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How A Mouse Ate An Elephant

It was a huge risk when a small company, with makeshift offices in the coastal city of Durban in South Africa, took over a pharmaceutical giant. It wasn’t easy but it helped Michael ‘Gus’ Attridge earn a $525 million fortune.

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Nestled on a ridge overlooking the sea to the left and Durban’s beachfront to the right, with Moses Mabhida Stadium on the horizon, is the view from the balcony of a multimillionaire. Michael Attridge is one of the guiding spirits of one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies.

His stride is that of a man who knows where he is going in life. The handshake is firm but welcoming and his warm smile reassures you that Durban may be hot, humid and sticky but it’s a fun place to live.

Attridge, who’s been called Gus since his school days, is a charted accountant by training and the deputy group chief executive of Aspen Pharmacare, a R125-billion ($11.8 billion) company as of the beginning of April according to Reuters, listed on Africa’s biggest bourse, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. If you bought $10,000 worth of shares, valued at R2,36 in 1998, what would it be worth now?

Attridge is one of four founding shareholders who built this business in their backyard in Durban.

It all began in an old Victorian house, converted into offices, near Greyville racecourse in 1997.

“It was in a rather less fashionable part of Durban, at that time this was sugar cane,” says Attridge, referring to their current offices in La Lucia.

Attridge made his debut on FORBES’ list of Africa’s richest in 2013, coming in at number 37, with an estimated net worth of $525 million. A listing he says he didn’t know about and would rather be without.

The debut was down to Aspen’s stock shooting up nearly 75% in 2012/2013 thanks to its booming business in Asia and Australia, says chief executive, Stephen Saad. Attridge is the second biggest individual shareholder, owning a 4% slice, with co-founder, Saad, who is also on the FORBES list with a net worth of $1.5 billion.

How two friends from Durban came to be worth $2 billion is an African story worth telling.

In 1981, Attridge completed a bachelor of commerce degree from the University of Natal [now University of KwaZulu-Natal] in Durban. He added a diploma in accounting, a year later, followed by another in datametrics before his training with Coopers & Lybrand, now PricewaterhouseCoopers. This is where he met Saad. They worked together on assignments; Attridge was Saad’s senior, who was to climb the ladder at Coopers & Lybrand to become a manager in the corporate finance division in London.

“I’d always set my objectives on becoming a partner in one of the firms. That was kind of my pinnacle as a trainee in the accounting profession,” says Attridge.

Just before the end of apartheid, he returned to South Africa to establish a corporate finance division in the Durban office of Coopers & Lybrand.

During that time, Saad left the company, leaving Attridge behind, suffering from the entrepreneurial itch. But Saad returned. Not to the company, but to Attridge, whom he approached with a lucrative business idea.

“The day he [Saad] could first get out of there, he got out of there. I initially had some career ambition there. But I quickly realized that selling time was not very entrepreneurial and it was difficult to get rewarded effectively for your efforts when you were selling time because it did not measure what value you added to things. I was eager to find an opportunity in business,” says Attridge.

Saad and Attridge put their heads and money together.

“And that’s where my business partnership with Saad began, probably 20 odd years ago,” says Attridge.

He left his job at Coopers & Lybrand in 1994, the year South Africa held its first democratic elections. Their first venture was to buy Varsity College, a struggling private tertiary institution, for R1.5 million ($142,000) and to apply a fresh idea.

“We embarked on quite a differentiated, let’s call it, advertising campaign where essentially we guaranteed students who attended all their lectures and did all their assignments that we would give them their tuition fees free the next year if they failed under those circumstances.”

“It was all built around adverts that went into the press which were around the F-word. It was F***, being fail, but it provoked some reaction generally as well because it was a bit provocative I suppose,” he says.

Few students fell foul of the F-word.

“In a student’s DNA, to go to all lectures is foreign. But really, with that diligence required to attend all lectures and to submit all your assignments and so on, you will pass. Unless you chose a course incompatible with your skills set,” Attridge says.

He and Saad also bought a private primary and secondary institution, Crawford College, one of which is opposite their head offices in this suburb of La Lucia in Durban. It worked. The partners turned the losses of Varsity College and sold it in 1996 for R10 million ($948,000).

This paved the way for another adventure.

“We’re not people with 10-year plans. We don’t even have a three-year plan. It’s a good thing we haven’t because we would have never stuck with any of those plans because we move too quickly, things change quickly,” says Attridge.

Three years into the pharmaceuticals business, Aspen took a big risk. It was a highly leveraged hostile takeover of South Africa’s oldest pharmaceutical business, South African Druggist (SAD), for R2.4 billion ($227.5 million).

“That changed our business forever and changed our business model,” says Attridge.

SAD worked in a number of areas, including the development, production and marketing of pharmaceuticals, within South Africa.

Aspen’s initial business plan was to avoid manufacturing. Its plan was to be a small business selling good margin products to build its name.

The takeover wasn’t going to be easy.

At the time, Fedsure owned 34.9% of SAD, but its attempt to buy the remainder of the company and then sell Pharmacare to Adcock Ingram was opposed by the South African Competition Board. Pharmacare was the main pharmaceutical unit of SAD.

“I remember I was driving from work and I was listening to a business program and I heard this deal had been cancelled or disallowed. I walked in the house, picked up the phone to Steve and I said, ‘you know a lot more about the history of SAD, you know their products well but I’ve just heard that this is cancelled, this deal is not going ahead,’” recalls Attridge.

It got even more complicated.

There were other companies involved in the acquisition. A business called Macmed Health Care initially did the running to buy SAD. They specialized in medical devises rather than pharmaceuticals. They had an agreement with Aspen to divide up SAD in a way that would allow other players, who wanted other parts, to enter into a consortium.

“We had to put up guarantees. It was a hostile arrangement. Management at SAD had their own ideas about acquiring the business for their own benefit. So there were a whole lot of different issues going down. We weren’t allowed to do due diligence,” says Attridge.

Luckily for them, SAD was a public company and Saad had a good knowledge of the product. Financing the deal was a problem but they were helped by property entrepreneur Jonathan Beare, who relished backing small businesses like Aspen. Beare introduced Attridge and Saad to Investec’s chief executive, Stephen Koseff. The two businessmen put up money and Aspen led the deal.

“We didn’t think we were going to buy the whole pharmaceutical business. I don’t know whether its fate or what, but we got it.”

With the deal done, the business grew to a $11.8-billion global corporation with Saad as the chief executive and Attridge the deputy.

The irony of this story was that Aspen were the new kids on the block but survived and prospered. Within 18 months of the transaction, Macmed went bust, about three years later, Fedsure followed.

“So we were the only ones from that consortium that survived and we were the small kids on the block. Those kind of things were instrumental in some of our thinking we try and impart on our staff. We now have a lot of management teams trying to impart on our people that you can never be complacent because you could be succeeding today, because both Fedsure and Macmed were highly rated at the time,” says Attridge.

“You should never be arrogant about your success, because success can be fleeting. You never know how the wheel is going to turn and who’s actually going to need who in the future. I do hope that our people [Aspen staff] understand that. When you’ve lived through and seen what happened to the management team with those businesses and so on, it’s actually very insightful because they all thought they were bulletproof.”

However, a business with a staff of 200 taking over a firm of around 3,000 was no mean feat. One newspaper called it a mouse trying to eat an elephant.

This little company had to get the buy-in from the staff at SAD. They had a small management team that was now going to manage SAD. It all played out at their old Victorian house turned into an office.

“The company which we still own today, Pharmacare Limited, was a company within the SAD label that housed the pharmaceutical business and we invited the chief executive of that business, Kobus Nel, to come to Durban and to meet us and talk about our plans and strategies and get to know him a little better. I think he took one look at that house and the day after he handed in his resignation,” laughs Attridge.

“I think he thought no, look at me sitting in this office park with a view of Johannesburg with a golf course and these guys are sitting here looking into the backyard of someone with a washing line.”

Today, Aspen supplies medicine to more than 150 countries, manufactured in 16 sites in: Kenya; Tanzania; Australia; Mexico; Brazil; Germany; South Africa; the Netherlands and the United States (US), with a French-based site becoming effective in May. It is the largest manufacturer of generic medicines in the southern hemisphere. Aspen is the first company on the continent to launch a generic anti-retroviral for the treatment of HIV and AIDS patients, thus becoming the largest supplier.

On the continent, Aspen has long-term plans for sub-Saharan Africa. Their challenge lies in its fragmented countries but they’re working on it.

“It’s not a big part of our business today but I think the investment in those difficult markets will pay back in time,” says Attridge.

In East Africa, Aspen bought 60% of Shelys, which has businesses in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. He says they hope to move away from the tender business into more of a business focused on brands.

They’ve also consolidated some of the manufacturing in East Africa, supported by the South African business, which Attridge hopes will help it to have its best year this year.

The business opened Aspen Nigeria last year. This is a collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a British multinational pharmaceutical company, where they share products and everything else, which has resulted in a strong business in Nigeria that is exceeding expectations.

“We’ve managed to get better market penetration than we thought we’d be able to, early on. It’s very small; it’s not going to influence anyone’s thinking on Aspen today. Everything has to start small. We know that very well at Aspen because we started small,” he says.

And that is how their Australian business grew. They started out with just two employees, but today it is one of their biggest revenue streams. Aspen aims to perform ahead of the market in Australia.

“We’re one of the top players in Australia now. The Australian business is getting to a certain stage of maturity. And the Australian market is challenging at the moment. It has had a series of price cuts which has taken a lot of profits off the table,” says Attridge.

Aspen has an agreement with Nestle that is helping the business ease into Australia. They plan to cut costs of goods through migrating product manufacturers from Australia back to South Africa and Asia.

“There is a big consolidation of manufacturing already well progressed and it continues well into Australia. When we bought the Sigma Pharmaceuticals unit, it had five manufacturing facilities and our target is to end up with one. We’ve got three at the moment,” he adds.

Aspen is Australia’s eighth largest pharmaceutical company by scripts generated. Following its October acquisition of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturing sites in the Netherlands and the US.

Aspen is ranked the ninth largest generic pharmaceutical producer out of 60 generic companies in the world by EvaluatePharma in 2013. It employs around 8,200 people.

But their success comes with problems they have no control over. The beginning of the year saw South Africa’s currency weakening steadily against the dollar, straining Aspen’s South African business.

But because Aspen has become diversified, its money comes in different currencies.

“The rand denomination results have a lot of protection against the weakness of the rand as a group,” says Attridge.

In January, Aspen Global, a subsidiary of Aspen Holdings, acquired the brands and business worldwide of Arixtra and FRaxiparine/Fraxodi, except in China, Pakistan and India, from GSK. As of May, Aspen Holdings will have acquired a specialized sterile production site that manufacturers the brands in France, a total consideration for the acquisition made through its subsidiary at an estimated R9.79 billion ($929 million).

Aspen has an expanding presence in Latin America and South East Asia. Their expansion plans will stretch as far as Russia and the former Soviet Republic, as well as to Central and Eastern Europe.

Attridge attests that though it’s going well, they’ve had some tricky times when they started out in Latin America. Their aim is to create a business model structured for success, similar to Varsity College’s plan.

“Varsity College was about getting an overhead base and would be covered by the revenues and we take the same approach in every business that we look at, that we have to make sure it’s a business model that’s sustainable,” he says.

They changed the business from one that relied on tenders to one based on brand equity.

“We restructured the business and got rid of some of the manufacturing which was not core to what we wanted to do… We’ve had a lot of challenges with management in Latin America. But in Brazil, we got that right a couple of years ago. It’s really doing well. It’s got a good foundation there.”

Brazil has been Aspen’s biggest part of the business in Latin America but the Spanish region of Latin America will soon overtake Brazil.

Spanish Latin America is a region where Aspen has struggled because they only had operations in Mexico and Venezuela. However, in the last 12 months or so, Aspen made a transaction with Nestle to acquire the infant milk business they bought from Pfizer; increasing their product portfolio offering. This has helped Aspen make inroads into Columbia, Chile, Argentina, Peru and Costa Rica.

Attridge hopes that the Latin American business will be as big as South Africa’s in the near future. Before that happens, they need to decrease debt from the latest acquisitions in Latin America.

This will be done through their cash flow from the business. Attridge says they’d rather use debt to build their business.

“We don’t see having money in the bank as a productive use of funds. If you’ve got money in the bank, you better have a very good investment plan and or you should give it to your shareholders. You shouldn’t be sitting with it in a government bank account,” says Attridge.

He believes the business model must produce a good return of cash. Aspen has also avoided giving equity as it is the most expensive way of raising funds.

“We’ve developed that model in all our businesses, so the profits from our business flow through to the business and to cash very efficiently. And most years our cash flow per share have exceeded our earnings per share before investments. But that’s a very important fundamental.”

Aspen made its way into Russia in January, with around 80 employees on the ground, promoting products acquired from GSK and Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) SA.

“One of the philosophies we have is that the more challenging the market, the greater the opportunities that may exist. So Russia has been on our radar for some time as a potential investment area, a market with good growth fundamentals and evolving health sector. But it’s not the easiest market to operate in. If you can succeed in difficult markets, then you can succeed in any market and sometimes in the difficult markets you don’t actually have as much competition as you do in markets where it’s easy to operate in. People are scared of the circumstances,” says Attridge.

In Russia, Aspen will compete with a lot of local businesses who will defend their space and territory from the South African company. Attridge says Aspen is competing with a lot of products not as regulated as theirs.

“It’s not unique to Russia, but being able to access the distribution networks into the pharmacies is critical, so establishing and building on the relationships with the people (wholesalers) who are taking the products… they dictate a lot of what can be achieved. You can’t reach Russia on your own,” says Attridge.

But he says these are challenges they’re willing to take head on. He believes good leadership in other regions is one of the factors to their success of running Aspen from their modest offices in Durban.

“You’ve got to have the right people leading your businesses. We stumbled on that initially in America. We didn’t have the right leadership in place there. We inherited some that weren’t aligned with what we were trying to achieve.”

Besides challenges, the group hopes to enter into the two biggest markets by population, China and the United States (US), as well as making an entry into the Japanese market.

“That’s not to say we are going to rush in tomorrow. We now have a small portfolio in the US and one or two products in China.”

A family man, this father of two doesn’t take work home. He says with all the traveling, he makes sure that when he is home he spends it with his two sons and his wife. This 53-year-old, who celebrates his birthday this month, is a former rugby player, who played for the Kwa-Zulu Natal provincial under-20 team in 1981. He is also a cyclist, like his partner Saad, having taken part in the Argus and Amashova races.

He’s also an accountant who’s not afraid to take risks and this has made him rich.

Billionaires

Africa’s Richest 2020: Steady State With Some Volatility On The Margins

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Like elsewhere in the world, fortunes in Africa can be volatile, thanks to changes like a new currency.


Africa’s billionaires are as a group richer than a year ago. Altogether, the continent’s 20 billionaires are worth a combined $73.4 billion, up from $68.7 billion a year ago.

For the ninth year in a row, Aliko Dangote of Nigeria is the richest person in Africa, worth an estimated $10.1 billion, down from $10.3 billion a year ago amid a slightly lower stock price for his Dangote Cement, his largest holding. The much-heralded oil refinery that Dangote is building in Nigeria is still at least a year away from completion.

Nassef Sawiris of Egypt is the new number two richest, worth $8 billion—up from $6.3 billion last year. Sawiris’ most valuable asset is a stake in shoemaker Adidas worth a recent $4 billion. The increase in Adidas’ share price alone added nearly $1.5 billion to his fortune since January 2019. He also owns a significant stake in fertilizer producer OCI N.V. In 2019, Sawiris and U.S. investor Wes Edens purchased the remaining stake they didn’t own in U.K. Premier League team Aston Villa Football Club.

Number three on the list is Nigeria’s Mike Adenuga, worth $7.7 billion. He owns mobile phone network GloMobile as well as oil producer Conoil and extensive real estate holdings.

One member of this elite group is worth 50% less than a year ago. Due primarily to the introduction of a new (weaker) currency in Zimbabwe, Strive Masiyiwa’s fortune fell to $1.1 billion from $2.3 billion in January 2019. Zimbabwe, which has battled with hyperinflation, had been using the U.S. dollar as its currency, but in 2019 it switched to its own currency, initially called the RTGS. When converted into U.S. dollars, the values of Masiyiwa’s stakes in Zimbabwe-listed mobile phone network Econet Wireless Zimbabwe and Cassava Smartech fell dramatically in dollar terms.

 Just two of the 20 billionaires are women: Isabel dos Santos, the eldest daughter of Angola’s former president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos; and Folorunsho Alakija of Nigeria. Dos Santos’ fortune has declined to an estimated $2.2 billion, down $100 million from a year ago. In late December, an Angola court issued an order to freeze the assets that Isabel dos Santos and her husband, Sindika Dokolo, own in Angola. Those include her stake in telecom firm Unitel and stakes in two Angolan banks; Forbes estimates those assets are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. A statement issued by Isabel dos Santos said the judgment contained “a number of untruths” and that she would fight the decision “by using all the instruments of Angolan and international law at my disposal.”

Country rankings are unchanged from a year ago: 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. That’s the same as last year but a better representation than nine years ago, when only four African nations were home to ten-figure fortunes.

METHODOLOGY

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; Isabel dos Santos, a citizen of Angola, has been living in Europe but retains assets in Angola—although they were recently frozen by a court in Angola.) We calculated net worths using stock prices and currency exchange rates from the close of business on Friday, January 10, 2020. 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.

– Written by Kerry A. Dolan

Africa’s Billionaires List

  1. Aliko Dangote

Net worth: $10.1 billion

Origin of wealth: Cement, sugar

Age: 62

Country: Nigeria

Residence: Lagos

Education: Al-Azhar University, Bachelor of Arts/Science

Dangote, Africa’s richest man, founded and chairs Dangote Cement, the continent’s largest cement producer. He owns nearly 85% of publicly-traded Dangote Cement through a holding company. Dangote Cement produces 45.6 million metric tons annually and has operations in 10 countries across Africa. Dangote also owns stakes in publicly-traded salt, sugar and flour manufacturing companies. Dangote Refinery has been under construction for three years and is expected to be one of the world’s largest oil refineries once complete. 

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.

2. Nassef Sawiris

Net worth: $8 billion

Origin of wealth: Construction, chemicals

Age: 58

Country:  Egypt

Residence: Cairo

Education: University of Chicago

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.

Did You Know?

A University of Chicago graduate, he donated $24.1 million to the school in 2019 to aid Egyptian students and fund an executive education program.

Nassef Sawiris teamed up with Fortress Investment Group’s Wes Edens to purchase a majority stake in Aston Villa Football Club.

3. Mike Adenuga

Net worth: $7.7 billion

Origin of wealth: Telecom, oil

Age: 66

Country: Nigeria

Residence: Lagos

Education: Pace University, Master of Business

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.

4. Nicky Oppenheimer

& family

Net worth: $7.7 billion

Origin of wealth: Diamonds

Age: 74

Country: South Africa

Residence: Johannesburg

Education: Oxford University Christ Church, Master of Arts/Science

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.

Did You Know?

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”.

5.Johann Rupert & family

Net worth: $6.5 billion

Origin of wealth: Luxury goods

Age: 69

Country: South Africa

Residence: Cape Town

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.

Did You Know?

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.

6.Issad Rebrab & family

Net worth: $4.4 billion

Origin of wealth: Food

Age: 76

Country: Algeria

Residence: Algiers

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. After serving eight months in jail on charges of corruption, Rebrab was released on January 1, 2020. He denies any wrongdoing.

Did You Know?

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.

7.Mohamed Mansour

Net worth: $3.3 billion

Origin of wealth: Diversified

Age: 71

Country: Egypt

Residence: Cairo

Education: Auburn University, Master of Business Administration

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.

8.Abdulsamad Rabiu

Net worth: $3.1 billion

Origin of wealth: Cement, sugar

Age: 59

Country: Nigeria

Rabiu is the founder of BUA Group, a Nigerian conglomerate active in cement production, sugar refining and real estate. In early January 2020, Rabiu merged his privately-owned Obu Cement company with listed firm Cement Co. of Northern Nigeria, which he controlled. The combined firm, called BUA Cement Plc, trades on the Nigerian stock exchange; Rabiu owns 98.5% of it. Rabiu, the son of a businessman, inherited land from his father. He set up his own business in 1988 importing iron, steel and chemicals.

9.Naguib Sawiris

Net worth: $3 billion

Origin of wealth: Telecom

Age: 65

Country: Egypt

Residence: Cairo

Education: Swiss Federal Polytechnical Institute, Master of Science; Swiss Federal Polytechnical Institute, Bachelor of Arts/Science

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 TMT Investments, which has stakes in a major asset manager in Egypt and an Italian internet company, among others. Family holding La Mancha has stakes in Evolution Mining, Endeavour Mining and Golden Star Resources, which operate gold mines in Africa and Australia. Sawiris is a majority owner in Euronews. He’s also developed a luxury resort called Silversands in Grenada.

Did You Know?

Sawiris helped found The Free Egyptians, a liberal political party, at the onset of Egypt’s uprisings in 2011. 

In 2015, he offered to buy a Greek or Italian island to house Syrian refugees, but Greece and Italy turned him down.

10.Patrice Motsepe

Net worth: $2.6 billion

Origin of wealth: Mining

Age: 57

Country: South Africa

Residence: Johannesburg

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.

11. Koos Bekker

Net worth: $2.5 billion

Origin of wealth: Media, investments

Age: 67

Country: South Africa

Residence: Cape Town

Education: Columbia Business School, Master of Business Administration; University of Witwatersrand, LLB

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. In 2019, Naspers put some assets into two publicly-traded companies, entertainment firm MultiChoice Group and Prosus, which contains the Tencent stake. 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 three years. Bekker, who retired as the CEO of Naspers in March 2014, returned as chairman in April 2015.

Did You Know?

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.

12.Yasseen Mansour

Net worth: $2.3 billion

Origin of wealth:  Diversified

Age: 58

Country: Egypt

Residence: Cairo

Education: George Washington University,

Bachelor of Arts/Science

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.

Did You Know?

Mansour Group is the sole franchisee of McDonald’s in Egypt, as well as the distributor of Gauloises cigarettes.

13.Isabel dos Santos

Net worth: $2.2 billion

Origin of wealth: Investments

Age: 46

Country: Angola

Education: King’s College London, Bachelor of Arts/Science

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 Isabel’s father was president, she ended up with stakes in 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.” In December 2019, an Angolan court issued an order freezing her stakes in Angolan companies, part of a suit about funds she owes to the state oil firm.

Did You Know?

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.

14.Youssef Mansour

Net worth: $1.9 billion

Origin of wealth: Diversified

Age: 74

Country: Egypt

Residence: Cairo

Education: Auburn University, Master of Business Administration; North Carolina State University, Bachelor of Science in Engineering

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.

Did You Know?

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.

15. Aziz Akhannouch

& family

Net worth: $1.7 billion

Origin of wealth: Petroleum, diversified

Age: 59

Country: Morocco

Residence: Casablanca

Education: Universite de Sherbrooke, Master of Business Administration

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.

Did You Know?

His wife Salwa Idrissi runs her own company, which has franchises for Gap, Gucci and Ralph Lauren in Morocco.

16.Mohammed Dewji

Net worth: $1.6 billion

Origin of wealth:  Diversified

Age: 44

Country: Tanzania

Residence: Dar es Salaam

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 was reportedly kidnapped at gunpoint in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in October 2018 and released after nine days.

Did You Know?

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.

17.Othman Benjelloun

& family

Net worth: $1.4 billion

Origin of wealth: Banking, insurance

Age: 87

Country: Morocco

Residence: Casablanca

Education: Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne, Diploma

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. He inaugurated in 2014 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.

Did You Know?

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.

18.Michiel Le Roux

Net worth: $1.3 billion

Origin of wealth: Banking

Age: 70

Country: South Africa

Residence: Stellenbosch

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.

Did You Know?

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.

19.Strive Masiyiwa

Net worth: $1.1 billion

Origin of wealth: Telecom

Age: 58

Country: Zimbabwe

Residence: London

Education: University of Wales, Bachelor of Engineering

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.

Did You Know?            

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

20.Folorunso Alakija

Net worth: $1 billion

Origin of wealth: Oil

Age: 69

Country: Nigeria

Residence: Lagos

Folorunso 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.


What It’s Like Meeting Africa’s Richest Man

 FORBES AFRICA journalist Peace Hyde says she first interviewed Aliko Dangote in Nigeria about three years ago for the popular FORBES AFRICA show, My Worst Day With Peace Hyde, airing on CNBC Africa, and has since had the privilege of meeting and speaking with him several times at both official and private functions.

“Dangote is someone who is extremely focused and driven with a bullish passion for Africa. For him, the goal is to dream as big and as grandiose as you can when it comes to the future of Africa because he believes, we have the human capital and resources to transform our continent. Everything is possible in his mind. His approach to business is testament to this fact.”

The largest employer in Africa’s most populous economy, he is also seen as a stabilizing force within the economies of several countries across the African continent. His story, however, has not been without failure.

“Dangote has had his fair share of ups and downs. But his advice to young entrepreneurs is having the ability to delay gratification and work hard through tough times so they can enjoy the fruits of their labor at a later date,” says Hyde.

Through the Dangote Foundation, which has the objective of reducing the number of lives lost to malnutrition and disease as well as combating Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in children, thousands of children have been saved from the brink of death.

Dangote is also known as a man of few words. “I have seen him spend an entire afternoon answering questions about his business to a room of MBA graduates and proceeding to take pictures with everyone before leaving.

“You will not find any of the obvious trappings of wealth like flashy cars or a big entourage with him and he takes the time to speak to anyone who approaches him at a function,” adds Hyde.

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Cover Story

African Of The Year

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on

The President of the African Development Bank believes passionately that poverty has no place in Africa. Restless about creating opportunities for the continent and promoting food security through agricultural innovation, this is a man on a mission.


Immaculate in his trademark bow tie and bespoke suit, Dr Akinwumi Adesina sits down at a shady outdoor table as a welcome breeze stirs the hot Johannesburg afternoon, and wind-chimes tinkle in the air. This, after an hour under the harsh studio lights for the cover shoot for this article, where he charmed the FORBES AFRICA team with his ready smile and ease in front of the camera.

In four years at the helm of the African Development Bank (AfDB), he has seen many achievements that would leave most people agape at their scope – 16 million people connected to electricity, 70 million received access to agricultural technologies for food security, nine million gained access to finance, 55 million now have access to improved transport, and 31 million have been given access to improved water and sanitation.

And yet, it is not enough.

“We have to go bigger than that,” he says, “I believe Africa needs to move forward, but faster than it has.”

A greater rate of development is made possible by the biggest capital increase in the bank’s 55-year history. At the end of October 2019, AfDB’s 80 shareholder countries approved a $115 billion capital increase, an increase of 125%, from $93 billion to $208 billion. 

READ MORE: Feisty And Fearless Pioneers Thandi Ndlovu & Nonkululeko Gobodo   

This capital increase was two years in the making. Two years of hard work and intensive discussions. “And I just feel that there’s wind behind our sails. I feel relieved, I feel happy. Happy not only for myself, but happy for Africa and happy for the bank,” he says.

“We are going to deploy a lot of these resources to accelerate what we have been doing. You know we have a High Five strategy for the continent, which is to light up and power Africa, to feed Africa, to industrialize Africa, to integrate Africa, and to improve the quality of life of the people of Africa.

“So I see a very different Africa in the next couple of years coming,” he continues. “I think you will see huge, huge impact for the bank and of course finally, we’ll be able to help attract a lot more investments to the continent because the private sector is the engine of growth. I see the bank being able to take greater risks on behalf of the private sector in Africa. I am very confident in the future of Africa. Extremely confident.

“Africa’s opportunities for investment are literally limitless. All we have to do is to make sure that we continue to improve the business and investment environment.” In November, less than a week after this interview, African and international investors put their money behind Adesina’s dream for a transformed, economically-vibrant Africa.

On the conclusion of the second Africa Investment Forum (AIF), held in the Gauteng province of South Africa, 56 boardroom deals valued at $67.6 billion resulted in secured investor interest of $40.1 billion in 52 deals. That’s a 44% increase in deals tabled in comparison to 2018’s 61 tabled transactions valued at $46.9 billion and 49 deals worth $38.7 billion in secured investment interest. All of this in less than 72 hours.

“Those nations that have wealth are the ones that export value-added products. The ones that are poor are the ones that export raw materials and I think Africa is done exporting rae materials. Africa cannot be used to poverty; it needs wealth.

Smiling broadly, the President of AfDB commented at the session, Unveiling the Boardroom Deals: “Transactions, transactions, transactions. Deals, deals, deals!”

Africa’s sun has been rising steadily. Today, six of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are in Africa. Rwanda is growing at 7.7%, Ethiopia at 7.4%, Ghana at 7.2%, and Mauritania and Cote d’Ivoire at almost 7%.

“So the economies of Africa are doing very well and what’s even more amazing is that 37 countries are growing at three to five percent or above. Today, as we speak, 20 African countries are growing at above five percent globally. And that is amazing. You cannot ignore Africa,” Adesina elaborates.

While foreign direct investment (FDI) for the rest of the world grew at -13%, and the FDI for developed countries grew at -23%, FDI in Africa grew by roughly 11%, from $41 billion to $46 billion in 2018.

Says Adesina: “So that tells you how fast Africa is growing. And more exciting for me is the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement which now opens up Africa with a market of $3.3 trillion.

“Take, for example, the moment we start supporting people to invest across borders and you make it easier for people to travel, guess what? Investment will begin to expand. If I want to take, for example, between 2013 and last year, and even this year, the intra-Africa investment, that is African investors investing in other African countries, rose to $108 billion total. And you look at that and ask yourself what are the countries where most of those investments are coming from; almost 40% of that is from South Africa into other countries. The other countries are Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco and Kenya.”

Adesina advises to look beyond trading in the same things through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): “So as opposed to sending raw materials that dominate Africa’s exports to Europe or to America, or to China, if we start trading among ourselves, we should not be trading in raw materials, we should be trading in high value-added products.

“And so, we at the African Development Bank will support the development and the emergence of original, globally competitive value chains, whether it is agriculture, whether it is the pharmaceutical industry, whether it is in other areas of ICT where Africa can be competitive and so at the end of the day, it is about added value to everything that Africa has, because as I always say, the secret of the wealth of nations is very clear.

“Those nations that have wealth are the ones that export value-added products. The ones that are poor are the ones that export raw materials and I think Africa is done exporting raw materials. Africa cannot be used to poverty; it needs wealth,” Adesina says.

In order to take advantage of the collective market of $3.3 trillion the AfCFTA is opening up, it is important to invest in basic enabling conditions.

“First and foremost, you have to co-ordinate, so the African Development Bank has provided almost $5 million to the African Union Commission to establish the Secretariat – the African Continental Free Trade Secretariat in Ghana and we’re delighted that it’s in Ghana. Second, is that we invested heavily in infrastructure to enable that, so whether it is transnational highways, whether it is digital infrastructure, financial inclusion, we’re investing in integrating  our capital markets all across Africa so you can actually mobilize domestic savings in that.”

READ MORE: Africa’s Mr Development

Part of the requirements is to ensure that people can move more easily across borders without it taking too much time.

“We are very excited at how many countries have made it easier for Africans to invest in other African countries. For example, today, as an African, you can go into African countries; [for] 25% of them, you won’t even need a visa; 21% of them you can get visas on arrival. And the rest of them, you will need a visa. So, we still have quite a big way to go, but a lot of progress is being made,” Adesina says.

Also part of enabling conditions is infrastructure.

“Nations progress to the extent of their investment in infrastructure. Whether it is roads, ports, rail, airports or digital infrastructure. It’s like trying to walk as a person and not having a backbone. That’s what infrastructure really is and that’s why the African Development Bank is investing heavily on infrastructure – for countries, but also for regional infrastructure.”

There are 16 landlocked countries in Africa that need interconnectors to gain access to a port. In the southern African region, the AfDB has invested heavily in the Nacala Port Corridor, which opens up opportunities for Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and even South Africa to access Mozambique’s Nacala Port. 

Another investment has been over $360 million to double the capacity of the Walvis Bay Port in Namibia so that it can serve other countries.

Adesina continues: “We are investing right now in energy transport infrastructure, for example, I just came in from Zambia this morning, talking to President Edgar Lungu. And we’re investing in the interconnected power that will link Zambia to Zimbabwe to Botswana and Namibia.

“In West Africa, we just completed in January this year, a landmark historic investment linking Senegal and Gambia through the Senegambia Bridge. They never had a bridge connecting them. They were just neighbors.”


Akinwumi Adesina was adjudged ‘African of the Year’ at the 2019 All Africa Business Leaders Awards held in association with CNBC Africa


The AfDB is also working on a rail project that will link Tanzania to Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.

Looking at the infrastructure financing gap, Adesina describes it as “a lot”.

“Africa today has an infrastructure financing gap of anything between $68 billion to $108 billion a year. But I’m not scared of that. It’s whether you look at it as a cup half empty or half full; $68 billion to $108 billion a year means there is a business opportunity of $68 billion to $108 billion. And that’s why the Africa Investment Forum is critical for that.”

While governments have an important role to play in funding the infrastructure gap, the private sector’s contribution is crucial through Public Private Partnerships.

Adesina also believes that Africa should mobilize more domestic savings to invest in infrastructure. “If you look at Africa today, the institutional investors like the pension funds, the sovereign wealth funds, and insurance pool of funds we have is about $1.8 trillion. But all of that is being invested outside Africa in money-market instruments that are earning a negative real rate of return today.

“So you tell me, what sense does it make if I have a sovereign wealth fund that has become the fund of another sovereign, except for money? You invest in money market instruments when you have no power, you have no water, you have no roads, you have no rail. That’s not a smart investment. Or a pension fund of an African country invested in money market instruments outside. Let’s even assume that you make money from that. What are you going to do? You’re going to turn around and offer annuity payments that will give people regular income for the rest of their retirement life, right?

“Well, I’m sorry, it means they will be returning to their communities, to their cities without good water, without good health services, without good transport, without good energy. No. That will be miserable retirement. And so what I want to see is Africa’s pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and other institutional investors investing their money to help to close that $68 billion to $108 billion investment gap.”

He remembers his mother telling him as a child, that if you go down to a market, and you do not promote your own product, who will stop at your stall to buy your wares?

“So charity must begin at home. I want Africa’s institutional investors investing in Africa, in roads, in rail, and we as a bank are there to support them to reduce the risk of their investments in Africa. I want an Africa that is able to attract capital, to close this gap. I’m not afraid of the difference in the financing gap. I think we can close it.”

Crucial in improving the lives of millions of Africans is the acceleration of Africa’s agricultural transformation.

Agriculture has been an important part of Adesina’s life.

He grew up as the son of a farm laborer. His family was “desperately poor”.

“And it was through the generosity of somebody who took my dad out of the farm, that my father was able to get an education at an older age. So, without that, you won’t be talking to me today. I would probably be lost in the village selling something by the side of the road. And so when it then came down to what I was going to do, I was very good at school, and my father told me that education is the leveler; if we make the children of poor people stand at the same pedestal as those of rich people.”

His father had a choice of three study paths mapped for the young Adesina: medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine. Three times his father filled in the application forms, three times the answer came back – Adesina’s grades fell just short of acceptance in medical school. But agriculture was recommended.

“I wore my bow ties all the time, and some people never even thought I was a minister of agriculture.

“And the third time, my father said, ‘God must really want you to do agriculture’. And so, that was how I got into agriculture,” he relates.

When he completed a PhD in Agricultural Economics at Purdue University in the United States (US), he wrote to his father, signing the letter as “Doctor”.

“And so from that time, he always called me ‘doctor’. Now, he has gone, bless his soul, he’s passed away. But when our first son was graduating in the United States from medical school, my dad was 92, so I took him to the United States to witness the event. He was there. And so, we were taking photographs and my father said ‘doctor!’, so I turned, I said, ‘yes, dad’. He said, ‘no, I don’t mean you, I mean the REAL doctor’. So I told my father, ‘even the real doctors will tell you, take your medication three times a day, only after food’. Which means agriculture is more important than medicine,” says Adesina, with laughter that is warm and infectious. “So we used to have fun with it!”

Being awarded the Rockefeller Foundation Social Science Post-Doctoral Fellowship in 1988, launched his international career in agricultural development.

Dr Raj Shah, the President of the Rockefeller Foundation, writes in the foreword to Adesina’s authorized biography, Against All Odds: “I have learned a tremendous amount from Akin over the years, but what I think of most is his ability to speak to rural farmers, heads of state, philanthropists and investors with the same genuine, thoughtful and respectful consideration. His ability to be open, honest, and clear with everyone he meets is key to his impact and success as a leader.”

Between 2011 and 2015, Adesina was Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

During this time, he fought corruption and introduced revolutionary changes in the agriculture sector. This led to increased agricultural production, a drop in food imports and declining rates of poverty.

Asked about those years, he replies: “Well, you know, I come from a perspective as a minister, that Nigeria’s biggest comparative advantage was not oil and gas, because oil and gas was not something that was going to create a lot of jobs. And I knew that agriculture was what we had huge comparative advantage in. So what I decided to do was to do a lot of work to first change the perception of the sector.

“I wore my bow ties all the time, and some people never even thought I was a minister of agriculture, you know, ‘what kind of minister of agriculture these days is wearing bow ties’, and I said ‘because you think agriculture is for poor people’. You know, guess what? The biggest and richest people in the world in Europe and the United States are farmers. They’re in agriculture.

“So I did a lot of work to change the perception so that people would recognize that agriculture is cool, it’s sexy, it’s a money-making business.”

By his side during his time as Minister of Agriculture, was Grace Oluyemisi, his wife of 35 years and the “rock of the family”.

“I can tell you, I wouldn’t be where I am today without Grace. We are not only best friends, but we are also intellectual partners. When I was minister in Nigeria, I would debate policies with Grace at home,” Adesina says. She had qualified to do a PhD at the same time he did, but opted to dedicate her time to raising a family. The couple have two sons, both of who work in the US.

The elder is the medical doctor Rotimi, whose wife Alexandra will soon qualify as a medical doctor, and the younger is Segun, who is married to Emily and is the father of Adesina’s first granddaughter, Noemi, born in January 2019. 

While raising the family, Grace also studied Economics at the University of London, and was awarded first a Bachelor’s in Economics – with the best result in England and Wales – and then a Master’s degree in Financial Management.

“So we have a lot of debates and I used to tell my colleagues, ministers in Nigeria at the time, that by the time I brought any policy document to the Federal Executive Council, it has passed ‘the Grace test’. If it can pass the Grace test, it can pass anybody’s test. That’s how rigorous she is. Even now at the bank, it’s the same. She debates with me a lot,” Adesina says.

READ MORE: Deals, Dollars and Developments On The African Continent

As agriculture minister, he introduced farmers to modern, digital technology on mobile phones. This “helped to end 40 years of corruption in the seed and fertilizer sector in Nigeria”.

“We gave farmers subsidies via their mobile phones, they’d go to the private sector, and buy the inputs of the traders in their villages, there was no middle man; cut them all off. And we reached 15 million farmers in about four years, which was just incredible.”

That was the Electronic Wallet System, or e-wallet system, which is now being used in many African countries, and as far as Afghanistan.

“I’m very proud of that work,” he says.

“But the other thing that we did was to get the private sector to come into the agriculture sector. Over a four-year period, we succeeded in attracting about $5.6 billion of private sector investments into agriculture, from investing in rice to investing in cotton production or sugar production, or fertilizer manufacturing. I am most proud of that because we managed to really change everything in the agriculture sector, made it a real dynamic sector. And so I was pretty happy and felt it was a great honor to be asked to serve and I think I worked all the time, I didn’t have any life.”

This statement could of course not be left floating in the air.

I had to ask him how he managed to keep up with the blistering pace he sets himself.

“I think it’s my moral compass. This is not a job for me. This is a mission. I believe passionately that poverty has no basis in Africa and I believe we must do everything we can to create opportunities very quickly and I am very restless when it comes to creating opportunities for the continent. So that keeps me going.”

He reminisces about how his father sent him to a village school to complete his high school studies. The young Adesina was not impressed. But his father sat him down and explained, saying: “I sent you to a village school because I wanted you to see even more of the reality of poverty, because you never know what God might make you in life. If God ever makes you anybody important in life, you will know exactly what to do. So it is that passion, that drive, that commitment, that motivates me.

“I am relentless in looking for solutions and I don’t think life is about me, it’s about God provided you an opportunity to be an instrument to change the lives of hundreds of millions of people. And nothing is more important than that,” he explains.

This mission also drives him to not only give of his time, but his own money to assist young people to build their careers. Together with his wife, Grace, he established the World Hunger Fighters Foundation.

He explains: “One of our goals is to develop a new generation of young people that will be global leaders in fighting global hunger and malnutrition, but by doing that through agriculture as a business because I really believe in that. You know I have never seen anybody who wants to be poor. People are poor because they lack opportunities.”

The Foundation is funded by prizes awarded to Adesina, starting with a total cash amount of $1.1 million in the kitty.

“In 2017, I was very honored and greatly humbled to have been awarded the World Food Prize, known as the ‘Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture’. And when I won that award, I was given the prize in Des Moines, Iowa, in the United States. And it comes with a cash prize of $250,000. And as I took to the stage to be given the award, I told them I was not going to take the money for myself. I told them I was going to devote the entire $250,000 to supporting young people in food and agriculture, because I really believe we need more dynamic, entrepreneurial young people in agriculture. So I devoted the whole thing to them.”

This year, in Seoul, South Korea, Adesina was awarded the global Sunhak Peace Prize for his achievements in promoting food security in Africa through agricultural innovation. It came with a cash prize of $500,000, which also went straight into the Foundation.

The Foundation offers a one-year fellowship program. Within the first two weeks of advertising the fellowship, 1,300 applications were received. Ten Borlaug Adesina Fellows were chosen. This was named after Adesina’s mentor, the late 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr Norman Borlaug, who was awarded the prize for his contributions to the ‘green revolution’ and its impact on food production.

In October, the Adesinas took the 10 Borlaug Adesina Fellows to the World Food Prize in Iowa – a global event. “They had never seen anything like that in their life and it was a great exposure for them,” he says. Within 24 hours, they were snapped up by global companies and international agriculture research centers. “It’s going to provide them a world of opportunities that they never dreamed about.

“So really it’s no longer about me. It’s not about you, what you have. If I have a billion dollars today, I would do exactly the same thing. Because I really believe that the future is not just for the youth, the present is for them. We have got to start investing in them. I am very passionate about investing in young people and that’s why, of late, I’ve been speaking a lot about the creation of new banks just for young people in Africa.

“Because today you have about 640 million young people on the continent, but there are no financial institutions dedicated for them. They have great ideas, but there’s no money. They walk into current banks and when they see them, they see problems. They don’t see hope, they don’t see opportunities. They’re crushed. And that’s the whole asset of a continent. So that’s why I have called for the creation of what is called the Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks.”

These banks will be banks for young people, run by young people. Run professionally, the banks will provide grants for the youth to develop their businesses.

“They will invest in the eco-system to which the businesses of young people are connected so that they can succeed,” Adesina explains. “They will be able to provide debt financing for bankable businesses of young people at an affordable rate, and then as their businesses grow over time, this Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Bank will take equity in the businesses of the young people as they grow.

“So, it is a step to helping them to grow, and you’re helping them throughout their business cycle. I really think that when you take a look at the world today, we talk about GDP (Gross Domestic Product). I can have a high GDP as a country, just from oil, just from gas, it does not mean that my young people are contributing to that GDP.

“And so what I want to see in Africa is what I call sometimes Y-GDP, which is the contribution of young people to the GDP of economies. And that can only come through entrepreneurship and innovation,” he continues.

“To be able to have innovation and entrepreneurship, we have to believe in the youth, we have to put our capital at risk for the youth, because if we don’t, all of us are going to be at risk.”

Adesina has been talking to a number of countries about these banks. “I believe that the African Development Bank will be there to help provide some financing to get these banks off the ground. If you look in the past, when micro-enterprises could not get access to financing from the traditional banks, Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel prize, developed the micro-finance institutions.”

The Nobel Peace Prize 2006 was awarded jointly to Yunus and Grameen Bank “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below”.

Adesina does not believe in youth empowerment. But he does believe in the youth. “In my experience, the people who say they’re empowering the youth are the ones who are empowering themselves. The youth don’t need hand-outs, they need investment. Africa’s challenges require Africa’s solutions. And Africa’s biggest assets being our young people, they can’t be roaming the streets. They can’t be dying over the Mediterranean, which I’m very ashamed when I see that. Or they cannot be loitering in the Sahara Desert just trying to make a living,” he explains.

“As nations, we should invest in the young people because as the world’s population gets older, Africa will have the youngest population in the world. The number of young people in Africa in the labor market by 2050 will be close to a billion people. Now, what are they going to do if they don’t have jobs and what are they going to do if they have not created jobs? So we can’t wait for that, that’s why I want us to create the Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks that will provide them the capital, the finance, the confidence they need to turn their ideas into great businesses.”  

There has to be a focus on agriculture as the size of the African food and agriculture sector is going to rise to over $1 trillion by 2030.

“That means that the future millionaires and billionaires of Africa will not be coming from the oil and gas sector, they’ll be coming from the agriculture sector. But I want African countries to be looking at agriculture as a business, not as a way of life. Nobody smokes gas. Nobody drinks oil, but everybody eats food. So food is critical and that is what Africa has a comparative advantage in.

“Think about it; 65% of all the arable land left to feed almost nine billion people in the world by 2050 is not in China, it’s not in Europe, it’s not in Latin America. It’s in Africa. So what Africa does with agriculture is going to determine the future of food in the world. And so we at the African Development Bank are investing right now, over a ten-year period, $25 billion in the agricultural sector to help them to make it a thriving business.”


‘HE IS MR AFRICA!’

“Dr Adesina is a great people’s person. The unique thing about him is that he is a visionary; he makes things happen and sees them before they happen. He also knows how to bring people together. Everybody loves him. I think he should run for the President of Nigeria in the future. He is Mr Africa!” – Masai Ujiri, President, Toronto Raptors

“I find Dr Akinwumi Adesina energetic, evangelical and sincere. He has raised his role to different levels, where, rather than him trying to convince leaders of the world and corporate business leaders to come to Africa, they are actually chasing him.” – Sanjeev Gupta, Executive Director, Financial Services, Africa Finance Corporation

“Dr Adesina has shown good leadership creating the [Africa Investment Forum] platform. He truly is a leader.” – Benedict Oramah, President, Afreximbank

”Dr Adesina is, in my view, the definition of a credible, visionary and courageous leader. He has his sights clearly set on a future Africa that along with global partners, continues to invest in the development of its talent, industry and infrastructure, ensuring sustainable livelihood for its citizens. A prosperous continent that processes its primary produce, trades within itself and the world at large. He is a giant, a role model.” – Ronnie Ntuli, head, Thelo DB


Among the examples Adesina cites is the $600 million for Ghana’s Cocoa Board, for them to buy, store, warehouse and process cocoa.

“We’re going to be doing the same for Cote d’Ivoire. Why? Because Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon account for about seventy-five percent of all the global supply of cocoa beans, and Africa accounts for only two percent of a $120 billion annual chocolate market. You don’t make chocolates from sand, you make it from cocoa beans. So we supply the cocoa beans and we get nothing out of it, so that’s no brain surgery in making chocolate.”

Another example is the $800 million dedicated to support young people in technology and agriculture as a business.

“If we don’t get younger people to get excited about agriculture and to see agriculture as being cool, I believe agriculture is cool, they will not go into agriculture as a business, and who is going to feed us?”

Then there is the fact that a lot of what gets produced in Africa today gets lost just because the farmers can’t access markets immediately.

“We don’t have good logistics, we don’t have good food manufacturing companies, and the few food manufacturing companies you have, they’re all located in the urban areas, close to the port. But there are no farms close to the ports anyway. And the reason is because in the rural areas you don’t have the right infrastructure to allow the food and agriculture companies to locate there,” says Adesina, explaining the reason for AfDB’s support of agro-industrial zones in rural areas.

The bank will finance infrastructure – power, roads, water, ICT, irrigation – and create an environment or environments that will attract private sector food and agriculture companies to the rural areas.

Another area Adesina is passionate about is financing for women. The AfDB has an initiative called Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), the objective of which is to mobilize $3 billion specifically for women in business on the continent. “If you take a look at Africa today, the gender-based financing gap between men and women is roughly about $42 billion annually, which means that men get a lot more finance than women do. But in Africa, women dominate the small and medium-sized enterprises and they are better business people, and they pay back their loans more than men, maybe at least 95% of their loans are paid back. But they don’t get access to finance.”

The AfDB has an innovative approach to encourage banks to provide financing to women.

Financial institutions will be ranked based on their lending to women. They will be evaluated according to the volume of lending, interest rates charged, and development impact.

“We are Africa’s largest financial institution and we provide huge amounts of lines of credit to banks, trade finance to financial banks. So when they come to us, we will simply take that index, we call it Women Financing Index for Africa, and ask you the question: ‘what have you done for women of late?’ If you haven’t, sorry, you’re not going to get our money. So it’s a way of tilting the financial markets to work on behalf of women. You know, I do bird-watching. But I’ve never seen any bird that has one wing. They always have two wings. So by getting equality for women in finance, African economies will finally be able to fly with two wings. And that’s important,” Adesina says.

Finally, renewable energy is close to Adesina’s heart. “I think that we must have energy sources that are clean. I think Africa should lead the way in clean energy. I think that coal is the past, I think renewable energy is the future.”

Renewables include hydro, wind and solar energy, whereas gas-fired power plants can assist in the transition to renewable energy. In terms of solar, what Adesina likes to call “the desert of power” will help to provide 10,000 megawatts of electricity across the entire Sahel using the power of the sun through the world’s largest solar zone.

It will provide electricity for 250 million people and 90 million of those will get their power through off-grid systems.

“The other thing that we are doing right now is to move countries that have huge legacy investments in coal to invest more in renewable energy, or those that may want to do coal, to shift into renewable energy. Instead, the African Development Bank is establishing what is called a Green Base-load Facility, and this will allow us to mobilize $5 billion of investments, support, and transition into renewable energy.

“Another area that is very big for renewable energy is off-grid energy. In the old system, you need to have power grids that are running all over the place. It used to remind me of landlines for the telephone in those days. But now, you and I carry around our mobile phones. So we don’t need, in most cases, those very expensive transmission lines when you can have mini-grids closer to communities, where you can also have decentralized energy that uses renewable energy for people. Renewable energy is the future. And we have to start investing not in the past but in the future.”

Seen through the eyes of Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, the future for Africa’s economic development is bright.

The continent has indeed found a champion to lead the charge in developing Africa as an integrated, bankable investment destination. 

-Jill De Villiers

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Cover Story

Africa’s Aficionados And Their Eclectic Collections

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From the old to the unusual to the bizarre, what is it that motivates the rarefied pursuit of collecting objects?

For the aficionados soon to be unraveled on these pages, their collectibles are more than mere things – they are priceless treasures and extensions of who they are.

We explore the captivating world of Africa’s collectors, and get a feel of their prized possessions, and what motivates them to keep building on their treasures. This is a selection of considered individuals on the continent who embrace the world around them in enchanting, curious and unlikely ways.

They are passionate devotees, enthusiasts and fanatics who share a love of unique objects. They are drawn to either preserve the things they love, or be surrounded by them.

The featured collections range from accessible and popular to the aspirational and unusual, each different and purposeful. And what we have uncovered rings true to the words “not all treasure is silver and gold”.

It is not always the financial value or return on investment that sparks nor sustains a collector’s momentum. It is the essential personal value they derive from their collection.

The value of the featured collections come from what the individuals are willing to sacrifice, in actions, finances and space to establish their treasure trove.

What’s most encouraging is to see how their hobbies pave the way to alternative avenues of wealth creation and notably, how serial collectors unlock opportunities of commercial, professional and social benefit. This compilation is innovative, exciting and aspirational. Most impactfully, it brings to light how we can extend our personality, values, self-expression, memories, emotions and passions through eclectic items of interest. 

The compilation on the pages that follow is in no particular order.


Makgati Molebatsi, 61, South Africa

Collection: Contemporary art

Estimated worth:  R1.2 million ($80,000)

Collecting for: Enjoyment and appreciation

Makgati Molebatsi quit her 30-year career in marketing and communications at the end of 2015 to pursue her passion for visual art. The following year, she founded a consulting firm in the contemporary art space called Mak’Dct Art Advisory & Agency.

Her keen interest in art began in 1997 after briefly working in the second Johannesburg Biennale art exhibition. The conceptual nature of the artworks exhibited intrigued her and almost immediately sparked her interest in collecting paintings, sculptures, installations and photography. Twenty two years later, she has amassed around 40 significant pieces in her personal stable. Each gem cost Molebatsi an average of R30,000 ($2,000).

“Most of my artworks are acquired from artists during their early career phase,” she says. One of her favorite artworks, which almost eluded her, is a mesmerizing installation of 1,200 keys intricately strung into a scarf by Liza Grobler titled Easy Access Scarf.

Collecting art is a big-budget, yet profitable, indulgence. Local art sales were estimated at R5.5 billion ($368 million) in 2017 according to the AfrAsia Bank South Africa Wealth Report. Molebatsi, however, is not investing in art. She considers herself an ‘essential value collector’ who only acquires pieces that resonate with her.

“Most of my artworks are abstractions which are engaging and have a dialogue. I gravitate towards color fields in artworks [that] I acquire because I tend to be monochromatic and minimalist in my dress sense and home décor,” she adds. 

Molebatsi is one of the few black female art collectors in the country and a prominent art curator and advisor in the local and international space. She has served on the selection committees for the prestigious annual Turbine Art Fair. In 2018, she produced and curated an exhibition with renowned photojournalist Óscar Gutiérrez, to celebrate the centenary of former South African president Nelson Mandela. Some of her artwork is displayed within the Breast Cancer Unit at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg, to which she loaned.

Clyde Terry, 54,South Africa

Collection: Antiques

Estimated worth: +/- R4.9 million ($327,936)

Collecting for: Enjoyment and resonance

After qualifying as a chartered accountant, Clyde Terry decided to neglect his father’s ambition to follow the profession but to convert his hobby of collecting rare antiques into a fully-fledged career instead. Today, Terry is one of the leading antique dealers in South Africa with a personal collection of 83 unique and rare antiquities that have a special place in his heart.

Terry recalls childhood moments spent at auction houses and local antique shops in his hometown of Ramsgate in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, which sparked his love of things old, rare and beautiful. He has now built up a notable selection of silver and glassware; including beautifully-contoured Daum decorative art glass as well as rare Lladro and Hummel figurines. His prized collection includes enchanted, floral pottery from sought-after 1900s British art potter and manufacturer, William Moorcroft; whose delicate pieces have sold for an amount of R221,583.96 ($14,723.45) on auction. “I love that William Moorcroft traveled the world [to] study the flowers of different countries, including South Africa. His vase with the [South African] protea is one I still search for,” he says.

Terry is not only led to acquire unique items just for himself. He has turned a beautifully-restored house in Melville, Johannesburg, into an antique treasure trove of magnificently-decorated rooms, showcasing everything from art-deco, Georgian, Art Nouveau and 1950’s objects. There, he proudly runs his business, Clyde on 4th, which aids antique-enthusiasts in finding and trading prized showpieces and valuable relics. “My hardest lesson was learning that as a collector, you hold on to items and as a purveyor of antiques, you look after many collections and help collectors grow,” says Terry. “[It’s] become easy now to part with items and give them a new future and history.”

As the founder of the South African National Antiques Decorative Arts Association, part of his time is spent organizing the biggest monthly antique fairs in the country which take place at the prestigious Nelson Mandela Square, as well as the upmarket Mall of Africa in Johannesburg.

Masego ‘Maps’ Maponyane, 29, South Africa

Collection: Hats and caps

Estimated worth:  +/- R180,000 ($12,046)

Collecting for: Passion and enjoyment

As a prominent figure in ‘showbiz’, it’s tempting to presume that Masego ‘Maps’ Maponyane’s continuous showcasing of personal style is merely a part of his job. Yet, his love affair, specifically with accentuated headgear, dates back to a time before his career even took shape. “My grandfather is one of my biggest inspirations as far as clothing goes. He was of the generation of Sophiatown, always [fully] dressed in their Sunday best. There would be a complete look with him and his peers with the hat, and I always loved how it complemented their outfit,” says Maponyane.

Maponyane’s fondness for headwear took form in his late teens while on a family vacation in Namibia. There, he bought his first hat, a tan straw fedora with a ribbon around, to combat the scorching heat of the desert land. Impressed by the aesthetic and esteem it gave his ensemble, Maponyane has since invested in over 200 headpieces that have become an extension of his everyday life.

Even so, hats are more than a fashion accessory to him. They represent an opportunity to step into different frames of mind. “Hats are like a form of expression for me. Hats allow me to be that character for a day, depending on the hat. I will choose the hat, not only based on what I am wearing but on my mood,” adds the entrepreneur who also recently opened a hip burger joint in Johannesburg named Buns Out. His collection includes different headgear of varying styles and finessed artisanry such as millinery hats, caps, cowboy style, panama straw and homburg hats. His headgear can be inexpensive as much as it can be pricey. He has once parted with R4,500 ($299) for a blue pork pie with a slick leather ribbon designed by England-based hat-maker, Christys’ of London. Locally, Simon and Mary is his go-to confidante. Although he may order caps online, Maponyane still prefers the sensorial experience of shopping in-store. To ensure the right aesthetic, Maponyane opts to physically weave through selections, feel the weight, texture, try it on and above all, make sure it’s the perfect fit. If not, he has several trusted milliners to adorn his head flawlessly. 

Damian de Canha, 30, South Africa

Collection: Fine art statues

Estimated worth: +/- R2.75 million ($184,000)

Collecting for: Enjoyment and passion

What is better than watching your favorite superheroes or villains on screen? For Damian de Canha, it’s having life-like statues of them displayed as works of art that he can marvel at everyday in his home. De Canha has been collecting the most premium pieces since 2017. As a superfan of all the comics from Marvel and DC Entertainment, his collectible statues hail primarily from their successful fantasy franchises, as well as from the Transformers and Mortal Kombat stable.

“I have always been a geek but what got me into collecting was when [a] friend bought me a Hulk statue as a thank you gift,” says De Canha. Standing up to 70cm tall and an average weight of 17kg, these statues are primarily imported from XM Studios in Singapore which supply luxury collectible pieces that are not manufactured, rather individually hand-crafted to inspire the pride and status of the limited pieces.

“I was so intrigued by the amazing attention to detail and craftsmanship that goes into these handmade statues that I was hooked from the moment I received it,” he says.

In the span of two years, De Canha has collected over 140 limited statues that stand in marvelous grandeur displayed across two rooms turned into galleries in his home. Not to be mistaken for toys or figurines, the figures can take De Canha up to 20 minutes to correctly assemble, and they hold their value over time. One iconic statue, called the X-Men Sentinel Diorama, is worth R110,000 ($7,361). His most treasured piece is a priceless little green bus his mother gifted him when he was just a toddler.

He has turned his enthusiasm into a business called Symbiote Premium Comics & Collectibles, which seeks to increase the accessibility of high-end statues. It’s become the official African distributor for XM Studios for the DC franchise. The business hosted its first exhibition at Comic Con Africa in September.

Yegas Naidoo, 60, South Africa

Collection: Wine

Estimated worth:  R125,500 ($8,500) excluding champagne

Collecting for: Consumption and enjoyment

Yegas Naidoo has been collecting wine from 1985. As a gourmet hedonist, she is not one to deny herself the sensorial joy and global allure of a signature wine. For Naidoo, the process of winemaking, from bottling to evolution, is a spectacle in itself that makes each bottle unique and multi-faceted.

The 1981 red blend from the southern Rhone in France called Pierre Perrin Châteauneuf du Pape Vintage inducted Naidoo’s collection of high-quality wine. She now has over 500 bottles in her home and admits that her wine assortment is purely for consumption with family and friends.

“My collection is imbibed daily, but the average cost is R250 ($17) per bottle, conservatively [and] not including champagne,” says Naidoo. The most valuable addition to-date is a magnum of the 2007 La Motte Hanneli R, a vintage shiraz blend inspired by the owner, Hanneli Rupert. Naidoo purchased this for R9,500 ($636) at the 2017 Nederburg charity auction.

She is a bonafide champagne zealot and is an ordained member of the esteemed L’Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne, the official French fraternity of the major Champagne brands. She has been an anchor judge at world-renowned wine competitions based in London including the International Wine Challenge and International Wine & Spirit Competition. Notably, she has served on the judging panel of the South African Airways inflight wine selection for the last 15 years. In her spare time, she’s involved in wine education and participates in global wine events to promote South African wine. “I speak on numerous forums, delivering the message of wine not being an exclusive product targeted for only certain social classes, wine being a product without mystery for the un-christened [as well as the] health benefits of drinking wine in modicum over time,” she says.

Eric Leeson, 35, South Africa

Collection: Sneakers

Estimated worth: +/- R625,000 ($42,325)

Collecting for: Personal apparel

The wave of millennial cultural influence has birthed a new form of collectibles, and Eric Leeson is rooted in the game. Leeson fell in love with sneakers at the age of 13 but only began collecting at the age of 16 with a pair of marked-down cherry-red Jordan 11 Retro Lows gifted to him by his father. “I started collecting sneakers out of struggle. It was simply about having, at least, more than three pairs of shoes aside from my school or physical training shoes. [But] not being able to get the ones I wanted sparked my obsession,” says Leeson.

He has since accumulated a fashionable footwear collection of 350 pairs which he recently downsized to 250. His motivations are now fueled by pleasure and the experience – no longer strife. “I’ve really enjoyed the chase of getting a pair of shoes. Standing in a line to wait my turn doesn’t give me that thrill. I need to be able to make a few calls, locate a pair and get on a taxi, [or] drive to the place that pair is suspected to be,” he says.

Leeson has taken advantage of social media to trade, hunt and purchase limited releases. Although, a recent purchase from Germany was a challenge due to negative perceptions around African buyers. However, through Leeson’s active Instagram and Facebook profiles, he was able to gain trust with the seller.

Globally, Nike still reigns as the most popular sneaker brand with the 2018 global footwear sales reaching $22.3 billion, representing 61% of total group revenue according to Nike’s 2018 Annual Report. It’s no surprise then that Leeson’s top picks include the Air Max 1 Anniversary Red and a pair of high-top Jordan 11 Concord which he proudly wore at his wedding.

He is excited to pass on his affection for sneakers to his children. Currently, his six-year-old son already has 40 colorful pairs of ‘sneaks’, and his five-month-old daughter is soon to follow.

Sarah Langa mackay, 26, South Africa

Collection: Luxury fashion

Estimated worth: +/- R1.9 million ($127,150)

Collection for: Investment

Sourcing rare, unique and timeless pieces that are in high demand is how fashion influencer and avid digital media content creator, Sarah Langa Mackay, manages to stay ahead. In 2011, she began her fashion journey in her first year of university by launching a blogsite showcasing “campus looks of the day”. “All I wanted to do was show someone how to mix and style everyday outfits with key items and pieces,” says Mackay.

Initially, she collected for fun and as a personal shopper and stylist for local celebrities, which meant searching and finding the right fashion pieces for her clients. As her reputation grew in the digital space, she began cementing herself as a luxury fashion brand influencer. This prompted her to intentionally source distinctive and hard-to-find fashion items that stood out. “This gave me the competitive edge needed over my peers and [as a] businesswoman,” she adds.

Her closet is exquisitely stacked with more than 200 pairs of stylish shoes and over 30 luxury one-of-a-kind handbags. Her favorite accessories include the elegant Louis Vuitton Monogram Palm Springs occasional backpack and the effortlessly chic Prada Cahier leather handbag. Amidst Christian Louboutin, Gucci and Alexander McQueen heels, her front-runners are her Amina Muaddi Begum Glass Slingback and the super-trendy Miuccia Prada Cult Flame sandals.

She proudly confesses that she has a trained eye to differentiate fake merchandise from originals. “I do not condone anything counterfeit as I feel like it robs the fashion industry, craft-makers and the original designers of their work, creativity and intellectual property,” she says.

With fashion on the rise in terms of collectibles, she sees acquiring rare luxury items as an investment that will positively contribute towards the growth of her online store, Luvant, which retails affordable pre-owned luxury apparel. “I want to offer my customers a premium experience, something they won’t get from heading to other spaces,” says Mackay. 

Alan Donovan, 80, Kenya

Collection: African Art

Estimated worth: Unknown

Collecting for: Preservation and exhibition

Alan Donovan was first exposed to the world of African art as a young US diplomat based in Nigeria in 1967. After several serendipitous meetings with West African chieftains and contemporary artists, Donovan began traveling extensively to remote places across the continent such as the northern lands of Kenya where he started collecting art, beads, artefacts, weapons, adornments and textiles.

In 1970, he befriended the late Joseph Murumbi, who was the first foreign minister of Kenya, and its second vice president, which transformed his life and birthed a life-long career of collecting, displaying and selling African art. Today, Donovan’s house, a brainchild and artful conception of his partnership and collaboration with Murumbi, is one of the most critically-acclaimed private African art galleries in Kenya.

“It was Murumbi’s dream to set up a pan-African gallery in Kenya where artists from all parts of the continent could show and sell their works [as well as] to preserve, protect and promote African culture,” he says. Set up in 1972, the African Heritage House, as it’s known, is a piece of art by itself. It boasts a decorative summation of Donovan’s art collection spanning 50 years from all over Africa. So diverse and valuable, the house has become a national monument.

The interior and exterior construction design is a mosaic of indigenous and pre-colonial architecture of various African cultures. “I wanted to make my house as African as possible: its architecture, design, furniture, fittings, décor, cutlery and everything,” he says. “I designed my house as a blend of all of the Africa that I was privileged to visit along my way: the desert palaces of Morocco, the sensual Sahel mud structures, the carved wooden house posts of Nigeria and Cameroon, the palm-thatched coral stone houses of the Kenya coast and the extraordinary painted houses of Northern Ghana and Burkina Faso.” Inspiration was also drawn from the towering mud mosques of Djenné. and Timbuktu in Mali. Although his house has not been valued, one of his decorative pieces was recently valued by Sotheby’s at $400,000.

At the age of 80, he still has many hearty dreams for the place he calls home. He plans to add another 200 rooms, a conference center, a restaurant and to build a museum, to be called ‘African Journeys’, which will highlight the works of those who have dedicated their lives to African heritage as well as the pioneering artists of Africa whose careers started at the time of African independence.

PICTURE

James Rugami, 57, Kenya

Collection: Vinyl records

Estimated worth: KSh440,000 ($4,242)

Collecting for: Investment

Known as “Mr Records” in Kenya, James Rugami lives off music. As the country’s chief record dealer, Rugami has amassed around 55,000 vinyl records of which 3,000 form part of his personal collection. The rest he sells in his shop, Real Vinyl Guru, situated in a busy meat market in Nairobi where he also restores broken records and record players.

The store is draped in circular black discs. He’s been growing his vinyl collection and business since 1987. The selection of vinyls encompass all genres of music, including an impressive library of classic African tunes. “The output of vinyl is rich and priceless. [It has no] comparison with any other format and it’s purely original,” he says. He remembers that the very first disc record he purchased was Louis and The Good Book by legendary American jazz trumpeter and vocalist, Louis Armstrong, whose popularly known for the late-1960s hit track, What A Wonderful World.

Globally, there is a massive resurgence and renaissance of vinyl collecting. Some rare long-playing records (LPs) can trade up to $40 on auction. Classical ‘Afro’ music is even harder to find and therefore, more expensive. With thousands of Afro-selections, Rugami’s vinyl collection is a gold mine. Befittingly, his store has won the admiration of international vinyl fans and clients who sift through the archives in search of rare finds.

Dawid Venter, 42, South Africa

Collection: Gaming

Estimated worth: +/- R300,000 ($20,000)

Collection for: Experience and passion

Although many people perceive gamers as adolescent boys and girls, Dawid Venter is a self-confessed console and gaming fanatic. An avid video game collector and serial champion of the South African gaming industry, Venter’s love for gaming started at the age of six with the childhood veteran game, Donkey Kong Junior. However, the Sega Dreamcast was the first video game console to inaugurate Venter’s collection.

“I originally started in 1996, but sold off [my] collection in 2006 after my mom passed away,” says Venter. He later restarted his collection in 2013. Currently, he has an impressive collection of over 30 gaming consoles. Amongst his collection are modern consoles such as Switch, Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro, right through to nostalgic gaming consoles including GameCube, Nintendo, Dreamcast and SEGA. “Retro collecting is something that never ends. Every generation brings new games which in time becomes retro and collectible,” he shares.

The local video game market is growing at double digits and is estimated to be worth R3.5 billion ($234 million) in 2018, according to PricewaterhouseCooper’s Media and Entertainment Outlook. As a major proponent of the gaming industry in South Africa, Venter is also the co-founder, managing director and contributing author of SA Gamer.com, one of the country’s biggest gaming news and review websites. He’s had the pleasure of meeting legendary pioneers of the industry including Shinji Mikami, the creative engineer of the long-standing, mainstream video game series Resident Evil, which subsequently birthed the highest-grossing film series based on a video game in 2016.

Today, Venter has no less than 1,000 games, excluding digital titles, to enjoy in the personal comfort of a dedicated gaming room in his home. The latest games to mark his extensive collection are a CD copy of Mortal Kombat and Silpheed for his Sega CD accessory. Interestingly, if Venter were to be left on a deserted island, the only game he would take with him is the futuristic and combat racing game titled Wipeout Omega Collection.

PICTURE

Nnennaya Fakoya-Smith, 34, Nigeria

Collection: Postcards, stamps, coins and banknotes

Estimated worth: Unknown

Collecting for: Investment

When one hears deltiologist, philatelist and numismatist, the first thoughts that may arise may be that these grandiose terms are used to label medical practitioners. Contrary to that, these three illustrative words are expressively used by the esteemed Nigerian tourism promoter, Nnennaya Fakoya-Smith, to represent her unique obsessions. The descriptions define a postcard collector, stamp collector as well as a coins and banknotes collector, respectively.

Fakoya-Smith has been collecting elements that represent the culture and history of a people since she was seven years old. “My dad used to collect stamps and coins, and I inherited the hobby from him. He also used to send my siblings and me postcards from the countries he visited, which I truly enjoyed reading,” she says. Fast forward 27 years, she has over 100 stamps, postcards as well as a diverse currency collection from across 36 countries. “I love the banknotes and coins because they are vintage collections. [They] are no longer in use in their various countries. They have become rare valuables among my collection,” she shares.

Many are baffled by her interests, especially in this digital age. Although, it is on the internet from which people trade their coins, which can demand a premium over 1,000 times their original value. A 1969 2-and-½ shillings Africa Biafra coin is currently selling at N36,851.85 ($101.31) on eBay. “The first time I found out that stamps and coins were valuable investments was when I bumped into the United Nations stamps and other coin websites,” she says.

True to her millennial nature, Fakoya-Smith regularly makes use of social media to meet and collaborate with people who are like-minded as well as create awareness for these communities. She plans to retain her collection and similarly, like her father, pass it down to future generations. She hopes to open a stamp and coin gallery in the future.

Thomas Collier, 37, Ethiopia

Collection: Jordan sneakers

Estimated Worth: +/- £46,500 ($57,351)

Collecting for: Personal apparel and nostalgia

Thomas Collier is an Ethiopian London-based photographer who grew up in the “golden ages”, loving basketball and watching Michael Jordan, Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton and Penny Hardaway. This gave rise to a fetish for sneakers associated with old generation sports players. To this regard, he has bought every pair of Nike Jordan’ sneaks’ that have ever been released – a feat that would leave any dedicated sneakerhead in awe. “I don’t see [my sneakers] as an investment, more like works of art. [They] remind me of my childhood and daydreaming of one day playing in the NBA,” says Collier.

Collier began this dream collection in 1998. Currently, he has bought close to 300 pairs, with his favorite shoe undoubtedly being the Jordan 11’s. Collier buys all his sneakers from retailers and not resellers. Furthermore, when it comes to solidifying his selection, he’d go as far as camping in a tent outside a Nike store. This was the case in London when Nike had the highly-anticipated special release of the Air Foamposite One Galaxy colorway shoe in 2012.

“I thought I was going to be the only one [camping], but I was soon joined by about 300 other sneakerheads from all over Europe who arrived just to buy these shoes,” he says. Globally, sneaker fanatics still regard these as the most legendary and publicized sneakers of the century. They’re currently reselling on eBay for $700, for pre-owned and around $2,499, fresh from the box.

Apart from the illustrious designs of his sneakers, Collier treasures the fact that for every pair he has, he can find a picture of his hailed players wearing them. Even though his dream of becoming an NBA player didn’t materialize, his complete range of Jordan’s iconic designer shoes is consolation enough.

Katherine Munro, 74, South Africa

Collection: Books

Estimated Worth: +/- R8.5 million ($569,000)

Collecting for: Knowledge

Reading and discovering the world through other people’s writing is Katherine Munro’s devotion. A seasoned lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, Munro enjoys gathering items of knowledge, specifically ephemera, antique maps and non-fiction books.  

She began collecting in the 1950s as a child. Today, she has amassed around 17,000 books, mostly written in English and a few in German, French and Afrikaans. “[I was] fortunate to have a family and a husband who built me a library for my books,” says Munro. Within her library, Munro runs private tours and talks to discuss interesting books and book collecting.

Almost all her books are pre-owned. The genres include history, travel, geography, politics and the Folio Society collection, to name a few. To this day, the excitement of escaping into a world full of thrills, surprises and the appeal of dusty old bookshops in cities around the world is something Munro can’t resist. There, she savors the dusty smell of books not opened (for maybe 20 years); discovering things hidden in books such as money, birthday cards, peculiar bookmarks or pressed flowers. “Every book tells a story. Immediately through a book, you can [feel] the intimacy of someone else’s life. [It’s] also fascinating to read inscriptions in books – gifts to other people or a book signed by the author,” says Munro.

Within her career as an academic, Munro credits books as the stock in trade to spread ideas and stimulate young minds. Her current focus is building a book collection of the city of Johannesburg: focusing on the rich history, people, town-planning and literature.

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Newton Jibunoh, 81, Nigeria

Collection: African art

Estimated worth: Priceless

Collection for: Preservation

Nigeria is quickly becoming an art collectors’ haven; however, for Newton Jibunoh, the man who has driven across the Sahara four times, African art collection is an old trade. His love of the history, civilization and religion of the African black race sparked his reverence for African art. This made him an eager collector from a very young age, but he didn’t start to collect seriously until the early 1960s, after his first visit to the British Museum in London. “Seeing our works in a foreign land and being appreciated by many triggered my need to collect even further. It wasn’t just because I enjoyed art anymore, but I felt obligated to safeguard our works,” says Jibunoh.

He grew up as a choir boy and member of the early churches run by missionaries. During this time, he observed how heritage, religion and culture were stripped off the surrounding indigenous villages before being converted into Christianity. “I witnessed most of [their artworks] being carted away. They were various bronze works from Benin and Ife, woodworks from Igbo-Ukwu and Nok Terracotta from the Nok culture. I [later] wrote home from London requesting that whatever was left, should be kept for me,” he says. These formed his first collection.

Throughout the years, he has acquired a wide variety of African crafts ranging from paintings, sculptures, shrines to artefacts. “I recall that I would spend my entire one month’s salary purchasing artworks,” he shares. One painting by Akin Salu called One Man, One Wife cost him 60% of his monthly salary which he paid over three months. Eventually, when his home could no longer contain his passion, he was moved to open the first private museum in Nigeria, DIDI Museum. It now houses close to 1,000 artworks.

He considers his collection priceless: an investment in kind towards the historical preservation of the continent’s unwritten and continuing story. Some of his collection is loaned to institutions, homes and galleries across Africa and Europe, and others are registered with the national museum, making it close to impossible to auction.

Sonal Maherali, 39, Kenya

Collection: Luxury bags and shoes

Estimated worth: KSh20.7 million ($200,000)

Collecting for: Personal accessorizing and investment

Ever since Sonal Maherali was a little girl, she’s had a great obsession for the finer things in life. A mother of four and arguably, East Africa’s queen of fashion, Maherali’s walk-in closet is drizzled with glamorous high-priced shoes, bags, perfumes, clothes and jewelry.

“I grew up from a very humble background. Unlike most kids who were fascinated by toys, I loved the lore of Cinderella and her coveted glass slipper. That slipper became an obsession,” she says.

Not too shy to impress, the stylish fashionista has a designer collection to enviously flaunt which inspired her to launch a YouTube channel in 2010. She has since drawn over 68,000 subscribers to whom she shares her appreciation of fashion, style and her extravagant lot of Christian Louboutin heels. Her luxury collection also includes high-priced bags like the Lady Dior, the rare Diorama and the exceptional quilted 2.55 Chanel shoulder bag commissioned by Gabriel ‘Coco’ Chanel in 1955.

Her lavish and custom-made items average between $3,000 and $13,000, individually. Some pieces she considers priceless. This includes a special Trash Pigalle by Christian Louboutin that was custom-made with items she sent to the shoemaker. Although her tailormade accessories hold significant memories, they’re not the priciest items in her closet. “[The most expensive] would have to be the first Birkin bag I was offered by Hermès. It set me back a cool KSh1.6 million ($15,400) while the second one, a Fjord leather in blood orange was around KSh1.3million ($12,500),” she shares.

Birkin handbags are rare and can fetch a fortune in re-sale markets. In this light, Maherali has launched an online store, closetsm.com, where she sells pre-owned items from her closet that she no longer wears and that are still chic, trendy and timeless.

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Marc Pendlebury, 38, South Africa

Collection: Whisky

Estimated worth: +/- R2.5 million ($169,000)

Collection for: Consumption and investment

For some people, the pleasure alone of consuming a premium whisky is enough, but not for Marc Pendlebury. In 2007, he progressed from whisky drinker to collector when he began purchasing more whisky bottles than he consumed. “I love everything about the world of whisky: the flavors, people, production process, history and the places it is made. I wanted to try as many different whiskies as I could,” says Pendlebury.

He’s since collected about 1,200 distilled bottles of the finest whiskies from across the world – some acquired for consumptive pleasure and others for appreciation. Pendlebury takes pleasure in visiting prominent distilleries, famous whisky bars and festivals in search of limited or discontinued bottles similar to his Japanese Chichibu whisky collection. “[Their] whiskies are near-impossible to find and are expensive on the secondary market. That makes each release I secure quite an accomplishment,” he adds. To date, the most significant spend he’s incurred was on the highly-lauded Springbank Millennium Collection which he part-purchased with two of his friends. The rare set includes six whiskies ranging in ages from 25 to 50 years old and is worth approximately R400,000 ($26,767).

Whether Scottish or Irish, bourbon or rye, whisky returns out-perform every other collectible asset including classic cars, art and fine wine. According to the 2019 Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index, whisky topped the list of the most desired objects with the value of rare whisky rising by 582% over the past 10 years. Although Pendlebury doesn’t buy to invest, he does recognize that collectively, his whisky selection holds a substantial monetary value.

Pendlebury’s greatest pride includes becoming an inducted member of the Keepers of the Quaich, an elite international society that recognizes outstanding individuals committed to the Scotch whisky industry. He is also the founder and co-owner of a dedicated whisky bar, WhiskyBrothers, based in Sandton.

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Ryan Herman, 30, South Africa

Collection: Nike and Jordan Sneakers

Estimated worth:  R75,000 ($5,000)

Collecting for: Personal apparel

Ryan Herman has always had a love and appreciation for sneakers. He sees himself as a silent member in the game and not necessarily influenced by the millennial social trend of sneaker culture. “I don’t have the common ‘I saw the cool kids wearing it’ story. I’ve always had a love for sneakers,” Herman says.

Back in the early 2000s, when companies didn’t send emails or newsletters to remind customers what sneakers were being released, Herman would have to make regular trips to the mall and town to see which sneakers were on shelf. “I remember [a time] when you didn’t have to stand in line or even do the raffle system because the sneakers were all just there,” says Herman.

As a 15-year-old, sneaker-obsessed teenager, he remembers how he would complete household chores to earn his next pair of sneakers. Fast forward to adulthood and financial independence, not one month passes by without Herman purchasing at least one or two pairs. At age 30, Herman has amassed 50 pairs of Nike and Jordan sneakers. “My collection consists solely of sneakers that I like and wear, and I’ve always loved the Nike brand; their unique styles, colorways and their sportswear too,” he shares. To usher in the summer, Herman has already added to his footgear collection the latest addition to the Air Max lineage, the multi-colored Air Max 270 React ‘Bauhaus’, which debuted in July.

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Kavita Chellaram, 62, Nigeria

Collection: African art

Estimated worth: Unknown

Collecting for: Investment

Kavita chellaram is an influential Nigerian art curator of Indian-descent. She began collecting art when she moved to Nigeria as a way to explore the culture of her adopted country. The first works of art she bought were in 1979. These were workmanships of the highly astute and multi-talented artist Jimoh Buraimoh and the late Twins Seven-Seven. Her passion gradually grew over the years, leading her to build the Arthouse Contemporary in 2007.

“When I started collecting, there were very few galleries and exhibition spaces in Lagos. Often, artists sold out of their cars,” she explains. As a result, Arthouse quickly grew into an international auction house and exhibition venue.

Over time, Chellaram has acquired approximately 400 artworks. She’s particularly drawn to Nigerian artists of the modern period including artists of the Zaria Art Society, who were making artworks around the time of Nigeria’s looming independence. According to Chellaram, these artists incorporated traditional narratives and styles along with Western training, creating a unique visual style that developed modernism in Nigeria. “Many of my favorite artists [include] Uche Okeke, Yusuf Grillo, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Demas Nwoko and Simon Okeke,” she says.

Her collection is ever-evolving as she discovers new artists as well as finds rare artwork. Some of her most recent acquisitions are works by Abdoulaye Konaté, the artist from Mali who makes beautiful textile pieces, as well as Nicholas Hlobo, a South African artist. “I also recently added an artwork by Kudanzai Chiurai, an artist from Zimbabwe who works in photography and oils,” she says.

Chellaram sits on the African Acquisition Committee at the Tate Modern, an institution that houses the United Kingdom’s national collection of British and international contemporary art. She is also on the Advisory Board of the School of Traditional Arts under the Prince Charles Foundation. Moreover, she has a non-profit organization arm, Arthouse Foundation, which facilitates artist residencies and support programs for emerging artists.

– Mashokane Mahlo


SIDE BARS

‘Surrounded By The Richest People In The World’

An entrepreneur in Ghana collects and frames FORBES AFRICA magazines.

Kofi Asmah, the founding partner of Gyandoh Asmah & Co, has been collecting FORBES and FORBES AFRICA magazines for the last 15 years.

When he was still an attorney, he visited one of his client’s offices in Ghana and that was the first time he came across a FORBES magazine on world billionaires.

“It inspired me to want to be on that list one day,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

Asmah made it his mission to collect the magazines and stack them up to form a mini-museum in his house.

“What I did was to rip the covers off and have them framed,” he says.

“I actually have about 20 to 25 of the top issues framed, the ones with Warren Buffet, Aliko Dangote and just really the big heavyweights. I use that as a theme for my beach house, where I created a FORBES-themed room. The whole idea is that it’s a rich lifestyle and while you’re in the room, you are surrounded by the richest people in the world. It’s for people to know that these are my heroes.”

His favorite issue to date of FORBES AFRICA is the February 2019 edition that featured Africa’s billionaires.

And his message for FORBES AFRICA’s eighth anniversary last month?

“We need to send FORBES AFRICA to every corner of the world so people can be educated about Africa has to offer,” he says.

Karen Mwendera


‘Old Cars Make Me Nostalgic’

A vintage car collector in Mauritius says nothing can beat driving an old car through the swaying sugarcane fields near his home.

One of Mauritius’ most famous vintage car collectors is Viju Gowreesunkur, a sugar farmer whose home in Central Flacq by the ubiquitous sugarcane plantations, is a repository of gleaming metal. In his unassuming, musty garage, under greasy white sheets, are some of the island’s most classic vehicles. 

The Rolls-Royces and Cabriolets stand out in the ubiquitous green of the sugarcane fields, taking unsuspecting passersby to another era. 

“I love old things, old houses, old furniture… and old cars that make me nostalgic,” the 60-something Gowreesunkur, who also has many vintage cars parked in the front yard of his home, told FORBES AFRICA when we visited him in mid-2017. 

“When you see an old car, it brings back memories of your parents, an old film… the cars are that and so many things, you can’t really express it.”

The die-hard antique enthusiast says he has as many as 50 vintage cars in his collection, possibly a record in all of Mauritius. A respected senior at Mauritius’ Vintage and Classic Car Owners Association (VCCOA), he regularly attends meets and races.

In his garage are such jewels as a stunning burgundy 1950 Opel, six Chevrolets, six Jaguars, three horse wagons, a black Daimler that belonged to the Governor of Mauritius in the colonial period, and three Rolls-Royces including a 1956 Silver Clouds Rolls-Royce “believed to have belonged to Marilyn Monroe”. Gowreesunkur’s first car was a beige Citroën that he has now given up. Every car he owns has a story, he says.

“I drive for pleasure… When you drive an old car through the sugarcane fields, you don’t feel anything, you don’t feel the bumps, it’s just incredible!” 

Renuka Methil

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