South Africa’s wealthiest people got richer in Covid-19 ravaged year

Forbes has published its Africa Billionaires List for 2021, showing how the 18 richest people on the African continent have fared over the last year – including five names from South Africa.

South Africa is tied with Egypt, which also features five billionaires. The rest of the ranking is made up of three individuals from Nigeria, two from Morocco, and one each from Algeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Africa’s billionaires emerged as big winners in the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, which saw most economies on the continent struggle as global markets crashed and industries went into lockdown.

However, as the pandemic progressed and markets adapted, businesses – particularly in industrials – reaped the benefits.

The 18 billionaires in Africa are worth $5.2 billion each, on average, up 12% from 2020. The growth in wealth is mostly attributed to a 30% rise in value of Nigeria’s Dangote Cement. CEO and founder, Aliko Dangote, remains the richest person on the continent, with his net worth now at $12.1 billion.

The biggest gainer over the last year is another cement maker, Nigerian tycoon, Abdulsamad Rabiu, who saw his fortunes grow significantly after his BUA Cement PLC listed on the Nigerian stock exchange.

Rabiu’s net worth in 2021 climbed to $5.5 billion, at a growth rate of 77% – placing him sixth overall.

South Africa

South Africa’s billionaires weathered the Covid-19 pandemic and emerged wealthier by the end of the year, with the fortunes for all but one increasing. Collectively, local billionaire wealth increased by a net $1.6 billion over the last 12 months.

They have a combined net worth of $22.2 billion, (2020: $20.6 billion) averaging $4.4 billion. South Africa’s richest also climbed the African ranking, with Nicky Oppenheimer and Johann Rupert now ranked third and fourth (up from fourth and fifth), respectively.

Patrice Motsepe, Koos Bekker and Michiel le Roux also climbed one spot each.

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

2020 2021 Billionaire 2020 net worth 2021 net worth Source
4 3 Nicky Oppenheimer $7.7 billion $8.0 billion Diamonds
5 4 Johann Rupert $6.5 billion $7.2 billion Luxury Goods
10 9 Patrice Motsepe $2.6 billion $3.0 billion Mining
11 10 Koos Bekker $2.5 billion $2.8 billion Media, Investments
18 16 Michiel le Roux $1.3 billion $1.2 billion Banking

The growth of billionaire wealth during a global pandemic that saw many individuals without jobs and income, has drawn the ire of Oxfam International.

In a report published on Monday (25 January), Oxfam noted that the Covid-19 pandemic revealed fractures where deep inequality was rooted into economy and society as a whole.

The group’s research showed that it took the top 1,000 billionaires globally just nine months to recover from the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic – that is, to get their net worth back to pre-Covid levels – while the poorest individuals are likely to struggle to recover for the next decade.

“In contrast, after the financial crisis in 2008, it took five years for billionaire wealth to return to its pre-crisis highs. Worldwide, billionaires wealth’ increased by a staggering $3.9 trillion between 18 March and 31 December 2020.

“Their total wealth now stands at $11.95 trillion which is equivalent to what G20 governments have spent in response to the pandemic,” it said.

The increase in wealth that the world’s 10 richest people saw during the crisis would have been enough to cover the costs and rollout for the Covid-19 vaccine for everyone in the world, it said.

The world’s 10 richest billionaires have collectively seen their wealth increase by $540 billion over this period, Oxfam said.

In South Africa, the wealth increase of $1.6 billion experienced by the country’s billionaires equates to roughly R24 billion. The South African government has budgeted R20.6 billion to meet its vaccination target of 67% of the population by the end of the year.


Read: South Africa is losing thousands of millionaires

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South Africa’s wealthiest people got richer in Covid-19 ravaged year