Meet Africa’s Billionares fortunes rise on Forbes 2018 list

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> Kerry A. Dolan  

 Buoyed by rising stock markets and commodity prices, Africa's billionaires are collectively wealthier than a year ago. The 23 billionaires that Forbes found in Africa – up from 21 billionaires last year ‑ are worth a combined R75.4 billion, compared to R70 billion in January 2017.

T

he richest African, for the seventh year in a row, is Nigerian cement and commodities tycoon Aliko Dangote, with a net worth that Forbes pegs at R12.2 billion. That is up R100 million from a year ago. Dangote is looking beyond cement – his most valuable asset – and has been investing in a fertiliser production company and a large oil refinery. Dangote Fertilizer is expected to start operations in the second quarter this year.

Number two on the list is diamond mining heir Nicky Oppenheimer of South Africa, with a net worth of R7.7 billion, up R700 million from last year. Oppenheimer is one of eight South Africans on the list, making it the African country with the most billionaires.

Last year, South Africa and Egypt tied with six billionaires each. Boosting the South African ranks this year: newcomer Michiel Le Roux, the founder and former chairman of Johannesburg-listed Capitec Bank Holdings, whose stock has climbed more than 50 percent in the past year, making him a new billionaire worth R1.2 billion. South African mining tycoon Desmond Sacco, chairman of listed Assore Group, returns to the list following a stock price surge of some 60 percent in the past 12 months. Sacco last appeared as a billionaire on Africa’s Richest list in 2012 with a R1.4-billion fortune. (He also appeared on the 2014 Forbes list of the World’s Billionaires, worth R1.3 billion.)

One South African list member would not have made the cut a month ago. In December 2017, the share price of retailer Steinhoff International plunged after the company divulged accounting irregularities. That pushed the net worth of Steinhoff's then-chairman Christoffel Wiese below R1 billion on December 7.

 (Wiese resigned as chairman in December.) In early January the company said it would restate its financial results as far back as 2015 and the share price rebounded enough to put Wiese back in billionaire territory, at least for the moment. Forbes calculated his net worth on January 5 (the day we measured all the billionaires' fortunes) at R1.1 billion, down substantially from R5.5 billion a year ago. (As of January 10, Steinhoff stock dropped again, knocking Wiese's net worth below R1 billion.)

Zimbabwe got its first billionaire this year: telecom magnate Strive Masiyiwa, who chairs the Econet Group. Shares of Zimbabwe-listed mobile phone network Econet Wireless Zimbabwe have surged in value over the past year; Masiyiwa owns more than half of that company. He also has a majority stake in fibre optic firm Liquid Telecom, which raised R700 million in a bond offering in July 2017. Forbes estimates Masiyiwa’s net worth at R1.7 billion.

Just two of the 23 list members are women, unchanged from last year. Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s long-time former president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, is worth an estimated R2.7 billion this year, down from R3.2 billion a year ago. Her net worth dropped in part due to a lower value for Banco BIC, an Angolan bank; its book value plunged in 2016 amid a tough year for the oil-producing country. 

The other woman is Nigeria’s Folorunsho Alakija, whose estimated R1.6 billion fortune lies in oil exploration firm Famfa Oil, which is partnered with Chevron and Petrobras on a lucrative offshore oil field.

Mohammed Dewji of Tanzania is the youngest on the list, at age 42. He inherited a textile and edible oils group from his father and has expanded its operations. Forbes puts his net worth at R1.5 billion. 

The oldest list member is Onsi Sawiris of Egypt, age 88; he started Orascom Construction in 1950. It was nationalized by the government of Abdel Nasser and Sawiris created another construction firm from scratch. 

Two of his three sons are also billionaires, including Nassef Sawiris, who at R6.8 billion is Egypt’s richest man.

 That’s an increase from R5.3 billion a year ago thanks to upticks in the share price of several of his holdings: shoemaker Adidas, cement giant Lafarge-Holcim, and fertiliser maker OCI.

One person dropped off since last year’s list: Anas Sefrioui of Morocco. The share price of his homebuilder, Douja Promotion Groupe Addoha, fell about 30 percent in the past year, pushing his net worth down to R950 million.

Fortunes rose since last year for 13 of the 23 list members, fell for four people and stayed the same for three people.

 The list members hail from a total of eight countries: eight from South Africa, six from Egypt, three from Nigeria, two from Morocco and one list member each from Algeria, Angola, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. - www.forbes.com

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