As a child, I always associated riches as a close relative to power. The kind of power that brings about respect through fear– you know, like most of the African leaders in this century. I would be lying if I said a part of me felt that those who gained wealth and were not directly in power got their wealth through illegal means.
Drugs, criminal activities, smuggling, human trafficking, you name it. Over the years, however, I have grown to appreciate the hard work from individuals, innovators, and entrepreneurs, among others, who build empires from scratch and manage to break borders, to land as the richest in their respective countries, continents and even the world. Today, I want to highlight some of these individuals in the continent of Africa, whom I have read of and admired all through my years. Here are Africa’s top 10 Billionaires.
At tenth sits Naguib Sawiris. Naguib is the eldest of three brothers, and the son of Onsi Sawiris, who established the Orascom Group. His net worth is estimated at $3B. This Egyptian’s wealth has been sourced to telecommunication; he played an integral role in diversifying and growing the portfolio of Orascom, turning it into one of the largest private sector firms. He is most recently known for his desire to buy an island to give 200,000 refugees a home, after seeing a picture of a three year old Syrian boy who drowned trying to find refuge. He is a true humanitarian billionaire.
On the ninth position sits Issad Rebrab, also worth $3B. The current richest Algerian businessman, Rebrab is the CEO of the Cevital Industrial Group, the largest private company in Algeria, active in steel, food, agribusiness and electronics. On his rise to wealth, Isaad said he took “a calculated risk”, knowing that if worst came to worst, he could always return to teaching. He joined the industry by acquiring 20% of Sotecom, a metallurgical construction business. Issad stands out as one of the few African billionaires who come from modest families; his parents were revolutionaries who struggled for the independence of Algeria. Thus, a true proof that one does not need to be from a wealthy family to be rich.
Speaking of gender equality, Isabel dos Santos has managed to earn her place in the ranks among Africa’s greats, as its 8th richest individual, and its richest woman. In 1997, Isabel started Miami Beach Club, her first business and one of the first night club/beach restaurants in Luanda Island. The Electrical Engineering graduate of King’s College owns a number of assets in Angola, including 25% of Unitel, the largest mobile phone company in the country. Among her diverse investment portfolio is 19% of Banco BPI, Angola’s largest bank ,and 7% of Galp Energia, an oil and gas company. She is currently worth $3.2B.
Nathan Kirsh is a controversial business magnate, born in Potchefstroom, South Africa, with a property empire spanning across Australia, Swaziland, and the UK. The $4B worth Kirsh made his first mark into the business arena when he founded Swaziland Mills, a Swaziland corn-milling company. His wealth is linked to retail and real estate.
Sixth is Egyptian Nassef Sawiris. Nassef Sawiris is the richest man from Egypt. He is another son of Onsi Sawiris, the businessman who founded Orascom group. Nassef joined his father’s venture in 1982, and in 2015 Orascom split into Orascom construction, where Nassef serves as non-executive Chairman, and Orascom Construction Industries, where he serves as a Chief Executive Officer. He is currently worth $4.4B.
At Position five is Johann Rupert, sourcing his $5.4B net worth to luxury goods. He is the eldest son of Anton Rupert who founded Voorbrand, a tobacco company that was later renamed Rembrandt. The Rembrandt group founded Richemont a holdings Swiss company for leading luxury goods companies and Remgro, an investment company with particular interests in food, liquor and home care, financial, and industrial companies. Johann Rupert currently chairs both companies.
Nicholas Oppenheimer drops in at fourth, with a net worth $6.6B attributed to his diamond business. Nicky joined Anglo American as the Personal Assistant to the Chairman in 1968, and quickly moved up the ranks to deputy Chairman in 1983. While he amassed some of his wealth from Anglo American, the major source of his wealth is his inheritance of De Beers, one of the leaders in the diamond industry, and Tswalu Kalahari Reserve the largest private game reserve in South Africa. Nicholas succeeded his forefathers as the Chairman of De Beers in 1998, in what is sometimes referred to as the Oppenheimer Dynasty, thus inheriting the family business.
Third, Christoffel Wiese, another South African who earned his place in the ranks, worth $7.3B. Christoffel Wiese grew up in Upington, Northern Cape in South Africa. As a trained lawyer, Christoffer left the Cape bar to join a family business as a Director of Pepkor, which originated as the discount clothing retail chain Pep Stores. His Pepkor group currently operates more than 4000 retails with major operations in South Africa, Australia and Poland.
The Nigerian Michael Adenuga comes second, with a net worth $10.3B. He grew up in the Lagos, Nigeria. Michael worked as a taxi driver to help fund his MBA at Pace University in New York, and he started making his fortune by trading lace and Coca-Cola. In 1991, Mike founded Conoil, which operates 6 oil blocks in the Niger Delta. The company has three major operating sectors, White products, Lubricants and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), it mainly engages in the manufacture and marketing various petroleum products. He also owns Globacom, the second largest telecommunications company in Nigeria; also operating in Ghana and the Republic of Benin.
Thus finally, the man, richest in Africa, Aliko Dangote. The Nigerian businessman founded Dangote Group in 1981 and thereafter transformed it into a conglomerate comprised of Dangote Sugar Refinery, Dangote Flour and Dangote Cement. Dangote Cement is the biggest cement producer in Africa, with capacity of over 20 million metric tones per annum, while Dangote Sugar Refinery boasts being the largest sugar producer in Africa, and third in the world, producing an estimated 800 thousand tons of sugar annually. Dangote has expanded his reach beyond Nigeria to West Africa, and across sub Sahara, with a major presence in Nigeria, Ghana, and Togo. He has been ranked as the richest African since 2013, and his net worth currently stands at $16.4B.
With that, ladies and gentlemen, I literally have nothing more to add. There you have it, the African billionaire club.