The richest people in South Africa at the start of 2021

Data from Forbes’ real-time ranking of billionaires shows that South Africa’s richest people continued to grow their wealth in 2020, although they have fallen behind their international counterparts.

Nicky Oppenheimer, Johann Rupert and Patrice Motsepe all saw their net wealth increase compared to the same period last year.

Despite this increase, the local economy and the coronavirus pandemic has clearly had an impact on their fortunes as a number of billionaires slipped down the international rankings.

The below table shows where South Africa’s billionaires’ fortunes sit at the start of 2021 compared to the start of 2020.

January 2020 January 2021 Billionaire January 2020 net worth January 2021 net worth Source
241 295 Nicky Oppenheimer $7.7 billion $7.8 billion Diamonds
313 354 Johann Rupert $6.5 billion $6.9 billion Luxury Goods
975 1 050 Patrice Motsepe $2.6 billion $2.8 billion Mining
1 040 1 066 Koos Bekker $2.5 billion $2.8 billion Media, Investments
1 809 2 202 Michiel le Roux $1.3 billion $1.2 billion Banking

The further slippage of South Africans down the rankings can be partially attributed to the enormous growth in net worth recorded by other billionaires in 2020.

The world’s 500 richest people added $1.8 trillion to their combined net worth this past year and are now worth a combined $7.6 trillion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Equivalent to a 31% increase, it’s the biggest annual gain in the eight-year history of the index and a $3 trillion jump from the market’s nadir in March.

While the largest increases were recorded at the top of the index, the Covid-19 pandemic also led to some unexpected growth in some areas.

Exuberant markets and a spate of public offerings super-charged wealth creation in China, where the early Covid crisis led to containment efforts more successful than most. The Chinese members of the index added $569 billion to their fortunes – more than any country aside from the US.

Globally, runaway gains by the super-rich have added fuel to populist movements and revived interest in hiking taxes. In Germany, the UK, and certain US states such as California and Washington, lawmakers, activists and academics are pushing to implement wealth taxes to rebuild government coffers drained by the pandemic.

“Surging billionaire wealth hits a painful nerve for the millions of people who have lost loved ones and experienced declines in their health, wealth, and livelihoods,” said Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.

“Worse, it undermines any sense that we are ‘in this together’ — the solidarity required to weather the difficult months ahead.”

But the 2020 crises also underscored the role of billionaire capital and the companies they control can fill when government response falls short.

Whether it was donating personal protective equipment, funding medical research and social justice causes or advocating for vaccines, the ultra-rich, for better or worse, played a role in responding to the year’s woes.

Read: 5 retirement trends to look out for in 2021

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The richest people in South Africa at the start of 2021