Million Men Africa

November 28, 2013 by  

Million Men Africa, South Africa leads the African continent in names appearing on Forbes list of Africa’s 50 Richest. With 14 individuals on the list, the country trumps both Nigeria (11 fortunes) and Egypt (9 fortunes). South Africa’s 14 richest have a combined net worth of $28.79 billion, and an average net worth of $2.06 billion.

South Africa’s largest fortunes have seen slow growth in the past year, weighed down by meager gains in the resources and mining sectors. Nicky Oppenheimer ($6.6 billion), who recently sold diamond mining firm De Beers to mining giant Anglo American for $5.1 billion; African Rainbow Minerals chairman Patrice Motsepe ($2.7 billion) and Assore chairman Desmond Sacco ($1.4 billion) barely saw their fortunes move compared to a year ago.

The real standout success story in South Africa this year is Stephen Saad and his drug company Aspen Pharmacare. His fortune is up more than 50% from a year ago to $1.5 billion. The stock surge also introduced a newcomer to the richest Africans list: Saad’s deputy and Aspen’s cofounder, Gus Attridge. He debuts on the list with a fortune of $525 million. Another big gainer? Johann Rupert, whose fortune – comprised largely in shares of luxury goods maker Richemont – grew 39% to $7.9 billion, allowing him to leapfrog Oppenheimer to become South Africa’s richest man.

The list of Africa’s 50 Richest catalogs the wealthiest individuals whose primary residence is in Africa, thereby excluding rich South Africans like Bermuda resident Allan Gray and UK resident Donald Gordon.

Troubling trends continue. Only two of South Africa’s 14 richest are black – and most of the remaining fortunes have roots in Apartheid-era South Africa (still better, it should be noted, than America’s 1-in-400 figure; Oprah Winfrey is the US’s only black billionaire). None of the country’s richest are women.

But there’s reason for hope. In December 2012, investor-entrepreneur Cyril Ramaphosa ($700 million) was elected Deputy President of the country’s ruling African National Congress party. Closely associated with Nelson Mandela during the fight for liberation, Ramaphosa has since worn many contradictory hats: union leader, union buster, black economic empowerment success story, and part-owner of both McDonald’s and Coca-Cola’s South African outfits. He has an uphill battle against some of current President Jacob Zuma’s closest supporters in the race for the party’s top spot, they fear Ramaphosa will resume corruption investigations into President Zuma. “His election was meant to reassure business, international investors and the middle class that the ANC had, in its top leadership, at least one leader who understood a modern economy and was not dominated by the riffraff who wanted to nationalize mines and expropriate businesses,” writes South African newspaper Mail & Guardian. But technocrat Ramaphosa’s possible ascendency to the presidency in 2017, with the hope of an era of good governance, seems predicated on a deal with the devil not to prosecute former bad governance.

Outside the realm of politics, another South African to watch is Naspers boss Koos Bekker, whose fortune climbed past the $1 billion rank for the first time this year to $1.1 billion. He has transformed a publishing company into a powerful global media and tech investor. Naspers owns stakes in China’s Internet and messaging leader Tencent Holdings, Russia’s and Brazilian magazine publisher Abril, to name a few. He gets paid exclusively in share options, and picked up 11.7 million of them in three batches between 2011 and 2013, each with ten year expiries. He converted an earlier batch of 4.7 million options into shares in December 2012. Between that conversion and Naspers’ 70% gain in the past year (gains attributable almost entirely to his early-2000’s bet on China’s Tencent Holdings), Bekker’s fortune has grown 140% in the past year.

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