Top 5 billionaires in Africa and how they made their money

Billionaires in Africa – In January this year, Forbes released a list of the wealthiest people on the African continent. Altogether, the 20 African tycoons who made the list are worth $68.7 billion, putting them at an average net worth of $3.4 billion per person.

In a per country ranking, Egypt and South Africa have the highest country representatives with five billionaires each, Nigeria follows with four and Morocco with two. The Forbes list had one billionaire each from Algeria, Angola, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, and there were two women in the mix.

In this piece, we highlight the 5 billionaires in Africa and how they made their money.

Aliko Dangote (Net worth: $10.3 B)

Billionaires in Africa – Aliko Dangote’s journey to fortune is not a rag to riches story. He came from a wealthy family that was able to provide financial assistance to start his business. Regardless of this, he deserves credit for carving a niche of greatness for himself by becoming independent and staying away from family business to set up his own. Over the years, Dangote has expanded into new business segments, including telecommunications, real estate and steel manufacturing. Today his holding company, Dangote Group, is the largest conglomerate in West Africa.

At a very early age, Dangote took interest in entrepreneurship. He took a huge loan from his rich grandfather to start his small trade in cement business and later joined his uncle, “Usman”, who had formed solid ties with the military government and got rice importation deals in 1970.

When Murtala Muhammad came into power, his uncle was one of those awarded government contracts to decongest the Nigerian Seaport in Lagos and made a huge fortune from the contract. During the Shagari regime, there was an unprecedented importation of essential commodities and products. As at then, Dangote’s company, known as Alco, was a major importer. He also supplied huge tonnage of cement to government.

Mike Adenuga (Net worth: $9.2 B)

Billionaires in Africa – Adenuga come from humble beginnings. He attended the Ibadan Grammar School, Oyo State where he had his secondary school education. He worked as a taxi driver and security guard to support his education while studying at the Northwestern Alva Oklahoma State University and Pace University in New York.

He built is fortune in mobile telecom and oil production. Adenuga launched Globacom mobile phone network in 2006. The mobile phone network has reached about 30 million subscribers, advancing its operation in West Africa. Thus far, it has been operating in Nigeria, Benin, Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

The Nigerian magnate’s story to fortune began when he was 26 and had returned to Nigeria after studying in the US. He took over his mother’s sawmill business and distributed lace and other materials. He also sold Coca Cola and made some powerful friends in the Nigerian military. He relied on those relationships to get lucrative state construction contracts. Nigeria’s former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, awarded him an oil prospecting license. He used that to build Conoil and became the first Nigerian to strike oil in commercial quantities.

Nicholas F. Oppenheimer(Net worth:$7.3 B)

Like Dangote, Nicky was born into a wealthy family. His father, Harry Frederick Oppenheimer was a successful businessman in South Africa and one of the world’s richest men. In 2004, he was voted 60th in the SABC3’s Great South Africans. He was the chairman of Anglo-American Corporation for 25 years and chairman of De Beers for 27 years until he retired and passed on the position to his heir, Nicky.

De Beers is a diamond mining company. During an auction in the year 2016, the rare Oppenheimer Blue diamond, was sold for $57.5 million which set a record for the most expensive diamond sold at an auction. The Oppenheimer family maintained a dominating place in the world’s diamond trade for a really long time.

In 2012, Nicholas Oppenheimer sold his 40% stake in DeBeers to mining corporate ‘Anglo American’ for $5.1 billion. He is also a non-executive director of Anglo-American Corporation. – billionaires in Africa

Nassef Sawiris (Net worth:$6.3 B) 

Nassef Sawiris is Egypt’s richest man with a fortune Forbes estimates at $7.2 billion. 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. He owns 30 percent of OCI, a Geleen, Netherlands-based contractor which was formed out of a demerger from his family’s original business, Orascom Construction.

His holdings include stakes in cement giant Lafarge Holcim and Adidas. Last July, he teamed up with Fortress Investment Group’s Wes Edens to purchase a majority stake in Aston Villa Football Club.

His father founded a construction company in 1950. By the time Sawiris was eight years old, it had become one of Egypt’s largest contractors, building roads and waterways along Egypt’s upper Nile region. The business was nationalized in 1961 by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and renamed El Nasr Civil Works Company.

Here is how his story to riches panned out:

After a couple of years, his dad founded a new company called Orascom Construction Industries. Nassef, who left for college in the U.S. returned in 1982 with a degree in economics from the University of Chicago. He rejoined his father and two older brothers at OCI, which by that time had diversified into communications and real estate. By the end of the decade, the company had split into three separate entities: Orascom Telecom, helmed by the oldest brother Naguib; Orascom Hotels and Development, headed by the middle brother Samih; and Orascom Construction, now led by Nassef. As CEO, he focused on expanding the business abroad and into a new sector — cement and building materials — a division he sold to Lafarge in 2008 for $12.8 billion.

That same year, he entered the fertilizer business with the purchase of Egyptian Fertilizer Company. Through the expansion of its own operations and acquisitions, Orascom’s fertilizer operation grew to become the world’s third-largest nitrogen-based fertilizer producer.

billionaires in Africa- In January 2013, a consortium of investors led by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, invested $1 billion in Orascom Construction Industries to help the Sawiris family transfer the company’s listing from the Cairo Stock Exchange to NYSE Euronext Amsterdam. The company, renamed OCI, started trading in Amsterdam on Jan. 25, 2013. Two years later, OCI spun off its construction business into a separate company, dual-listed on the Dubai and Cairo stock exchanges.

Johann Rupert(Net worth:$5.3 B)

According to Bloomberg, Rupert controls the world’s largest luxury watchmaker, Cie. Financiere Richemont, through a family trust. The Bellevue, Switzerland-based company’s brands include Jaeger-LeCoultre and Cartier. His other holdings include Remgro, a Stellenbosch, South Africa-based investment vehicle with stakes in more than 30 companies.

The majority of Rupert’s fortune is derived from Cie. Financiere Richemont, a publicly-traded luxury goods manufacturer and retailer, and the world’s largest luxury watchmaker, according to Bloomberg Intelligence data.

Parties associated with Johann Rupert and his family investment vehicle, Cie. Financiere Rupert, own 0.5 percent of the luxury company’s Class A shares, which are publicly traded, according to its annual report for the year to March 31, 2018. Through Switzerland-based Compagnie Financiere Rupert, the family owns all Class B shares, which do not trade and have one-tenth the economic value of Class A shares, according to the report.


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Henry Cobblah

Henry Cobblah is a Tech Developer, Entrepreneur, and a Journalist. With over 15 Years of experience in the digital media industry, he writes for over 7 media agencies and shows up for TV and Radio discussions on Technology, Sports and Startup Discussions.

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