African billionaire fortunes have declined on the new FORBES list of the continent’s richest.
The number of billionaires in Africa – and the size of their fortunes – continues to drop. On this year’s list, FORBES is only including African billionaires living in Africa, instead of featuring Africa’s 50 richest people. There are 21 billionaires on this year’s list, worth a combined $70 billion. On the November 2015 Africa Rich List, there were 23 African billionaires worth a combined $79.8 billion. That in turn was down from 28 African billionaires in 2014.
Nigerian cement tycoon Aliko Dangote remains Africa’s richest person for the sixth year running with a $12.1 billion fortune, despite a nearly $5 billion drop in his net worth for the second year in a row. Dangote is joined by just two other Nigerian billionaires on this year’s list – telecom tycoon Mike Adenuga, who is Africa’s third richest person with an estimated $5.8 billion fortune, and oil billionaire Folorunsho Alakija, who has an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion. Two Nigerians dropped off the Billionaires List this year – oil marketer Femi Otedola, whose net worth dropped from $1.6 billion in November 2015 to just $330 million today, and sugar billionaire Abdulsamad Rabiu, whose net worth dropped below $1 billion in the wake of a weakened Nigerian currency.
South Africa retains its dominance on the Africa List. While the country is tied with Egypt for the largest number of individual billionaires, South Africa’s six billionaires are worth a combined $22.7 billion – $7 billion more than Egypt’s six billionaires. The richest South African billionaire and the continent’s second richest person is diamond magnate Nicky Oppenheimer, who has maintained a low profile since selling his family’s stake in diamond giant De Beers to Anglo American for $5.1 billion in cash in 2012. Luxury goods tycoon Johann Rupert and retail magnate Christoffel Wiese are tied as South Africa’s second richest and Africa’s fourth richest billionaires, each with a $5.5 billion fortune. Wiese’s fortune has dropped $1 billion since the November 2015 Africa list, while Rupert’s net worth is down $800 million.
Egypt’s richest billionaire is Nassef Sawiris, whose $5.3 billion fortune is up $400 million since November 2015. Sawiris runs OCI, one of the world’s largest nitrogen fertilizers. The country’s next richest person is his brother Naguib Sawiris, who was Egypt’s biggest gainer on the list. His net worth increased $700 million to $3.7 billion. In December 2016, Naguib Sawiris announced that he would be stepping down as CEO of his telecom company, Orasom Telecom Media & Technology.
FORBES counts only two female billionaires in Africa: Angola’s Isabel dos Santos – Africa’s richest woman with a $3.2 billion fortune, and Nigeria’s Alakija. Dos Santos is the daughter of Angola’s president, who appointed her as head of Angola’s state oil firm Sonangol in June 2016. Alakija is the vice chair of Nigerian oil exploration company, Famfa Oil.
At 41, Tanzanian Mohammed Dewji is Africa’s youngest billionaire, well below the average age of 63. He is CEO of conglomerate METL, which his father founded in the 1970s. Eighty-six-year-old Onsi Sawiris of Egypt is the continent’s oldest billionaire and the father of two other African billionaires – Nassef and Naguib Sawiris.
Thirteen out of Africa’s 21 billionaires have self-made fortunes, while the other eight inherited their fortunes. The 21 billionaires hail from seven countries: South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco (which has three billionaires), Algeria (one billionaire), Angola (one billionaire) and Tanzania (one billionaire).
Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, founded and chairs Dangote Cement, the continent’s largest cement producer. In 2015 Dangote Cement launched new plants in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania. The company produces more than 30 million metric tons annually, and plans to double capacity by 2018. Dangote owns about 90% of publicly-traded Dangote Cement through a holding company; this percentage exceeds the 80% ownership ceiling set by the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Other companies in the Dangote Group, which is active in 15 African countries, include publicly-traded salt, sugar and flour manufacturing companies. His net worth dropped during 2016 as Nigeria’s currency weakened and its economy struggled.
De Beers diamond heir Nicky Oppenheimer keeps a lower profile today than the diamonds that bear his family name. In May 2016, the rare Oppenheimer Blue diamond, once owned by his uncle Philip, was sold for $57.5 million, setting a record for the most expensive diamond sold at auction. For 85 years, the Oppenheimer family occupied a controlling spot in the world’s diamond trade; in 2012, Nicky sold his 40% stake in De Beers to mining conglomerate Anglo American for $5.1 billion in cash. Anglo American, which Nicky’s grandfather founded, controls 85% of De Beers; the government of Botswana owns the remaining 15%. Nicky Oppenheimer served on Anglo American’s board for 37 years through 2011, and retains an estimated 1% stake in the company. His E. Oppenheimer & Son entity controls investment firms Stockdale Street Capital and Tana Africa Capital, a joint venture with Singapore government-owned investment firm Temasek. Tana Africa Capital holds minority interests in African food manufacturers Promasidor and Regina.
Mike Adenuga, Nigeria’s second richest man, built his fortune in telecom and oil production. His mobile phone network, Globacom, is the second largest operator in Nigeria with 36 million subscribers; it also has operations in Ghana and the Republic of Benin. His exploration outfit, Conoil Producing, operates six oil blocks in the Niger Delta. He also owns real estate firm Proline Investments, which has hundreds of properties throughout Nigeria. Adenuga studied in the United States, getting an MBA at Pace University in New York, where he worked as a taxi driver to support himself. He returned to Nigeria and made his first fortune trading lace and Coca-Cola. Along the way he made friends with Nigerian military bigwigs who awarded him lucrative state contracts; those formed the foundation of his fortune. His estimated net worth is lower this year due to the drop in value of Nigeria’s currency, challenges in the oil sector, and overall weakness in Nigeria’s economy.
Johann Rupert is chairman of Swiss luxury goods firm Compagnie Financiere Richemont. Best known for the brands Cartier and Montblanc, the company was formed in 1998 by spinning off international assets owned by Rembrandt Group Limited (now Remgro Limited), a South African company his father Anton founded in the 1940s as a tobacco manufacturer. Rupert owns a 7% stake in diversified investment firm Remgro, which he chairs, as well as 25% of Reinet, an investment holding company based in Luxembourg that has a stake in British American Tobacco. He also owns part of the Saracens English rugby team and Anthonij Rupert Wines, named after his deceased brother. In recent years, Rupert has been a vocal opponent of plans to allow fracking in the Karoo, a region of South Africa where he owns land. Rupert says his biggest regret was not buying half of Gucci when he had the opportunity to do so for just $175 million, adding that his advice to entrepreneurs is to “follow your gut”.
Christoffel Wiese built a retail empire by capitalizing on bargain prices in South Africa, and has expanded its geographic footprint. In December 2015, Wiese’s furniture and home goods retailer Steinhoff moved its listing from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange to the Frankfurt Stock Exchange to focus on the European market. In August 2016, Steinhoff entered the US market, announcing plans to buy Mattress Firm Holding Corp., which owns Sleepy’s, a chain with 1,000 mattress stores, for $2.4 billion. His other investments include 15% of publicly-traded Shoprite Holdings, which has supermarkets, furniture stores and fast food outlets in 15 countries across Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands; and stakes in private equity firm Brait, industrial products company Invicta Holdings and mining-sector investor Pallinghurst.
Egypt’s richest businessman, Nassef Sawiris, runs OCI, one of the largest nitrogen fertilizer producers in the world. It has plants in Texas, and is building facilities in Iowa. Originally Orascom Construction Industries, Sawiris split the company into two entities in 2015. Orascom Construction now trades on Egypt’s exchange and Nasdaq Dubai, while OCI, the fertilizer and chemicals business, trades on the Euronext Amsterdam exchange. Sawiris also owns nearly 5% of cement giant LafargeHolcim, and 7% of Adidas. A University of Chicago graduate, he donated $20 million to the school in 2015 to establish a scholarship program named after his father, Onsi. The funds benefit Egyptian students.
Naguib Sawiris captured world headlines in 2015 when he offered to buy an island from Greece or Italy to settle refugees fleeing the war in Syria. “I am serious with my intentions,” he told FORBES. Neither country took up his offer. Sawiris, who built his fortune in telecom, announced in December 2016 he was stepping down as CEO of Cairo-based Orascom Telecom Media & Technology (OTMT). The company’s efforts to acquire an investment bank in March 2016 were stymied by Egypt’s financial regulators, who accused OTMT of breaches pertaining to a five-year-old demerger of telecom assets. OTMT claims that the government has as a result hampered its ability to grow. In 2015, it exited the cell phone business in Egypt when it sold its stake in Mobinil to France’s Orange. In North Korea, OTMT operates Koryolink, the country’s only 3G mobile telecom firm, but lost financial control over the operator due to the government’s manoeuvers. Since 2013, Sawiris has built major stakes in gold mining companies that operate in Canada, Australia and Africa.
Isabel dos Santos is the oldest daughter of Angola’s long-time president and, by virtue of her investments in Portugal and Angola, Africa’s richest woman. Though her representatives deny that her holdings have any connection to her father, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, FORBES research found that he transferred stakes in several Angolan companies to her. In June 2016, he appointed her the head of Sonangol, Angola’s state oil firm. Her assets in Angola include 25% of Unitel, the country’s largest mobile phone network, and 42% of a bank, Banco BIC. In Portugal she owns nearly 6% of oil and gas firm Galp Energia (alongside Portuguese billionaire Americo Amorim), and nearly 19% of Banco BPI, the country’s fourth-largest bank. She is also a controlling shareholder of Portuguese cable TV and telecom firm Nos SGPS (formerly called Zon). In June 2015, media reported that she spent slightly more than $200 million to buy a stake in Portuguese electric power equipment firm Efacec Power Solutions. In October 2015, four members of the European Parliament publicly called for an investigation into her investments in Portugal, questioning their legality, saying that the method of payment – a transfer of funds by the Angolan government – “raises the possibility the Angolan State is indirectly and illegally financing private investments of his daughter Isabel dos Santos.” A spokesperson for Dos Santos told FORBES that “Isabel dos Santos is an independent businesswoman and a private investor representing solely her own interests. Her investments in Angolan and/or in Portuguese companies are transparent and have been conducted through arms length’s transactions involving external entities such as reputed banks and law firms.”
Issad Rebrab founded Algeria’s biggest privately held conglomerate, Cevital. It owns one of the largest sugar refineries in the world, with an annual output of 1.6 million tons; it also produces vegetable oil and margarine. In 2014, he acquired (for an undisclosed amount) Groupe Brandt, a large French-based maker of appliances that had filed for bankruptcy protection. Cevital has invested more than $200 million to build a Brandt plant in Algeria that will employ 7,500 people. Rebrab was reportedly a customer of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which helped him set up offshore firms to register a Swiss bank account in defiance of Algerian laws. Rebrab, whose five children work at the company, is the son of militants who fought for Algeria’s independence from France.
Mohamed Mansour oversees conglomerate Mansour Group, which has sole distribution rights in Egypt for GM vehicles, Caterpillar equipment and has the McDonald’s franchise. However, the group generates the bulk of its revenues from outside the country. Mansour and his brothers Yasseen and Youssef, all billionaires, have the exclusive rights to Caterpillar sales in Russia and six African countries. Through its private equity arm, it also has more than $500 million in investments in such places as Dubai, Africa and the US, where they own a logistics company in California. Mohamed has real estate in Missouri. His son Loutfy oversees the family’s private equity investments.
Koos Bekker is revered as an astute executive who transformed South African newspaper publisher Naspers into a digital media powerhouse, primarily due to his 2001 bet on Chinese internet and media firm Tencent. During his tenure as CEO, which began in 1997, Bekker oversaw a rise in the market capitalization of Naspers from about $600 million to $45 billion, while drawing no salary, bonus, or benefits. He was compensated via stock option grants that vested over time. Bekker, who retired as the CEO of Naspers in March 2014, returned as chairman in April 2015. Over the summer of 2015 he sold more than 70% of his Naspers shares. His Babylonstoren estate, which features architecture dating back to 1690, stretches across nearly 600 acres in South Africa’s Western Cape region and includes a farm, orchard, vineyard, a 14-room hotel and a restaurant.
Othman Benjelloun’s father was a large shareholder in a small Moroccan insurance company. Benjelloun took over in 1988, and built it into privately held RMA Watanya, a leading insurance company. He then used it to expand into banking. Today he is chairman of BMCE Bank, Africa’s second largest bank with operations in 20 African countries, including Senegal, Kenya and Congo. Through his holding company FinanceCom, he is also the majority shareholder of RMA Watanya and has a minority stake in Meditelecom, Morocco’s second largest mobile phone operator. His Paris-based money management firm, FinanceCom Asset Management, invests in companies in Nigeria, South Africa, and Ghana, among other countries. To house BMCE’s new headquarters, Benjelloun is building a 30-story rocket-shaped tower that will loom over Casablanca. He co-owns a ranch (Ranch Adarouch), where he raises livestock and keeps race horses.
Yasseen Mansour and his billionaire brothers, Youssef and Mohammed, run Mansour Group, which owns the sole rights for Caterpillar dealerships in Egypt, Russia and several African countries, as well as General Motors dealerships in Egypt and Iraq. In Egypt the group also operates supermarkets and McDonald’s restaurants, and distributes tobacco brands Davidoff and Gauloises. Mansour is a founder and chairman of publicly-traded Palm Hills Developments, one of Egypt’s biggest real estate developers. In 2014, US private equity firm Ripplewood bought a 2.3% stake in Palm Hills for an undisclosed amount, and Ripplewood’s CEO was appointed vice chairman.
Folorunsho Alakija is the vice chair of Famfa Oil, a Nigerian oil exploration company that has a 60% participating interest in block OML 127, part of Agbami field, one of Nigeria’s largest deepwater discoveries. Its partners include Chevron and Petrobras. Her first company was a fashion label that catered to Nigeria’s elite women, including the wife of former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, who awarded Alakija’s company an oil prospecting license.
Africa’s first black billionaire, African Rainbow Minerals founder and chairman Patrice Motsepe, launched a new private equity firm focused on investing in Africa in April 2016. Called African Rainbow Capital, it is a subsidiary of Motsepe’s Ubuntu-Botho Investments. 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 turned them profitable. South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) laws, which mandate that companies be at least 26% black-owned in order to get a government mining license, benefited Motsepe. In 2013, the mining magnate was the first African to sign Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, in which he promised to give at least half his fortune to charity.
Aziz Akhannouch is the majority owner of Akwa Group, a multibillion-dollar Moroccan conglomerate with interests in petroleum, gas and chemicals through its publicly-traded subsidiaries Afriquia Gas and Maghreb Oxygene. It also has businesses operating in media, real estate development and hotels. Akwa Group was founded by Akhannouch’s father, who later took on a partner, Ahmed Wakrim. While Akhannouch serves as Morocco’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, he has handed off day-to-day management of the group to Ahmed Wakrim’s son Ali Wakrim. Akhannouch’s wife, Salwa Idrissi, runs her own company, which develops malls, and owns the Moroccan franchises for Gap, Zara, and Galeries Lafayette, among other fashion brands.
Mohammed Dewji is the CEO of METL, a Tanzanian conglomerate founded by his father in the 1970s. It is active in textile manufacturing, flour milling, beverages and edible oils in eastern, southern and central Africa. Tanzania’s only billionaire, Dewji operates in at least six African countries and has ambitions to expand to several more. His net worth rose due to an increase in sales in 2015. Dewji retired from Tanzania’s parliament in early 2015 after completing his two terms. His Mo Dewji Foundation provides scholarships for poor Tanzanian children. He signed the Giving Pledge in 2016, promising to donate at least half his fortune to philanthropic causes.
Youssef Mansour of Egypt maintains a lower profile than his billionaire brothers Mohamed and Yasseen. Each sibling owns a stake in Mansour Group, a conglomerate that derives the bulk of its value from its Caterpillar dealerships in Russia and several African countries. Mohamed Mansour oversees Caterpillar, as well as the group’s General Motors dealerships in Egypt and Iraq. Youssef Mansour is responsible for the consumer goods division, which includes the Metro supermarket chain, Egypt’s largest, as well as tobacco brands Davidoff and Gauloises.
Onsi Sawiris is the patriarch of Egypt’s wealthiest family and founder of Orascom Construction Industries. Following the Egyptian political uprisings in 2011, his son Nassef, who heads the company, moved its listing to Euronext in Amsterdam, renaming it OCI. Onsi Sawiris still owns nearly a quarter of OCI. In 2015, OCI spun off its construction business, which now trades again on the Egyptian exchange, as well as on Nasdaq Dubai, as Orascom Construction. A scholarship at the University of Chicago bears his name, thanks to a $20 million donation by his son Nassef, a graduate of the school. Both Nassef and son Naguib are billionaires.
Anas Sefrioui, head of publicly traded homebuilder Groupe Addoha, enjoyed a long run winning government contracts to develop low-cost housing in Morocco, but government cutbacks and a real estate slump have hurt Addoha. Net income continues to slide, dropping more than 37% to $109 million in 2014. In an attempt to grow, Addoha is accelerating expansion in Africa outside of Morocco. The company has plans to build a cement factory and low-income housing in Mali, Ghana, and Chad.
Stephen Saad founded South Africa’s largest pharmaceuticals maker, Aspen Pharmacare, in 1997. Traded on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Aspen Pharmacare, which he runs as CEO, markets generic medicines in 150 countries. Saad became a millionaire at age 29 when he sold his share in drug business, Covan Zurich, for $3 million. In 2012, Saad became chairman of The Sharks, a Durban rugby team. He spends his free time at Exeter, his private game reserve at Sabi Sands, which is adjacent to Kruger National Park, the largest national park in South Africa. In October 2016, Saad won the Entrepreneur of the Year award at the All Africa Business Leaders Awards gala.