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Ten of the richest businessmen in Ethiopia — most of whom you’ve likely never heard of

Despite ranking only 29th in Africa by economic wealth, Ethiopia is a land of riches for thousands.

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Ethiopia-born billionaire Mohammed Al-Amoudi.

Ethiopia is home to about 105 million people. However, less than 3,400 are ultra-high net-worth individuals.

Despite ranking only 29th in Africa by living standards and economic wealth, Ethiopia is a land of riches for thousands. It ranks fourth for private wealth held by individuals.

In 2020, private wealth in Ethiopia was estimated at $57 billion, $1-billion higher than the figure for Ghana and $33-billion lower than Kenya’s $90 billion.

Ethiopia has only one billionaire, 150 multimillionaires and 3,200 ultra-high net-worth individuals. Meanwhile, the local economy has a GDP of $108 billion, making it the sixth-largest economy on the African continent behind Algeria.

A significant percentage of the country’s richest individuals are politicians. According to research conducted by Billionaires.Africa, here is a list of some of these wealthy people.

#1 Mohammed Al Amoudi 

Source: Oil & Gas, Real Estate and Technology

Ethiopia-born billionaire Mohammed Al-Amoudi is Ethiopia’s richest man with a $6.96-billion net worth.

Al-Amoudi’s fortune is derived mainly from closely held companies in Sweden, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia.

The billionaire owns Svenska Petroleum, Midroc Europe (a construction and property group) and Preem (his most valuable asset) through the wholly-owned Petroswede AB. 

He also owns a 17-percent stake in Crunchfish AB, a Swedish technology company that develops gesture recognition.

In recent times, Al-Amoudi has tightened his grip on his hotel business following the appointment of one of his sons-in-law to the board of Midroc Gold, whose portfolio includes the Sheraton hotels in Djibouti and Addis Ababa.

#2 Samuel Tafesse 

Source: Construction and Real Estate

Samuel Tafesse is one of the most famous businessmen in Ethiopia. The 63-year-old real estate mogul is the founder of Sunshine Investment Group, a construction and real estate development company that develops residential, leisure and commercial properties in Ethiopia and the Middle East. 

Since its founding in 1983, Sunshine Investment Group has built 3,254 apartments and 427 villas in Ethiopia. This includes the landmark Marriott Executive Apartments in Addis Ababa.

Sunshine has constructed 1,129.78 kilometers of road projects, as the company operates as a principal highway contractor to the government.

The company has more than 3,000 employees. Its milestones over the past 34 years have enabled it to build a reliable capacity and exhibit practical excellence in the construction sector. 

Aside from founding Sunshine Investment Group, Tafesse has played a seminal role in developing Ethiopia’s construction sector. He has also launched other businesses and philanthropic entities under Sunshine Investment Group.

#3 Eyob Joe Mamo

Source: Oil and Gas, Real Estate 

Eyob Joe Mamo is an Ethiopian oil tycoon known for running and controlling half of the gas stations in Washington, D.C., through Capitol Petroleum Group, a leading wholesale distributor of petroleum services in the Metro D.C. area and New York City.

Mamo, who tries to keep a low profile, is regarded as the king of the D.C. gas business.

In 2011, Capitol Petroleum Group was valued at $800 million, making him one of the wealthiest businessmen in Ethiopia. Mamo is the CEO of the D.C.-based group.

The Ethiopian magnate and real estate developer has tendered a bid to buy a minority stake in D.C. United. The six-percent stake would make him the latest in a slew of new minority partners that the U.S. soccer franchise has added in recent years.

#4 Sebhat Nega 

Source: Politics

Sebhat Nega is considered a magnate within the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). He is known for having built a multibillion-dollar business empire in Ethiopia over the 27 years that the group was in power.

Nega was in charge of the TPLF business empire under the conglomerate Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray. He has amassed hundreds of millions of dollars through his political affiliations and his business dealings through TPLF.

Nega was one of the most powerful men in Ethiopia. At one point, he was considered even more powerful than the late Meles Zenawi, the one-time prime minister.

#5 Belayneh Kindie

Source: Diversified

Belayneh Kindie has amassed a fortune through his Belayneh Kindie (BK) Business Group, an Ethiopia-based group initially focused on exporting oil seeds, nuts and other products.

Since its founding in 2005, the company has grown into one of the country’s largest exporters of sesame seeds and a leading Ethiopian agricultural commodities trader.

Recently, it has evolved into a prominent corporate group in the country through BK Business Group.

Today, the group maintains active operations in trade, transportation, construction material rentals, hotels, domestic business investments and product and service sales in Ethiopia and abroad.

#6 Tewodros Ashenafi

Source: Oil and Gas, Consumer Goods

Tewodros Ashenafi is an Ethiopian entrepreneur and the CEO of SouthWest Energy, an Ethiopian oil and gas exploration and production company based in Addis-Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia.

Aside from his leadership role in Ethiopia’s first and only indigenous oil and gas company, SouthWest Energy, the leading business tycoon played a vital role in transforming the Ethiopian energy sector. 

He serves as chairman of SouthWest Development, a leading player in Ethiopia’s oil and gas sector and the provider of various services to oil and gas companies.

Ashenafi is a co-owner of Ambo Mineral Water, the best-selling naturally-carbonated bottled mineral water in Ethiopia, and the beverage giant SABMiller.

In 2016, Ashenafi played a vital role in one of Africa’s largest private-sector business transactions.

As a local partner in Ethiopia for Japan Tobacco International, he closed a $1.4-billion  deal to acquire a 40-percent interest in Ethiopia’s National Tobacco Enterprise.

This billion-dollar deal is Ethiopia’s largest-ever privatization agreement.

#7 Buzuayehu Bizenu

Source: Conglomerate Investment through EAH

Buzuayehu Bizenu is the founder and chairman of East African Holding (EAH), a leading industrial conglomerate in Ethiopia.

The enterprise was established as an operating holding for subsidiary companies acting in various sectors, such as FMCG manufacturing, agriculture, agro-processing, printing and packaging, transport, real estate, cement production and coal mining.

The group has grown into one of the country’s largest employers, employing more than 6,000 permanent and temporary personnel.

EAH produces over 100 products and provides distribution and logistics services to subsidiary companies and external customers. 

Aside from his ownership stake in the group, Bizenu control companies such as Bizenu Investments Plc, East African Agri-Business Plc, Cosmar East Africa Business Plc, East African Group (Eth) Plc, East African Tiger Brands Plc, Ethio-Asia Industries Plc, National Cement S.C., East African Coal Mining Corporation Plc, and a host of other companies.

#8 Suhura Ismail Khan

Source: Trade

Ethiopian entrepreneur and leading businesswoman Suhura Ismail Khan is the head of a trading empire from Jijiga, with several thousand employees, dozens of trucks and her airline, Suhura Airways, a Somalian charter carrier established in 2009.

Khan controls more than 50 percent of khat sales in Ethiopia, making it a world market leader. Khat is a leafy green plant containing two main stimulants used mainly in North East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and expatriate communities from these regions.

In 2010, she retired from the group, leaving her empire to be managed by her sons. However, she returned to manage her business after the group incurred losses up to £1 million within a short period.

In 2011, her group recorded sales between 30 and 40 tonnes of khat per day.

#9 Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu

Source: Footwear

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is an Ethiopian businesswoman and founder and executive director of soleRebels, an international footwear company based in Addis Ababa. 

soleRebels was founded in 2005.

As of 2016, soleRebels shoes were sold in more than 50 countries after it was tagged the “Fastest Growing African Shoe Brand” in 2014. 

Alemu founded soleRebels as a way to blend her Ethiopian community’s creative artisan talents with the traditional “barabasso” (Ethiopian recycled tire) shoe.

The result is uniquely original footwear driven by an ethos of ethical production, sustainable materials and maximum comfort.

Following the opening of its 22nd location in Hamburg’s trendy St. Pauli District, the group is on course to control 500 global soleRebels branded retail stores and generate $1 billion in revenues by 2028. 

#10 Tashitaa Tufaa

Source: Transportation

Tashitaa Tufaa, the founder of the Metropolitan Transportation Network, is one of Ethiopia’s wealthiest businessmen. 

Tufaa left Ethiopia for the United States in 1992 and ultimately opened a U.S.-based transportation outfit. Since then, it has grown from a single bus in 2004 to a multimillion-dollar valuation as of press time.

The privately-owned company founded in Minnesota now has more than 300 trucks and vans and transports about 15,000 people a day.

East Africa

James Mwangi’s Equity Group to receive $4.1 million for acquisition of Spire Bank

Equity Group is the largest financial services conglomerate in East Africa.

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James Mwangi.

Equity Group Holdings, the Kenyan financial services giant led by James Mwangi, is set to receive millions of dollars from Mwalimu Sacco’s acquisition of financially distressed Spire Bank, as the teachers-backed lender agreed to pay Equity Group Ksh510 million ($4.1 million).

The deal is structured as an asset purchase transaction, backed by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), and will see Equity Group assume control over the assets and liabilities of the troubled bank.

The $4.1-million payment by Mwalimu Sacco to Equity represents the difference between the assets and liabilities of Spire Bank, implying that the bank holds zero value and the teachers have lost millions of dollars after purchasing a majority stake in 2014.

Mwalimu Sacco CEO Kenneth Odhiambo said the key consideration was to stop the bleeding and preserve Sacco’s bottomline for its members.

Equity Group will settle all redundancy costs for the more than 100 employees who will lose their jobs following the deal. The bank’s non-performing loans stand at Ksh2.63 billion ($21.1 million), and Equity’s immediate task will be to step up collections and recoveries.

The process of exiting Spire Bank was not as seamless as the initial acquisition, with Mwalimu Sacco citing the bank’s decline as beginning after the withdrawal of Naushad Merali’s deposits worth Ksh1.7 billion ($13.7 million), which represented one-fifth of the bank’s total deposits. 

The takeover of the troubled Spire Bank may present additional challenges and opportunities for Equity Group, which under the leadership of Kenyan businessman, Mwangi reported profits in excess of $280 million in the first nine months of 2022.

As of today, Equity Group shares on the Nairobi Securities Exchange are trading at Ksh44.95 ($0.361) per share, a 0.99 percent decrease from their closing price on Fri., Jan. 27.

This values the company at Ksh170 billion ($1.36 billion) and Mwangi’s 3.38-percent stake at Ksh5.74 billion ($46.1 million).

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East Africa

Meet Mohammed Dewji, Tanzania’s ‘King of Wealth,’ with $1.5-billion net worth

Dewji showcases his philanthropic spirit through his role as the founder and financier of the Mo Dewji Foundation.

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Mohammed Dewji
Mohammed Dewji. ©Billionaires.Africa

With a staggering net worth of $1.5 billion, Mohammed Dewji, the CEO of Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania (MeTL) Group, stands tall as the richest man in Tanzania and one of Africa’s most prominent billionaires.

His prominence in the African business arena is further accentuated by his position as the head of MeTL Group, one of East Africa’s largest industrial conglomerates. The majority of his $1.5-billion fortune is attributed to his stake in the group.

METL Group, a highly successful conglomerate established by its founder’s father in the 1970s, has an impressive reach across a wide range of industries, including trading, agriculture, manufacturing, energy and petroleum, financial services, mobile telephony, infrastructure, real estate, transport, logistics, and distribution.

The highly diversified company has established itself as Tanzania’s largest domestically-grown corporation, with a presence in 11 African nations, including Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Tanzania.

Beyond his business ventures, Mohammed Dewji also showcases his philanthropic spirit through his role as the founder and financier of the Mo Dewji Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to providing scholarships for underprivileged children in Tanzania.

With a view to tackling the growing food security challenges faced by Sub-Saharan Africa, Mohammed Dewji announced his intentions to go public with an agriculture company in either New York or London in 2023.

He declared that the ambitious $4-billion initiative will receive robust support from top-notch development banks and will be executed via a blank check agreement, delivering a much-anticipated uplift to the agriculture industry.

The proposed investment comes at a pivotal time in the world, as food prices continue to soar due to disruptions in the global supply chain network. This has resulted in a significant hike in the cost of staple commodities, including grains, edible oils, and fertilizers. 

Dewji added that the $4-billion blank check arrangement, which will result in the launch of an agricultural venture, is a fantastic way to bring food security to Africa’s heels because it will capitalize on the continent’s potential to feed itself and the world.

He explained that the agricultural company, which may diversify into soybean and sugar plantations, could provide investors with a five- to ten-fold return over a decade, but it would necessitate “patient, impactful, long-term capital.”

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East Africa

Kenyan banker James Mwangi’s Equity Group receives approval to acquire Spire Bank

Mwangi owns 3.38 percent of the financial services group.

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James Mwangi.

Equity Group Holdings, a reputable financial services group led by Kenyan businessman James Mwangi, is set to acquire the financially distressed Spire Bank on Jan. 31, cementing its position as East Africa’s leading financial services group.

Following approval from both the National Treasury and the shareholders of both banks, the recent development marks the completion of a long-awaited merger.

“Pursuant to section 9 (1) of the Banking Act, the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury and Planning has granted approval for the acquisition of select assets and liabilities of Spire Bank Limited by Equity Group, led by James Mwangi,” Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge stated in a gazette notice.

The new deal, modeled after the successful partnership between SBM and Chase Bank in August 2018, is set to be implemented on Jan. 31 and will result in the end of Mwalimu Sacco’s ownership of the bank, which they acquired for more than Ksh2.7 billion ($21.7 million) in 2014 from late Kenyan tycoon Naushad Merali.

The process of exiting the bank has not been as seamless as the initial acquisition, with Mwalimu Sacco citing the bank’s decline as beginning after the withdrawal of Naushad Merali’s deposits worth Ksh1.7 billion ($13.7 million), which represented a fifth of the bank’s total deposits.

Spire Bank’s financials for the first quarter of 2022 showed a loss of Ksh188 million ($1.51 million), bringing the total accumulated losses to Ksh9.7 billion ($77.9 million). In addition, the bank was in default on all CBK capital and liquidity ratios.

Despite a challenging macroeconomic environment that has increased the cost of living for East African teachers and other workers, Spire Bank has pursued a turnaround based on lower costs, loan recoveries, and the conversion of shareholder deposits into equity.

Equity Group, which has the financial and managerial strength to put Spire Bank back on track and pull it out of its recent financial difficulties, will get a good deal by accepting teachers’ deposits, as well as Ksh1.3 billion ($10.8 million) in liabilities and nearly Ksh900 million ($7.48 million) in assets linked to Spire Bank.

The acquisition may present additional challenges and opportunities for Equity Group, which reported profits in excess of $280 million in the first nine months of 2022 under the leadership of Kenyan multimillionaire businessman James Mwangi.

Mwangi, who has been instrumental in the growth and transformation of Kenya’s financial services industry, owns a sizable 3.38-percent stake in Equity Group.

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