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The Billionaires’ List: Africa’s Richest People 2021

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Altogether, the 18 billionaires from Africa this year are worth $73.8 billion, slightly more than the $73.4 billion aggregate worth of the 20 billionaires on last year’s list of Africa’s richest people.

In Africa—as elsewhere in the world—the wealthiest have come through the pandemic just fine. The continent’s 18 billionaires are worth an average $4.1 billion, 12% more than a year ago, driven in part by Nigeria’s surging stock market. For the tenth year in a row, Aliko Dangote of Nigeria is the continent’s richest person, worth $12.1 billion, up by $2 billion from last year’s list thanks to a roughly 30% rise in the share price of Dangote Cement, by far his most valuable asset. The second richest is Nassef Sawiris of Egypt, whose largest asset is a nearly 6% stake in sportswear maker Adidas. At number three: Nicky Oppenheimer of South Africa, who inherited a stake in diamond firm DeBeers and ran the company until 2012, when he sold his family’s 40% stake in DeBeers to mining giant AngloAmerican for $5.1 billion.

The biggest gainer this year is another Nigerian cement tycoon, Abdulsamad Rabiu. Remarkably, shares of his BUA Cement PLC, which listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange in January 2020, have doubled in value in the past year. That pushed Rabiu’s fortune up by an extraordinary 77%, to $5.5 billion. One thing to note: Rabiu and his son together own about 97% of the company, giving the company a tiny public float. The Nigerian Stock Exchange requires that either 20% or more of a company’s shares be floated to the public, or that the floated shares are worth at least 20 billion naira — about $50 million — a paltry sum, to be sure. A spokesman for the Nigerian Stock Exchange told Forbes that BUA Cement meets the second requirement. (Forbes discounts the value of stakes when the public float of a company is less than 5%.) 

While some got richer by the billions, two from the 2020 list of Africa’s richest dropped below the $1 billion mark. In fact, the only two women billionaires from Africa have both fallen off the list. Forbes calculates that the fortune of Folorunsho Alakija of Nigeria, who owns an oil exploration company, dropped below $1 billion due to lower oil prices. And Isabel dos Santos, who since 2013 has been the richest woman in Africa, was knocked from her perch by a series of court decisions freezing her assets in both Angola and Portugal. In January 2020, the attorney general of Angola charged Dos Santos with embezzlement and money laundering. The Angolan court claimed that actions taken by Dos Santos, her husband Sindika Dokolo (who died in October 2020, reportedly in a scuba diving accident) and one other associate caused the Angolan government losses of at least $1.14 billion. Forbes has marked Dos Santos’ frozen assets at zero. Through a spokesperson, Dos Santos declined to comment.

The 18 billionaires from Africa hail from seven different countries. South Africa and Egypt each have five billionaires, followed by Nigeria with three and Morocco with two. Altogether they are worth $73.8 billion, slightly more than the $73.4 billion aggregate worth of the 20 billionaires on last year’s list of Africa’s richest people.

1. Aliko Dangote

Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Net worth: $12.1 billion
Rank in 2020: 1
Net worth in 2020: $10.1 billion
Self-made
Origin of wealth: Cement, sugar
Industry: Manufacturing
Age: 63
Country: Nigeria
Residence: Lagos
Education: Al-Azhar University, Bachelor of Arts/Science

Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest person, founded and chairs Dangote Cement, the continent’s largest cement producer. He owns 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 and sugar manufacturing companies. Dangote Refinery has been under construction since 2016 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

Photographer: Stephen Yang/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Net worth: $8.5 billion
Rank in 2020: 2
Net worth in 2020: $8 billion
Origin of wealth: Construction, chemicals
Industry: Construction and engineering
Age: 59
Country: Egypt
Residence: Cairo
Education: University of Chicago, Bachelor of Arts/Science

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 Aston Villa Football Club.

3. Nicky Oppenheimer & family

(Photo credit JOHN D MCHUGH/AFP via Getty Images)

Net worth: $8 billion
Rank in 2020: 3
Net worth in 2020: $7.7 billion
Origin of wealth: Diamonds
Industry: metal and mining
Age: 75
Country: South Africa
Residence: Johannesburg
Education: Oxford University Christ Church, Master of Arts/Science, Oxford

Oppenheimer, heir to his family’s fortune, sold his 40% stake in diamond firm De Beers 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.”

4. Johann Rupert & family

Net worth: $7.2 billion
Rank in 2020: 5
Net worth in 2020: $6.5 billion
Origin of wealth: Luxury goods
Industry: Fashion and retail
Age: 70
Country: South Africa
Residence: Cape Town

Johann 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.

4. Mike Adenuga

Net worth: $6.3 billion
Rank in 2020: 3
Net worth in 2020: $7.7 billion
Self-made
Origin of wealth: Telecom, oil
Industry: Diversified
Age: 67
Country: Nigeria
Residence: Lagos
Education: Pace University, Master of Business Administration

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 55 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.

Adenuga got an MBA at Pace University in New York, supporting himself as a student by working as a taxi driver.

6. Abdulsamad Rabiu

Net worth: $5.5 billion
Rank in 2020: 8
Net worth in 2020: $3.1 billion
Origin of wealth: Cement, sugar
Industry: Diversified
Age: 60
Country: Nigeria
Residence: Lagos

Abdulsamad 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.

7. Issad Rebrab & family

Net worth: $4.8 billion
Rank in 2020: 6
Net worth: $4.4 billion
Self-made
Origin of wealth:
 Food
Industry: Food and beverage
Age: 77
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.

“We [Algerians] have great potential; we can make up for lost time.”

8. Naguib Sawiris

Net worth: $3.2 billion
Rank in 2020: 9
Net worth in 2020: $3 billion
Origin of wealth: Telecom
Industry: Telecom
Age: 66
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 is chairman of Orascom TMT Investments, which has stakes in an asset manager in Egypt and Italian internet company Italiaonline, among others. Through his Media Globe Holdings, Sawiris owns 88% of pan-European pay TV and video news network Euronews. He also developed a luxury resort called Silversands on the Caribbean island of 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.

9. Patrice Motsepe

Net worth: $3 billion
Rank in 2020: 10
Net worth in 2020: $2.6 billion
Self-made
Origin of wealth: Mining
Industry: Metals and mining
Age: 58
Country: South Africa
Residence: Johannesburg

Patrice 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. In 1994, he became the first black partner at law firm Bowman Gilfillan in Johannesburg, and then started a contracting business doing mine scut work. In 1997, he bought low-producing gold mine shafts and later turned them profitable.

Did you know?

In 2013, the mining magnate was the first African to sign Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, promising to give at least half his fortune to charity. Motsepe benefited from South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) laws, mandating that companies be at least 26% black-owned to get a government mining license.

10. Koos Bekker

Networth: $2.8 billion
Rank in 2020: 11
Net worth in 2020: $2.5 billion
Self-made
Origin of wealth: Media, investments
Industry: Media and entertainment
Age: 68
Country: South Africa
Residence: Cape Town
Education: Columbia Business School, Master of Business Administration; University of Witwatersrand, LLB

Koos Bekker is revered for transforming South African newspaper publisher Naspers into an eCommerce investor & 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, the 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.

11. Mohamed Mansour

Net worth: $2.5 billion
Rank in 2020: 7
Net worth in 2020: $3.3 billion
Self-made
Origin of wealth: Diversified
Industry: Diversified
Age: 72
Country: Egypt
Residence: Cairo
Education: Auburn University, Master of Business Administration

Mohamed 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.

Did You Know?

Mansour’s father lost his fortune, when Egypt’s then president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, expropriated his cotton trading company in 1964. Mansour worked as a busboy in a pizza parlor while at North Carolina State University to pay for college.

“Empowering best in class management teams is the only way to transform a local player into a diversified conglomerate with multinational exposure.”

12. Aziz Akhannouch & family

Net worth: $2 billion
Rank in 2020: 15
Net worth in 2020: $3.1 billion
Origin of wealth: petroleum, diversified
Industry: Diversified
Age: 60
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.

13. Mohammed Dewji

Net worth: $1.6 billion
Rank in 2020: 16
Net worth in 2020: $1.6 billion
Origin of wealth: Diversified
Industry: Diversified
Age: 45
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.

14. Youssef Mansour

Net worth: $1.5 billion
Rank in 2020: 14
Net worth in 2020: $1.9 billion
Self-made
Origin of wealth: Diversified
Industry: Diversified
Age: 75
Country: Egypt
Residence: Cairo
Education: Auburn University, Master of Business Administration; North Carolina State University, Bachelor of Science in Engineering

Youssef 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. Othman Benjelloun & family

Net worth: $1.3 billion
Rank in 2020: 17
Net worth in 2020: $1.4 billion
Origin of wealth: Banking, insurance
Industry: Finance and investments
Age: 88
Education: Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne, Diploma

Othman 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, 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.

16. Michiel Le Roux

Net worth: $1.2 billion
Rank in 2020: 18
Net worth in 2020: $1.3 billion
Self-made
Origin of wealth: Banking
Industry: Finance and investments
Age: 71
Country: South Africa
Residence: Stellenbosch

Michiel 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.

16. Strive Masiyiwa

Net worth: $1.2 billion
Rank in 2020: 19
Net worth in 2020: $1.1 billion
Self-made
Origin of wealth: Telecom
Industry: Telecom
Age: 59
Country: Zimbabwe
Residence: London
Education: University of Wales, Bachelor of Engineering

Strive 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.

18. Yasseen Mansour

Net worth: $1.1 billion
Rank in 2020: 12
Net worth in 2020: $2.3 billion
Self-made
Origin of wealth: Diversified
Industry: Diversified
Age: 59
Country: Egypt
Residence: Cairo
Education: George Washington University

Yasseen 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.

Source: Forbes Africa