African Billionaires Numbered at 55

    October 8, 2013

In a recent study conducted by Ventures magazine, a Nigerian business magazine which champions capitalist developments in Africa, has identified at least 55 billionaires on the continent of Africa. While this number is a conservative estimate, according to founder Chi-Chi Okonjo, it is still a drastic increase 16, from the number formerly reported by Forbes.

Chi-Chi Okonjo contributes the under-reporting to the rampant corruption the country faces: “People are not comfortable disclosing their wealth.” OozoEewala, Ventures’s editor-in-chief, says that Africa is a “…culture of you don’t necessarily want to show your wealth, considering the gap between rich and poor.”

Most of the 55 people on the billionaire list have accumulated their wealth through the abundant resources that are available in certain areas of the country. Nigerian manufacturer Aliko Dangote is listed as the richest man on the continent, topping the list with a wealth of $20.2 billion. Dangote earned his money through a lucrative cement business, and then expanded his talents to include flour and sugar businesses. Dangote also has a massive oil investment.

Oil is the most lucrative business in Africa. The youngest billionaire on the list is a 38 year old Nigerian oil trader. The Nigerians, who comprise the majority of the list, make most of their money through the oil business.

The richest woman in Africa, Nigeria’s Folorunsho Alakija, started her career much like Dangote. Alakija was educated in the fashion industry in London, and then returned to her homeland to find work. In Nigeria, she designed clothes for Maryam Babangida, the wife of former Nigerian military leader and ruler Ibrahim Babangida. Through this connection, Alakija was able to acquire an off-shore oil block for a cheap price; business has been booming ever since.

While the population of those in poverty has increased from 205 million to 441 million in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past 30 years, there have still been improvements. One of the members of the billionaire list, 38 year old Tanzanian Mohammed Dewji, is a Sub-Saharan man that has been able to make his fortune through a vast trading company.

Dewji’s success is an indicator of economic improvement in Sub-Saharan Africa. The World Bank has reported a 4.9% increase in economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa this year. The bank’s biannual publication, Africa Pulse, estimates growth in Sub-Saharan Africa to reach 5.3% in 2014 and 5.4% in 2015.

Africa’s increasing wealth has also led to increasing philanthropy. Dangote donated more than $100 million toward the causes of education, healthcare, and disaster relief in Nigeria last year. Nigerian banking billionaire Jom Ovia donated $6.3 million toward ICT training, and Zimbabwean telecoms mogul Strive Massiyiwa pay the school fees for approximately 14,000 children.

While almost 1 in every 2 people live in abject poverty in Africa, the economic status of the continent continues to see positive improvements. One cannot expect a country devastated by extremely invasive imperialism for multiple centuries to rebound overnight. Since Europe and North America have left the continent to its own devices, Africa has continued to make steady improvements. Let’s hope that the spirit involved in economic growth and increased philanthropy also carry over to the humanitarian troubles of the continent.

Image via Wikimedia Commons