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Aliko Dangote tops Africa’s billionaires’ list for the tenth time in a row

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Aliko Dangote

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 of $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 to 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. See the full list of Africa’s billionaires here.

METHODOLOGY

Our list tracks the wealth of African billionaires who reside in Africa or have their primary business there, thus excluding Sudanese-born billionaire Mo Ibrahim, who is a U.K. citizen and billionaire London resident Mohamed Al-Fayed, an Egyptian citizen. Strive Masiyiwa, a citizen of Zimbabwe and a London resident appears on the list due to his telecom holdings in Africa.

We calculated net worths using stock prices and currency exchange rates from the close of business on Friday, January 8, 2021. To value privately held businesses, we start with estimates of revenues or profits and apply prevailing price-to-sale or price-to-earnings ratios for similar public companies. Some list members grow richer or poorer within weeks-or days-of our measurement date.

1. Aliko Dangote

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

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

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

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

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.

5. 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.

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