From left: Nicky Oppenheimer of South Africa, Aliko Dangote of Nigeria and Nassef Sawiris of Egypt
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 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.
Our lists 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.