Voice of America (Washington, DC)

Africa: Survey Lists 55 Billionaires in Africa

Johannesburg — There are at least 55 billionaires on the African continent. That's according to the Africa's Richest survey from Venture Africa, an Africa-based business magazine.

There are 10 countries represented on the list, with Nigeria leading the way with 20 billionaires, South Africa with nine and Egypt with eight.

The combined wealth of Africa's 55 billionaires is $143.88 billion, and the average wealth is $2.6 billion.

The richest man on the list is Aliko Dangote, whose investments in manufacturing three decades ago have grown into a $20.2 billion net worth. He is followed by South African investor Allan Gray and Nigerian oil and telecom businessman Mike Adenuga.

Of Nigeria's billionaires, 13 have significant or total investments in the oil business, and mining is a sector tapped by many on the list across the continent.

The Venture Africa survey has more than triple the number of billionaires reported by previous lists. Forbes Magazine noted only 16 billionaires in Africa in late 2012.

Venture Africa's Publisher Chi Chi Okonjo said his magazine's Nigerian and South African base help with having more information than some lists - which is why his survey is more comprehensive.

"We know, because we have people on ground, some of these people are actually people we know personally," Okonjo explained. "So we know their assets... .That's the difference... .You really need to be on ground to know what's happening. So we're able to provide much more detailed information."

His editorial staff calculated wealth through publicly held shares, privately held companies, investment bankers, financial analysts and other financial barometers.

Okonjo said Africans also tend to be quiet about their wealth.

"Wealth is still somewhat taboo in Africa. People prefer discuss what they are doing for their communities rather than how much money they have. It's just a cultural thing," he noted. "So people don't like to discuss how much money they have or how much they've amassed."

Dr. Azar Jammine, director of Econometrix, an economic consulting firm in Johannesburg, said this growing number of billionaires might not be a great sign for the overall economic health of the continent.

"Essentially it's also a reflection of growing, it seems to be going hand in hand, with growing inequality around the world. Not everyone is getting rich at the same pace. The rich appear to be getting richer faster than the poor are getting richer, " Jammine said.

According to Jammine, the economic growth comes from fast and large population growth, an increase in commodities prices such as oil, and the growth of the Chinese economy, which has heavily invested in Africa.

Okonjo said he wasn't surprised at all by the findings, though they were quite conservative with their estimations of wealth, just to be safe.

"I do think the number is a whole lot more than the 55 that we have, so we're not surprised. We actually expected a bit more from some of the places," he admitted. "I believe that we have a few more entrepreneurs who at some point in time will list their assets or make their business a bit more transparent."

Okonjo expects that next year's list of billionaires will be even larger.

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