brothers Yasseen and Youssef, who share ownership in the family group, are also billionaires; his son Loutfy heads private equity arm Man Capital.
Mansour’s father lost his fortune, when Egypt’s then president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, expropriated his cotton trading company in 1964.
Mansour worked as a busboy in a pizza parlor while at North Carolina State University to pay for college.
Empowering best in class management teams is the only way to transform a local player into a diversified conglomerate with multinational exposure.
Masiyiwa overcame protracted government opposition to launch mobile phone network Econet Wireless Zimbabwe in his country of birth in 1998. He owns just over 50% of the publicly-traded Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, which is one part of his larger Econet Group. Masiyiwa also owns just over half of private company Liquid Telecom, which provides fiber optic and satellite services to telecom firms across Africa. His other assets include stakes in mobile phone networks in Burundi and Lesotho, and investments in fintech and power distribution firms in Africa. He and his wife Tsitsi founded the Higherlife Foundation, which supports orphaned and poor children in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Burundi and Lesotho.
After studying at university in Britain, Masiyiwa worked at ZPTC, Zimbabwe’s phone company.
He left ZPTC to start an engineering services firm, then sold it and founded Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, but had to battle the government in court for years.
Origin of wealth: Mining
Motsepe, the founder and chairman of African Rainbow Minerals, became a billionaire in 2008 – the first black African on the Forbes list. In 2016, he launched a new private equity firm, African Rainbow Capital, focused on investing in Africa. Motsepe also has a stake in Sanlam, a listed financial services firm, and is the president and owner of the Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club. He became the first black partner at law firm Bowman Gilfillan in Johannesburg, and then started a contracting business doing mine scut work. In 1994, he bought low-producing gold mine shafts and later turned them profitable.
In 2013, the mining magnate was the first African to sign Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, promising to give at least half his fortune to charity.
Motsepe benefited from South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) laws, mandating that companies be at least 26% black-owned to get a government mining license.
Net worth: $2.1 billion
Origin of wealth: Petroleum, diversified
Aziz Akhannouch is the majority owner of Akwa Group, a multibillion-dollar conglomerate founded by his father and a partner, Ahmed Wakrim, in 1932. It has interests in petroleum, gas and chemicals through publicly-traded Afriquia Gaz and Maghreb Oxygene. Akhannouch is Morocco’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the president of a royalist political party.
Net worth: 1.9 billion
Origin of wealth: Diversified
Mohammed Dewji is the CEO of METL, a Tanzanian conglomerate founded by his father in the 1970s. METL is active in textile manufacturing, flour milling, beverages and edible oils in eastern, southern and central Africa. METL operates in at least six African countries and has ambitions to expand to several more. Dewji, Tanzania’s only billionaire, signed the Giving Pledge in 2016, promising to donate at least half his fortune to philanthropic causes.
Dewji retired from Tanzania’s parliament in early 2015 after completing two terms.
Dewji, who is known as Mo (short for Mohammed), launched Mo Cola several years ago to compete with Coca-Cola.
Net worth: $1.7 billion
Origin of wealth: Banking, insurance
Benjelloun is CEO of BMCE Bank of Africa, which has a presence in more than 20 African countries. His father was a shareholder in RMA Watanya, a Moroccan insurance company; Benjelloun built it into a leading insurer. Through his holding company FinanceCom, he has a stake in the Moroccan arm of French telecom firm Orange. Benjelloun inaugurated a $500 million plan to build the 55-story Mohammed VI Tower in Rabat. It will be one of the tallest buildings in Africa. FinanceCom is part of a project to develop a multibillion-dollar tech city in Tangiers that is expected to host 200 Chinese companies.
He co-owns Ranch Adarouch, one of the biggest cattle breeders in Africa.
Benjelloun and his wife received the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award for building schools in rural Morocco in 2016.
Net worth: 1.6 billion
Origin of wealth: Cement, sugar
Rabiu is the founder of BUA Group, a Nigerian conglomerate active in cement production, sugar refining and real estate. In December 2018, Rabiu merged his privately-owned Kalambaina Cement company with listed firm Cement Co. of Northern Nigeria, which he controlled. His BUA Group also owns Obu Cement, which expanded its production with a new line in 2018. Rabiu, the son of a businessman, inherited land from his father. He set up his own business in 1988 importing iron, steel and chemicals.
Net worth: $1.5 billion
Mansour is a shareholder in family-owned conglomerate Mansour Group, which was founded by his father Loutfy (d.1976) in 1952. Mansour Group is the exclusive distributor of GM vehicles and Caterpillar equipment in Egypt and several other countries. His brothers Mohamed and Youssef are also billionaires and part owners of Mansour Group. He’s chairman of Palm Hills Developments, one of Egypt’s biggest real estate developers.
U.S. private equity firm Ripplewood has a stake in Palm Hills Developments.
Mansour Group is the sole franchisee of McDonald’s in Egypt, as well as the distributor of Gauloises cigarettes.
Net worth: $1.2 billion
Mansour is chairman of family-owned conglomerate Mansour Group, which was founded by his father Loutfy (d.1976) in 1952. Mansour Group is the exclusive distributor of GM vehicles and Caterpillar equipment in Egypt and several other countries. He oversees the consumer goods division, which includes supermarket chain Metro, and sole distribution rights for L’Oreal in Egypt. Younger brothers Mohamed and Yasseen are also billionaires and part owners of Mansour Group.
Former Egypt President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized his father’s original cotton trading business.
Mansour is a founding member of the American Egyptian Chamber of Commerce.
Net worth: $1.1 billion
Origin of wealth: Oil
Folorunsho Alakija is vice chair of Famfa Oil, a Nigerian oil exploration company with a stake in Agbami Oilfield, a prolific offshore asset. Famfa Oil’s partners include Chevron and Petrobras. Alakija’s first company was a fashion label whose customers included the wife of former Nigerian president Ibrahim Babangida. The Nigerian government awarded Alakija’s company an oil prospecting license in 1993, which was later converted to an oil mining lease. The Agbami field has been operating since 2008; Famfa Oil says it will likely operate through 2024.
Origin of wealth: Banking
Le Roux of South Africa founded Capitec Bank in 2001 and owns about an 11% stake. The bank, which trades on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, targets South Africa’s emerging middle class. He served as chairman of the board of Capitec from 2007 to 2016 and has continued on as a board member. Le Roux previously ran Boland Bank, a small regional bank in Cape Town’s hinterland.
The bank has more than 800 branches and over 13,000 employees.
Fellow South African Jannie Mouton’s PSG Group owns a 30% stake in Capitec Bank
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