Slumping commodities prices helped push the total net worth of Africa’s wealthiest down by a combined $15 billion in the past year.
After several years of steady growth in Africa, some sectors of the economy hit a wall. Lower prices for oil and other commodities led to a smaller number of African billionaires than a year ago on Forbes’ new list of Africa’s 50 Richest – 23 billionaires this year, down from 28.
As a group, the continent’s wealthiest 50 are worth $95.6 billion, a decline of $15 billion from a year ago. Aliko Dangote of Nigeria retains his spot as number one richest African for the fifth year in a row, but his $16.7 billion net worth is nearly $5 billion lower than a year ago, a result of a drop in the stock price at his Dangote Cement and a weaker Nigerian currency.
Number two on the list is Nicky Oppenheimer, whose estimated $6.6 billion fortune stems from the stake he inherited in diamond miner and marketer De Beers. In 2012, Oppenheimer sold the De Beers stake to mining giant Anglo American for $5.1 billion in cash. He moves up the ranks from the number three spot in 2014.
South Africans made the best showing on the Africa’s richest list this year, occupying 16 spots, up from 11 last year. Nigerians had a smaller representation, with 10 members of the list, down from 13. Eight members hail from Morocco, 7 from Egypt, 3 from Tanzania and 3 from Kenya. There was one each from Algeria, Angola and Uganda.
Despite a weaker Nigerian currency and strife in the northern part of Nigeria, Aliko Dangote is still Africa’s richest man by far, even after a net worth decline of nearly $5 billion in the past year. In 2015 his Dangote Cement, Africa’s largest cement producer, launched new cement plants in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania. In total, Dangote Cement produces more than 30 million metric tons annually, with a plan to double capacity by 2018. Dangote owns nearly 91% of publicly-traded Dangote Cement through a holding company; this percentage exceeds the 80% ownership ceiling set by the Nigerian Stock Exchange. A note in Dangote Cement’s 2014 annual report states that “controlling shareholder Dangote Industries Limited has continued to reduce its holding in Dangote Cement towards the NSE-required level of 80% or less” but Dangote doesn’t appear to have sold many shares this year. Other companies in the Dangote Group – which is active in 15 African countries – include publicly-traded salt, sugar and flour manufacturing companies.
Nicky Oppenheimer, who inherited his family’s stake in diamond giant De Beers, exited the business in 2012 and has kept a relatively low profile since then. For 85 years, the Oppenheimer family occupied a controlling spot in the world’s diamond trade; in 2012 Nicky sold his 40% stake in De Beers to mining conglomerate Anglo American for $5.1 billion in cash. Anglo American, which Nicky’s grandfather founded, controls 85% of De Beers; the government of Botswana owns the remaining 15%. Nicky Oppenheimer served on Anglo American’s board for 37 years through 2011, and retains an estimated 1.8% stake in the company. His E. Oppenheimer & Son entity controls investment arms Stockdale Street Capital and Tana Africa Capital, a joint venture with Singapore government-owned investment firm Temasek. Tana Africa Capital holds minority interests in African food manufacturers Promasidor and Regina. In 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Nicky Oppenheimer, who was then chairman of De Beers, helped launch the Diamond Route. The initiative set aside 250,000 hectares of land surrounding diamond mines, including property owned by De Beers and Oppenheimer, for tourism and conservation. But in October 2015, three years after he sold his family’s stake in De Beers, Oppenheimer announced at a Diamond Route research conference that he was uncoupling Oppenheimer land from the diamond route.
From his late father King Hassan, King Mohammed VI of Morocco inherited a 35% stake in Societe NationaWle d’Investissement (SNI), a holding company that has stakes in several publicly traded companies, including the country’s largest bank, Attijariwafa; mining company Managem Group; sugar producer Cosumar; and dairy firm Centrale Danone. Forbes’ estimate of the king’s net worth is up significantly from a year ago due to new information about the value of SNI’s assets.
In a year when many moguls in Africa saw their fortunes shrink, South African retailing tycoon Christoffel Wiese is flourishing. His net worth has risen by more than $1 billion in the past 12 months. In February 2015, two companies in which he held stakes – Pepkor and Steinhoff – struck an agreement whereby Steinhoff, a furniture and home goods retailer, agreed to purchase Pepkor, a clothing and footwear seller, for $5.7 billion in cash and stock. Wiese’s resulting 17% stake in Steinhoff is now his largest asset, worth $3.7 billion as of mid-November 2015. His other investments include 15% of publicly-traded Shoprite Holdings, which controls supermarkets, furniture stores and fast food outlets in 15 countries across Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands; and stakes in private equity firm Brait, industrial products company Invicta Holdings and mining-sector investor Pallinghurst. Wiese has had his eye on the U.K. In Spring 2015, he acquired British fashion retailer New Look for $1.23 billion and gym chain Virgin Active for $1 billion.
Johann Rupert chairs listed Swiss luxury goods firm Compagnie Financiere Richemont, best known for the brands Cartier and Montblanc. He created the company in 1988 after spinning off international assets owned by Rembrandt Group Limited (now Remgro Limited), a South African company his father Anton founded in the 1940s as a tobacco manufacturer. Rupert owns a 7% stake in Remgro, which he chairs, as well as 25% of Reinet, an investment holding company based in Luxembourg that has a stake in British American Tobacco. He also owns part of the Saracens English rugby team and Anthonij Rupert Wines, named after his deceased brother. 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. At a luxury conference in Monaco in June 2015, Rupert said income inequality – exacerbated by the rise of tech and automation – was one of the biggest concerns for the luxury industry, because it makes luxury goods customers afraid to publicly display their wealth through the fancy goods they purchase.
Egypt’s richest businessman, Nassef Sawiris, is pressing ahead with investments in his country. In November 2014 he partnered with Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Co. to develop a coal-based power plant in Egypt. His company OCI, which decamped from the Egyptian stock market during Mohamed Morsi’s Islamist regime in 2013, formally split in February 2015. Its construction arm, Orascom Construction, now trades on Egypt’s exchange and Nasdaq Dubai; while OCI, the fertilizer and chemicals business, trades on Euronext Amsterdam. Sawiris also owns nearly 5% of LafargeHolcim, making him one of the largest shareholders. The two cement giants merged in July 2015. In October, he emerged as the biggest individual shareholder in Adidas with a 6% stake worth more than $1 billion. A University of Chicago graduate, Sawiris donated $20 million to the school in March 2015 to establish a scholarship program named after his father Onsi, also a billionaire. The funds will benefit Egyptian students.
Isabel dos Santos is the oldest daughter of Angola’s longtime president and, by virtue of her investments in Portugal and Angola, is Africa’s richest woman. Though her representatives deny that her holdings have any connection with her father, Forbes research found that her father, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, transferred stakes in several Angolan companies to her. Her assets in Angola include 25% of Unitel, the country’s largest mobile phone network, and a stake in a bank, Banco BIC. In Portugal she owns a nearly 7% chunk of oil and gas firm Galp Energia (alongside Portuguese billionaire Americo Amorim), and nearly 19% of Banco BPI, the country’s fourth-largest bank. She is also a controlling shareholder of Portuguese cable TV and telecom firm Nos SGPS (formerly called Zon). In June 2015, media reported that she spent slightly more than $200 million to buy a stake in Portuguese equipment firm Efacec Power Solutions. In October 2015, four members of the European Parliament publicly called for an investigation into Isabel dos Santos’ investments in Portugal, questioning the legality of the purchase, saying that the method of payment – a transfer of funds by the Angolan government – “raises the possibility the Angolan State is indirectly and illegally financing private investments of his daughter Isabel dos Santos.” A spokesperson for Dos Santos did not respond to an email requesting comment on the allegations.
Issad Rebrab founded Algeria’s biggest privately held conglomerate, Cevital. It owns one of the largest sugar refineries in the world, with an annual output of 1.5 million tons; it also produces vegetable oil and margarine. Rebrab has been diversifying by buying European companies in distress. In 2014, he acquired (for an undisclosed amount) Groupe Brandt, a large French-based maker of appliances which had filed for bankruptcy protection. Cevital has invested more than $200 million to build a Brandt plant in Algeria which will employ 7,500 people. Rebrab is betting that his country can compete with China for cheap labor. “We have huge potential; we can make up for lost time very quickly,” he said at a conference in Algeria in February 2015. Rebrab, whose five children work at the company, is the son of militants who fought for Algeria’s independence from France.
Naguib Sawiris captured world headlines in September 2015, when he offered to buy an island from Greece or Italy to settle refugees fleeing the war in Syria. A picture of the lifeless body of a Syrian boy on an Turkish beach prompted the gesture. “I am serious with my intentions,” he told FORBES. However, so far he has not purchased an island. Sawiris, who built his fortune in telecom, runs Orascom Telecom Media & Technology (OTMT), a publicly traded company in Cairo. It has investments in mobile phone, media and technology companies in Egypt, Lebanon and Pakistan, but earlier this year exited the cell phone business in Egypt when it sold its stake in Mobinil to Orange, a multinational telecom firm formerly known as France Telecom. In North Korea, OTMT operates Koryolink, the country’s only 3G mobile telecom firm. Sawiris, who owns liberal TV station ONTV in Egypt, added to his media holdings by recently buying a majority stake in France’s news channel Euronews.
Mike Adenuga, Nigeria’s second richest man, built his fortune in telecom and oil production. His mobile phone company Globacom is now the second largest operator in Nigeria with more than 30 million subscribers and operations in Ghana and the Republic of Benin. In May 2016, Globacom made a $600 million bid for Ivorian mobile telecom operator Comium Cote d’Ivoire, which has been grappling with debt and cash flow problems; the outcome of the purchase offer is still pending. His exploration outfit, Conoil Producing, operates six oil blocks in the Niger Delta; weaker oil prices have led to a lower value for the private company. Adenuga studied in the United States in the 1980s, getting an MBA at Pace University in New York, where he worked as a taxi driver to support himself. He returned to Nigeria and made his first fortune trading lace and Coca-Cola. Along the way he made friends with Nigerian military bigwigs who awarded him lucrative state contracts, those formed the foundation of his fortune.