South Africa kisses over 9,000 millionaires goodbye

 ·30 Jan 2024

The latest BRICS Wealth Report for 2023 shows that South Africa has lost thousands of millionaires over the last ten years – ranking near the bottom of the top BRICS+ countries assessed.

According to the report, there are currently 1.6 million individuals with investable assets of over USD 1 million in the grouping of the world’s leading emerging economies, including 4,716 centi-millionaires or ‘centis’ (with more than USD 100 million in investable assets) and 549 billionaires.

The original BRICS cohort comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa added substantial new financial firepower and geopolitical clout with the inclusion this month of new Middle East and North Africa (MENA) members Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

The new report reveals that in the last decade, private wealth grew by 92% in China, which is now home to 862,400 millionaires, including 2,352 centi-millionaires and 305 billionaires.

India follows in 2nd place in the BRICS high-net-worth individual (HNWI) ranking, with 326,400 millionaires, including over 1,000 centis and 120 billionaires, and wealth growth soaring by 85% over the past ten years.

The UAE’s millionaire population has also shot up since 2013 by 77%, and the Middle East’s leading wealth hub is now home to 116,500 millionaires, including over 300 centis.

The past decade has also seen robust private wealth growth in Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia, with their millionaire populations rising by 35% and 30%, respectively.

On the flip side of the coin, Iran recorded a 38% decline in resident millionaires to 11,900 HNWIs today, followed by Brazil, which is home to 82,400 millionaires (a 28% decline since 2013).

Russia has 68,400 resident HNWIs (–24%), and 15,600 US-dollar millionaires live in Egypt, 22% down on its 2013 HNWI population.

South Africa

The report highlighted that South Africa was home to 37,400 US dollar millionaires (including 102 centis and five billionaires) at the end of 2023 – a 20% decline from 2013.

This means South Africa has lost approximately 9,350 US-dollar millionaires over the past ten years.

However, looking to the decade ahead, when it comes to private wealth growth projections, South Africa is expected to see a 60% increase in wealth per capita by 2033.

India leads the BRICS pack with a forecast 110% increase, while Saudi Arabia is runner-up, with its wealth per capita expected to expand by over 105% in the next ten years.

This is followed by the UAE (95%), China (85%), Ethiopia (75%), and Egypt (55%), which are all forecasted to enjoy wealth growth of over 50% in the next decade.

Reasons for the losses

According to New World Wealth, while the exit of HNWIs is driven by various factors – social, political and economic – the rich generally look to move to a “safe haven country”.

A “safe haven country” is a country with good safety and security that is shielded from the world’s economic and political problems, said New World Wealth.

According to the group, approximately 120,000 of the world’s millionaires migrated to a new country in 2023.

Popular destinations for them included Australia, Switzerland, Monaco, Singapore, the UAE, New Zealand, Malta, and Mauritius.

In South Africa over the course of 2023, key concerns over personal security and safety, including rising rates of crime and violence, as well as worries about education and healthcare, peaked – which are foundational considerations for high net-worth families.

The government has escalated talk of hiking taxes to fund some of its more doomed policies, such as the National Health Insurance: the health department has made it crystal clear that the government will turn to payroll taxes and other employment taxes – while also getting rid of medical aid tax credits – to fund the NHI.

Meanwhile, think tanks have started getting louder on calls to introduce wealth taxes to fund more social grants.

National Treasury announced in November that R15 billion more will be raised in taxes in 2024.

Read: How much you need to be worth to be one of South Africa’s richest 1%

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