There were 25 billionaires from Africa on Forbes’ list in 2017.
Out of the top five, three come from wealthy family dynasties and are either second- or third-generation heirs.
Unlike in the US, Africa’s richest people haven’t made their billions on tech - they’re in construction, goods and service provision.
There are only two women on the list - Isabel dos Santos from Angola and Folorunsho Alakija of Nigeria.
One thing we can learn from African billionaires is that you don’t have to strike oil or diamonds to become rich. From capitalising on cement to selling cigarettes from a garage, our richest businessmen have kept creativity key in their business ventures and have built their empires from scratch - some even did it twice!
Their lifestyles might be very exclusive and seem unattainable to the rest of us, but moguls and magnates are all around us right here on African soil.
Here are 5 of the richest families in Africa:
1. The Dangotes, Nigeria
Aliko Dangote is Africa's richest man with a net worth of $11.3bn (R163bn) according to Forbes. Dangote founded and chairs Dangote Cement, the continent's largest cement producer and his fortune amounts to about three percent of Nigeria's total GDP. Dangote also owns stakes in publicly traded salt, sugar and flour manufacturing companies. Not much is known about the heirs of the Dangote group but between Dangote’s three daughters Halima Bello (Dangote), Maria Dangote and Fatima Dangote, and his adopted son Abdulrahman Fasasi, there are a few successors to keep an eye on.
2. The Oppenheimers, South Africa
For 85 years until 2012, the Oppenheimer family occupied a controlling spot in the world's diamond trade. It all started in 1917 when Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, a diamond and gold mining entrepreneur, founded the Anglo-American Corporation of South Africa and became chairman of the De Beers diamond company in 1929. His son Harry Oppenheimer was also the chairman of both the Anglo-American Corporation and De Beers Consolidated Mines. Nicky Oppenheimer, Harry’s son and the heir to the family fortune, was the third generation of his family to run DeBeers. Today, his net worth stands at $7.6bn (R109,73bn) which makes him the richest man in South Africa according to Forbes. Nicky’s only son, Jonathan, is currently the Director of E Oppenheimer & Son Ltd.
3. The Sawiris, Egypt
The Sawiris are the wealthiest family in Egypt. Onsi, head of the family, founded Orascom Construction in 1950 but faced strong headwinds early in his career when Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalised his company. Undeterred, Onsi rebuilt Orascom from scratch under the more business-friendly presidency of Anwar Sadat, creating what eventually became Orascom Construction Industries. His three sons now run the conglomerate, which operates in three major sectors: construction, telecommunications and tourism. Two of Onsi’s sons, Nassef and Naguib, are also billionaires. Nassef, who took over the company from his father in 1995, is currently ranked 251st on Forbes’ list of billionaires with a net worth of $7bn (R101bn).
4. The Ruperts, South Africa
Anton and Johann Rupert are familiar names in South African business circles with the father-son duo both featuring on Forbes’ list of billionaires in their own eras. From selling cigarettes in his garage to building the tobacco and industrial conglomerate Rembrandt, Anton Rupert’s story is one for the books. In 1998, Rembrandt split into Remgro (an investment company with financial, mining and industrial interests) and Richemont (a Swiss-based luxury goods group). Anton’s son Johann Rupert is now the chairman of Compagnie Financiere Richemont, known for the brands Cartier and Montblanc. Johann Rupert’s net worth currently stands at $6.5bn (R93bn) according to Forbes. Johann has three children, Anton Jr, Hanneli and Caroline.
5. The Adenugas, Nigeria
Mike Adenuga was once a humble taxi driver in the United States; today he sits on a multi-billion-dollar Nigerian corporation. With a net worth of $4.1bn (R59,2bn) according to Forbes, Mike Adenuga is Nigeria's second richest man. The self-made billionaire made his first million at age 26 selling lace and distributing Coca-Cola. In 2003, Mike founded Nigeria’s second largest mobile phone network Globacom and consequently hit a gold mine. Mike, fondly referred to as The Bull, also owns a homegrown oil exploration company called Conoil Producing Limited. We’ll have to keep an eye on his eight children to see how the Adenuga family empire grows.
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