How long you would need to work to become one of the richest people in South Africa

 ·3 Apr 2024

South Africa is home to six billionaires – with the average South African needing to work for thousands of years to match their wealth.

According to the Forbes World’s Billionaire List for 2024, Johann Rupert is South Africa’s richest man (162nd worldwide), with a net worth of $12.2 billion (R229.5 billion).

Rupert’s wealth is mainly linked to Swiss luxury goods firm Compagnie Financiere Richemont.

The richest man in the world, LVMH’s Bernard Arnault – $223 billion (R4.1 trillion) – is also in the luxury goods business.

Diamond magnate Nicky Oppenheimer is the second richest South Africa, with his net worth, like Rupert’s, rising by $1.1 billion (R20.7 billion) to $9.5 billion (R178.7 billion), according to Forbes.

Mining boss, and brother-in-law to President Cyril Ramaphosa, Patrice Motsepe saw his wealth remain unchanged at $2.7 billion (R50.8 billion).

Naspers chair Koos Bekker and Capitec founder Michiel Le Roux saw their wealth increase by $0.2 billion (R3.8 billion) to $2.6 billion(R48.9 billion) and $1.2 billion(R22.6 billion), respectively.

Ex-Steinhoff chair Christo Wiese has returned to the billionaire ranking, with his most valuable source of wealth being his interest in Shoprite:

Billionaire2023 Wealth2024 WealthChange
Rupert$11.1 billion (R208.7 billion)$12.2 billion (R229.5 billion)$1.1 billion (R20.7 billion)
Oppenheimer$8.4 billion (R158 billion)$9.5 billion (R178.7 billion)$1.1 billion (R20.7 billion)
Motsepe$2.7 billion (R50.8 billion)$2.7 billion (R50.8 billion)
Bekker$2.4 billion (R45.1 billion)$2.6 billion (R48.9 billion)$0.2 billion (R3.8 billion)
Le Roux$1.0 billion (R18.8 billion)$1.2 billion (R22.6 billion)$0.2 billion (R3.8 billion)
Wiese$1.2 billion (R22.6 billion)

Average salary time

This wealth is often challenging for the everyday person to comprehend due to how large these numbers are.

When comparing these figures to the average salary in South Africa, this wealth can be shocking, especially in a country with the highest income inequality in the world.

According to Stats SA’s latest Quarterly Employment Survey, the average monthly earnings in South Africa increased by 1.6% quarter-on-quarter to R26,894 per month in November 2023.

If the average earner in South Africa could somehow manage to put their full salary away every month, it would take them 700,000 years to accumulate Johann Rupert’s wealth.

It would take just over 550,000 years to accumulate Nicky Oppenheimer’s wealth.

It would take over 150,000 years to accumulate Motsepe and Bekker’s wealth and around 70,000 years to accumulate Le Roux and Wiese’s wealth.

For context, according to the Population Reference Bureau, modern Homo sapiens only appeared around 190,000 B.C.E.

This means that it would take the average worker in South Africa over three times the amount of time humans have existed to acquire Rupert’s wealth.

Below is a breakdown of how many days, months and years it would take the average person to earn the wealth of South Africa’s richest people.

Rupert256 006 9618 533 502711 125
Oppenheimer199 339 6256 644 605553 717
Motsepe56 667 3351 888 897157 408
Bekker54 575 8921 818 249151 520
Le Roux25 223 214840 33670 028
Wiese25 223 214840 33670 028

Read: ‘Over the hill’ for South Africa – but pricing pressure still on

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