Home » Booming industries for African billionaires

Booming industries for African billionaires

by Tsitsi Mutendi

Africa’s wealthiest have made their fortunes by investing in industries like manufacturing, retail, telecoms, mining,and oil. In total, they have a combined net worth of $76.5 billion, with Aliko Dangote, owner of the largest conglomerate in West Africa, topping the list with a net worth of $17.8 billion.

A common question for entrepreneurs is, what do they invest in, and how do they get started? Everyone who has ever had financial difficulty or ambitions of wealth knows that entrepreneurship can skyrocket you into the stratosphere of billions. However, this has proven to not be an easy road. As we have seen with the majority of the world’s billionaires, starting from no wealth, or even inherited wealth and building it to billions, requires tenacity, grand visions and a viable business model with a strong capable team.

When we look at Africa, like at all other continents, we have seen the rise of the billionaire class. Although we still have fewer billionaires than the global average, (we only have four percent) there is still room for more billionaires. Here is a look at which industries are making our bankable billions.

Industry: Manufacturing and Industrial

Issad Rebrab

Rebrab is the founder of Cevital, which is the largest privately held conglomerate in Algeria.

Cevital owns numerous brands, in addition to one of the world’s largest sugar refineries.

The company also owns a home appliance company, a steel mill company, and a water purification enterprise.

Nassef Sawiris

Son of billionaire Onsi Sawiris, Nassef is known for being the richest man in Egypt, and for owning a 30-percent stake in the fertilizing producer OCI N.V. According to Bloomberg, he also owns a six-percent stake in Adidas, the sportswear giant, where he sits on the supervisory board.

In December 2020, he acquired a five-percent stake in the New York-listed firm, Madison Square Garden Sports, owner of the NBA Knicks and the NHL Rangers. He runs OCI N.V., one of the world’s largest nitrogen fertilizer producers, with plants in Texas and Iowa.

OCI N.V. trades on the Euronext Amsterdam exchange. His company, Orascom Construction, an engineering and building firm, trades on the Cairo exchange and Nasdaq Dubai. His holdings include stakes in the cement giant, Lafarge Holcim.

Aliko Dangote

Dangote is the founder of Dangote Group, West Africa’s largest conglomerate. The company also owns the largest cement producer in Sub-Saharan Africa. Dangote Cement has the capacity to produce 48.6 million metric tonnes of cement annually and has operations in 10 countries across Africa.

After many years of development, Dangote’s fertilizer plant in Nigeria began operations in mid-2021. Aside from cement, the company also produces products such as sugar, salt, flour, steel, oil and gas. Dangote Refinery has been under construction since 2016 and is expected to be one of the world’s largest oil refineries once complete. Dangote’s grandfather was a successful trader of rice and oats in Kano, Nigeria’s second-largest city. Dangote told Forbes that when he was young, he bought sweets and gave them to others to sell, and he kept the profits.

Abdulsamad Rabiu

Son of Isyaku Rabiu, one of Africa’s most prominent industrialists, Rabiu is the founder of the Nigerian conglomerate BUA Group, best known for producing cement and sugar and controlling real estate. Rabiu is a son of a businessman, who inherited land from his father. He set up his own business in 1988 importing iron, steel and chemicals.

Mohammed Dewji

Dewji is the CEO of METL, a Tanzanian conglomerate founded by his father in the 1970s. METL is active in textile manufacturing, flour milling, beverages and edible oils in East, Southern and Central Africa. METL operates in at least six African countries and has ambitions to expand to several more.

Industry: Oil & Gas

Aziz Akhannouch & Family

Akhannouch is the CEO of his family’s company, Akwa Group, which holds an interest in various gas and oil companies, as reported by Forbes. He is the minister of agriculture and fisheries in Morocco.

Industry: Media

Koos Bekker

Bekker is the chairman of Naspers, a media group that operates in more than 100 countries. Naspers is one of the world’s largest technology investors, as reported by Forbes. The company also holds an investment in Tencent, a Chinese internet and media company.

Industry: Mining

Patrice Motsepe

Motsepe became the first Black African to appear on the Forbes Billionaire List after reaching the status in 2008. He is the founder of African Rainbow Minerals, which holds investments in minerals such as platinum, copper, and coal. He is also the founder of the private equity firm African Rainbow Capital.

Naguib Sawiris

As noted by Bloomberg, Sawiris has stakes in various gold mines throughout the world. He made more than $4 billion when he sold his stake in the telecom company, Vimpelcom, in 2011. He is the brother of fellow billionaire, Nassef Sawiris.

Nicky Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer was the heir to De Beers, the world’s largest producer of diamonds. In 2012, he sold his family’s 40-percent stake in the company for $5.2 billion in cash. He was the third generation of his family to run DeBeers and took the company private in 2001. For 85 years until 2012, the Oppenheimer family occupied a controlling spot in the world’s diamond trade. In 2014, Oppenheimer started Fireblade Aviation in Johannesburg, which operates chartered flights. He owns at least 720 square miles of conservation land across South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Industry: Telecommunications

Mike Adenuga

Adenuga is the chairman of Globacom, which is the second-largest telecommunications operator in Africa. He also owns a stake in the oil company, Conoil. He made his first million at age 26, selling lace and distributing soft drinks.

Strive Masiyiwa

He owns just over 50 percent of the publicly-traded Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, which is one part of his larger Econet Group. Masiyiwa also owns just over half of the private company Liquid Telecom, which provides fiber optic and satellite services to telecom firms across Africa. His other assets include stakes in mobile phone networks in Burundi and Lesotho and investments in fintech and power distribution firms in Africa.

Industry: Retail

Johann Rupert

Rupert is chairman of Swiss luxury goods firm Compagnie Financiere Richemont. The company is best known for the brands Cartier and Montblanc. It was formed in 1998 through a spinoff of assets owned by Rembrandt Group Limited (now Remgro Limited), which his father Anton formed in the 1940s. He owns a seven-percent stake in diversified investment firm Remgro, which he chairs, as well as 25 percent of Reinet, an investment holding company based in Luxembourg.

Mohamed, Yasseen and Youssef Mansour

Mansour Group is the largest distributor of General Motors vehicles in Egypt. The company is known for being one of the world’s largest General Motors dealers and one of the top distributors of Caterpillar products. It is also the operator of Egypt’s largest supermarket chain, Metro Markets.

Industry: Banking and Investments

Othman Benjelloun & family

Benjelloun is CEO of BMCE Bank of Africa, which has a presence in more than 20 African countries. His father was a shareholder in RMA, a Moroccan insurance company; Benjelloun built it into a leading insurer. Through his holding company FinanceCom, he has a stake in the Moroccan arm of French telecom firm, Orange. He inaugurated in 2014 a $500-million plan to build the 55-story Mohammed VI Tower in Rabat. It will be one of the tallest buildings in Africa. FinanceCom is part of a project to develop a multibillion-dollar tech city in Tangiers that is expected to host 200 Chinese companies.

Michiel Le Roux

Le Roux of South Africa founded Capitec Bank in 2001 and owns about an 11-percent stake. The bank, which trades on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, targets South Africa’s emerging middle class. He served as chairman of the board of Capitec from 2007 to 2016 and has continued on as a board member. Le Roux previously ran Boland Bank, a small regional bank in Cape Town’s hinterland.

Interesting and noteworthy is that the majority of the billionaires are part of generational wealth legacies. Not necessarily in the norms of inherited wealth and stewardship but being part of enterprising families and carrying forward the capitals of wealth that are necessary for the building of substantial wealth and legacy. These individuals built their own legacy and wealth and the majority of these billionaires come from families who had members who were in business in some format.

As we have learned from the five capitals of wealth, humans capital and intellectual capital goes a long way in building wealth, social capital may have opened doors for some of these individuals and spiritual capital, the values they saw as they were growing up carried them through to build the financial capital we now see as monetary wealth.

Tsitsi Mutendi is a co-founder of African Family Firms, an organization that aims to facilitate the continuity of African family businesses across generations. She is also the lead consultant at Nhaka Legacy Planning and the host of the Enterprising Families Podcast.

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