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Portfolio > Alternative Investments > Real Estate

Top 10 African Billionaires

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Africa has attracted increasing interest as a growth story in recent years, with its abundant natural resources, thriving economies and demographics that promise to be a boon for retail investors.

As yet, Africa is sparsely populated with ultrawealthy individuals. The continent’s 55 billionaires have a combined fortune of $144 billion, according to Nigeria-based Ventures magazine’s survey of the richest people in Africa. Their average net worth is $2.6 billion.

All told, there are 1,453 individuals in the world with personal wealth of $1 billion or more, according to the Hurun Report. Asia is home to the largest share of billionaires with 608 individuals, followed by North America with 440 and Europe with 324.

Africa’s billionaires range in age from 38 to 84, Ventures reports. They derived their fortunes from a variety of business ventures, including financial services, mining, construction, energy and retail.

Three women made it into Ventures’ 2013 rankings, one into the top 10. The other two are Isabel Dos Santos, an Angolan investor and the daughter of Angola’s president, Eduardo Dos Santos, and Mama Ngina Kenyatta, the widow of Kenya’s first president.

In all, 10 African countries are represented on the billionaire list. Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt lead the pack with 20, nine and eight, respectively.

Following are the 10 richest people in Africa, according to Ventures.

10. Christoffel Wiese

Net worth: $3.4 billion
Industry: Retail
Country Of Citizenship:
South Africa

Wiese is the chairman of Shoprite, Africa’s biggest discount retailer (not to be confused with the ShopRite grocery chain in the Northeastern U.S.), and its largest individual shareholder, with a 15% stake in the $7 billion company. He also owns significant stakes in other Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed companies, including Invicta Holdings, PSG Holdings, Tradehold and Brait, a private equity firm. Other assets include a private game reserve in the Kalahari and Lourensford Wine Estate.

9. Nathan Kirsh

Net worth: $3.6 billion
Industry: Real Estate, Distribution
Country of citizenship: Swaziland
Age: 82

The bulk of Kirsh’s fortune is held in various property and distribution companies. His investment firm, Kirsh Holding Group, has a 50% stake in Swazi Plaza Properties, which owns the largest shopping mall in Swaziland. He also holds a 29% stake in Minerva, a London-based property developer, and a 63% stake in Jetro Holdings, which operates Jetro Cash and Carry stores and Restaurant Depots in the New York City area. Kirsh is also the largest individual shareholder in Magal Security Systems, a developer and supplier of control systems and intruder detection systems.

8. Gilbert Chagoury & Family

Net worth: $4.2 billion
Industry: Construction
Country of Citizenship:

Born to immigrant Lebanese parents, Chagoury is a co-founder of the Chagoury Group, a multifaceted Nigerian conglomerate with interests in manufacturing, construction, real estate, hospitality and health care. Today, the Chagoury Group owns five flour-milling companies in Nigeria and Benin, as well as a glass bottle manufacturing plant and a plastic bottle manufacturing operation. Other assets include two five-star hotels in Lagos and Port Harcourt, and a high-end real estate development company.

Chagoury’s career has been marked by controversy. In 2001, in a British court, he admitted to helping the family of deceased Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha transfer $300 million into foreign accounts. He returned the money and was indemnified of charges.

7. Nassef Sawiris

Net worth: $5.2 billion
Country of citizenship:

Sawiris is the youngest of the three sons of Egyptian billionaire Onsi Sawiris, founder of the Orascom conglomerate. Nassef Sawiris heads Orascom Construction Industries, one of the largest companies in North Africa. In January, he announced that OCI was exchanging all the company’s global depositary receipts for newly issued shares of OCI NV on the NYSE Euronext in Amsterdam or in exchange for cash. A consortium of investors, including Bill Gates, provided the $1 billion in fresh capital required to pay off investors. The overwhelming majority of shareholders accepted the buyout offer, which subsequently led to the company’s delisting on the EGX. Nassef also serves as a director at Lafarge, the French cement giant, and the Dubai International Financial Exchange.

6. Johann Rupert

Net worth: $6.1 billion
Luxury goods and retail
Country of citizenship:
South Africa

Rupert’s father, Anton, founded a cigarette manufacturing operation, Rembrandt, in 1941 that became one of Africa’s leading tobacco firms, then diversified, splitting into two divisions: Remgro (an investment company with financial, mining and industrial interests) and Compagnie Financière Richemont (the Swiss-based luxury goods group that owns premium brands such as Cartier, Dunhill, IWC Schaffhausen, Piaget and Vacheron Constantin).

Johann Rupert is chairman and the largest individual shareholder in both companies. He also owns two of South Africa’s best-known vineyards, Rupert & Rothschild and L’Ormarins, and founded the Franschhoek Motor Museum, which houses his personal collection of some 200 antique motor vehicles.

5. Nicky Oppenheimer

Net worth: $6.5 billion
Mining, investments
Country of citizenship:
South Africa

In November 2011, Oppenheimer sold off his family’s stake in De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer, to mining behemoth Anglo American. The $5.1 billion deal ended the Oppenheimer family’s eight-decade control of De Beers, which began when Nicky’s grandfather, Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, took over the firm in 1927 and consolidated its global monopoly over the world’s diamond industry. In 2011, E. Oppenheimer & Sons, the family-owned investment firm that Nicky Oppenheimer controls, partnered with Temasek, Singapore’s sovereign investment firm, to form Tana Africa Capital, a $300 million private equity fund that invests in the fast-moving consumer goods and agriculture sectors.

4. Folorunsho Alakija

Net worth: $7.3 billion
Country of citizenship:

Africa’s richest woman, Alakija heads Famfa Oil, a Nigerian company that owns a 60% stake in OML 127, one of Nigeria’s most prolific oil blocks. In the 1980s, Alakija, who had studied fashion design in England, founded Supreme Stitches, a Nigerian fashion label that enjoyed patronage by successful women in high society, including the wife of the former Nigerian military president Ibrahim Babangida.

Alakija is believed to have leveraged this relationship to acquire an oil block in 1993 at a relatively inexpensive price. Famfa immediately entered into a joint venture agreement with Star Deep Water Petroleum (a subsidiary of Chevron and Brazil’s Petrobras), ceding a 40% stake to the two companies. Famfa’s 60% interest in the block became the subject of a 12-year court battle with the government after 2001. The Nigerian Supreme court settled the matter in Famfa Oil’s favor in May 2013.

Alakija also owns $200 million of real estate in the United Kingdom.

3. Mike Adenuga

Net worth: $8 billion
Oil, telecoms
Country of Citizenship:

Adenuga, Nigeria’s second-richest man, made his first fortune in his mid-20s by distributing lace fabrics and Coca-Cola, and by handling lucrative government contracts during the regime of former Nigerian military president, Ibrahim Babangida. In the early 1990s, he founded Conoil Producing, an indigenous oil exploration and production outfit that was the first Nigerian company to strike oil in commercial quantities.

Adenuga’s other holdings include Globacom, a Nigerian mobile telecommunications network that boasts more than 25 million customers in Nigeria and Benin. He also owns a 74% stake in Conoil PLC, a petroleum marketing company listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

2. Allan Gray

Net worth: $8.5 billion
Financial services
Country of citizenship:
South Africa

Gray and his family are controlling shareholders of two investment companies that collectively manage more than $50 billion in assets. Gray, who holds a Harvard MBA, founded Allan Gray Ltd., now the largest privately owned asset manager in South Africa with approximately $30 billion under management, in Cape Town in 1973. In 1989, he founded Orbis, a Bermuda asset manager that has more than $21 billion under management. Six years ago, Gray endowed his Allan Gray Orbis Foundation with $130 million, the single largest charity gift in Southern Africa at the time. The foundation funds scholarships for poor but promising South African high school students.

1. Aliko Dangote

Net worth: $20.2 billion
Country of citizenship:

Dangote, Africa’s richest man, started building his fortune three decades ago, trading in commodities. In the early 2000s, he started producing these items himself. His Dangote Group is now the largest manufacturing conglomerate in West Africa; it owns sugar refineries, salt processing facilities and a beverage manufacturer. The group’s biggest asset is Dangote Cement, a $20 billion cement manufacturer with operations in 14 countries.

Dangote is also Africa’s most generous philanthropist. Within the last 12 months, he has given away more than $100 million to causes ranging from youth empowerment to flood relief, religious causes and education.

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