How long it would take to become the richest person in South Africa

The massive wealth gap between the rich and the poor is a topic which gets pulled into focus on a regular basis on platforms such as the World Economic Forum, and Oxfam.

Earlier in 2016, the latter, a charity and civil rights group, published a report showing that the 62 wealthiest individuals in the world hold the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population – around $1.72 trillion.

The figure is staggering by any measure, but is also lost in its enormity. For example, the wealth of the world’s richest man, Bill Gates, sits at $75 billion – a figure which is only put into perspective when you realise South Africa’s richest man, Nicky Oppenheimer’s $6.6 billion fortune is 11 times smaller.

To put Oppenheimer’s wealth into perspective – it would take the average South African 434,000 years to build the same fortune. South Africans earning the average minimum wage would have to work 2.8 million years to achieve the same result.

Read: How much money the average person in South Africa gets paid

So ridiculous is billionaire wealth, that with a mere 6% return on Gates’ wealth he would match the weekly South African wage (around R4,370) in a matter of seconds (under 3 seconds, at current exchange rates).

Using data from Expertmarket.co.uk, as well as local data from Stats SA and information from the International Labour Organization and OECD, we take a look at how long it would take for minimum wage and average wage earners to match the wealth of the richest person in their country.

The wages below represent the average and minimum hourly wages in each of the countries listed, based on a 40 hour work week (expressed in USD).

How long it would take a minimum wage earner to become their country’s richest person:

Country Richest person Wealth (Forbes 2016) Minimum hourly wage Years needed to work
Australia Gina Rinehart $8.8 billion $15.58 271 551
UK Hinduja family $14.5 billion $11.85 588 283
Japan Tadashi Yanai $14.6 billion $6.54 1 073 277
Germany Beate Heister $25.9 billion $11.28 1 103 894
Canada David Thomson $23.8 billion $9.45 1 210 826
France Liliane Bettencourt $36.1 billion $12.83 1 352 749
South Africa Nicky Oppenheimer $6.6 billion $1.14 2 783 401
USA Bill Gates $75 billion $7.25 4 973 475
Brazil Jorge Paulo Lemann $27.8 billion $2.12 6 304 427
Russia Leonid Mikhelson $14.4 billion $0.93 7 444 169
Nigeria Aliko Dangote $15.4 billion $0.65 11 390 533
China Wang Jianlin $28.7 billion $0.80 17 247 596
India Mukesh Ambani $19.3 billion $0.31 29 931 762
Mexico Carlos Slim Helu $50 billion $0.69 34 838 350

How long it would take an average wage earner to become their country’s richest person:

Country Richest person Wealth (Forbes 2016) Average hourly wage Years needed to work
Australia Gina Rinehart $8.8 billion $26.74 158 219
UK Hinduja family $14.5 billion $19.75 352 970
Japan Tadashi Yanai $14.6 billion $17.97 390 608
South Africa Nicky Oppenheimer $6.6 billion $7.31 434 073
Canada David Thomson $23.8 billion $24.99 457 875
Germany Beate Heister $25.9 billion $25.46 489 078
France Liliane Bettencourt $36.1 billion $21.19 819 055
USA Bill Gates $75 billion $25.08 1 437 707
Russia Leonid Mikhelson $14.4 billion $3.43 2 018 390
China Wang Jianlin $28.7 billion $4.50 3 066 239
Mexico Carlos Slim Helu $50 billion $6.67 3 603 967
Nigeria Aliko Dangote $15.4 billion $1.59 4 656 507
Brazil Jorge Paulo Lemann $27.8 billion $2.83 4 722 751
India Mukesh Ambani $19.3 billion $0.40 23 197 115

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How long it would take to become the richest person in South Africa