Earlier today, Forbes put out its inaugural list of Africa’s 40 Richest people. It’s yet another example of the world’s increasing interest in the story of Africa’s growth. With growth comes wealth, so naturally we want a look behind the curtain. Who are the people who arereally making it on the continent?
The list provides few surprises, to be honest, but we’re going to take a deeper dive anyway. Here’s what we learned:
1. Concentration. There is enormous concentration in wealth on this list. Pretty much every point here echoes this reality, starting with the fact that …
2. Only a few countries on the continent are represented. All 40 of Africa’s richest people come from six countries. Just two of the entrants are from Kenya and one from Zimbabwe, so really, four countries are at the forefront of this list: South Africa with 15, Egypt with nine, Nigeria with eight, and Morocco with five. If you look at just the billionaires, Egypt jumps to the front of the line with seven of the 16 on the list. Where you are born does matter and not just statistically. Ethiopia has slightly more people than Egypt and the DRC has considerably more than South Africa, but you don’t see either of those countries represented on this list.
3. Huge spread in wealth, even among the richest. A list of the richest people in the U.S. (or many other countries) shows a few at the top and a lot in the middle. Africa isn’t much different: for instance, the wealth of Nicky Oppenheimer and his family, of the DeBeers empire, is equal to 65 percent of that of Aliko Dangote, who tops the list. The numbers drop quickly after that.
4. A handful of industries are leading growth. Again, not surprising that these moguls have made their names in construction, real estate, sugar, flour, cement, telecoms, oil, and financial services by and large. Retail and luxury goods pop up once or twice. We’ll call that the normal course of development.
5. An all-male cast. The list is all men. No surprise there. Africa’s first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is still in charge in Liberia.
We must make mention of Forbes’ methodology—this list does not include Africans that now claim citizenship abroad. Mo Ibrahim, one of Africa’s best known entrepreneurs, is not included due to his residency in the United Kingdom. Our bet is that a few more African countries would be represented if the methodology changed to include members of the diaspora. But that’s likely to be the biggest change. Africa’s 40 Richest is going to be a concentrated list for quite a while.