Home » 10 African U.S. dollar billionaires who Forbes missed

10 African U.S. dollar billionaires who Forbes missed

by Omokolade Ajayi
Rostam Azizi

Since 2012, Forbes Magazine, the media outlet well known for its rankings of the world’s richest people, has published an annual list of “African billionaires.”

But for many years, its ranking of Africa’s richest people has been deeply flawed.

From the looks of it, the valuations of African billionaires are handled by editors sitting in offices in San Francisco and New York, who have never set foot in Africa, and who do not understand the nuances of valuing African assets that are not listed on stock exchanges.

All the while, they believe themselves qualified to do so.

Little attention, unfortunately, has been given to African billionaires who own companies and assets that are not listed on African exchanges, even though the vast majority of African billionaires own companies that are privately held.

The Forbes list thus seems highly unreliable in many regards, and many of the world’s richest people these days have sought to be excluded from the list.

In November 2013, Ventures Africa, an African business media company published its own ranking of African billionaires and introduced a few names of African billionaires that had never featured on a Forbes list, such as Algerian tycoon Issad Rebrab and Aziz Akhannouch of Morocco. These people had never before been on Forbes’ radar, and yet — two months later, in its 2014 ranking — the magazine included them as “its new discoveries.”

It’s clear — Forbes needs to invest more in research to identify “new” African billionaires. And until it does, its list of African billionaires should be taken with a pinch of salt.

In 2012, Mark Mobius, the legendary former head of Franklin Templeton’s emerging markets business noted that Africa might have more than 200 hidden billionaires.

That number is highly unlikely.

A more realistic number based on years of research by Billionaires.Africa and our affiliates puts the number somewhere between 45 and 60, the majority of whom are from Southern African families that shun the spotlight and prefer to avoid prying eyes scrutinizing their wealth.

Meet 10 African billionaires, each worth $1 billion or more, who do not feature on Forbes’ billionaires list.

Mary Oppenheimer-Slack

Nationality: South Africa

Source: Mining, inheritance

Mary Oppenheimer-Slack, 79, is an heir to the De Beers fortune and the elder sister of South Africa’s second richest man, Nicky Oppenheimer. Like her brother, she inherited a significant fortune from her father, the legendary Harry Oppenheimer. She has since grown her wealth through her single family office, Mary Oppenheimer Daughters family office (MODO), which has offices in the Isle of Man, London and Johannesburg. The family office has more than $3 billion in assets under management invested in foreign government bonds, stock market indexes and private equity funds like Stockdale Street. MODO’s investments are usually very private and without much fanfare, but in May 2020 the family office made it into the news when it invested $5.5 million into Phumelela Gaming & Leisure Ltd., the nation’s biggest horse-racing company when it was facing bankruptcy.

Benedict Peters

Nationality: Nigeria

Source: Oil, Mining

Benedict Peters, a reclusive Nigerian billionaire, is the founder of Aiteo Group, which is Nigeria’s largest independent oil producer. Aiteo has a share of 45 percent in Oil Mining Lease 29, with state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. Aiteo currently pumps about 90,000 barrels of oil a day. Peters founded Sigmund Communecci, a petroleum trading company, in 1999, and built it into the largest operator of petroleum storage facilities in Nigeria. It is a successor company to Aiteo Group. Aiteo also has interests in power generation. His latest venture, Bravura, is developing a $1-billion platinum mine in Zimbabwe.

Said Alj

Nationality: Morocco

Source: Food & Beverages

Sixty-seven-year-old Said Alj has earned a reputation as one of Morocco’s shrewdest  businessmen and investors. He is the founder of Sanam Holding, a large Moroccan investment company with interests in food manufacturing, finance, hotels and distribution.

Sanam, which Alj founded in 1986, acquires and controls controlling positions in large Moroccan enterprises. Sanam’s most valuable asset is an 80-percent stake (held through various investment vehicles) in Unimer VCR Groupe, one of Morocco’s largest food companies. Unimer is a $1.5-billion (annual sales) company that manufactures and distributes canned foods and vegetables, including the wildly popular “Titus” brand of sardines, which is sold in more than 30 African countries.

Sanam also has a large stake in the distribution company Stokvis, as well as stakes in the insurance company CNIA Saada and hotels in Casablanca such as Villa Blanca and Dawliz.

Femi Otedola

Nationality: Nigeria

Source: Power Generation

Femi Otedola, 60, owns close to 80 percent of Geregu Power, a Nigerian utility company that was the first power generating company to list on the Nigerian Exchange in October last year. Geregu, which has a market capitalization of more than $1.8 billion, has 435 megawatts installed capacity and generates about 10 percent of the country’s power. Otedola also owns a 5.6-percent stake in FBN Holdings, one of Nigeria’s largest financial services companies, and a valuable property portfolio in Nigeria, London, Monte Carlo and Dubai.

Rostam Aziz

Nationality: Tanzania

Source: Telecom

Rostam Aziz was the first Tanzanian to ever make it to the Forbes list of billionaires, but he subsequently refrained from providing information to the U.S.-based magazine to protect his privacy. Aziz previously owned more than 35 percent of Vodacom Tanzania, the country’s largest mobile telecom operator. He pocketed close to $500 million after he sold off his shares. Rostam also owns Taifa Gas, East Africa’s largest LPG distributor, air charter company Coastal Aviation, mining company Caspian Limited and a significant stake in Tanzania International Container Terminal Services, the largest container terminal in Tanzania.

Said Salim Bakhresa

Nationality: Tanzania

Source: Food

Said Salim Bakhresa is one of the most reclusive African billionaires. He is the founder of Bakhresa Group, the largest industrial conglomerate in Tanzania today. The $1.4-billion (annual revenues) group has its tentacles food and beverages, logistics, media and fintech – among other businesses.

Jim Ovia

Nationality: Nigeria

Source: Banking

Jim Ovia, 71, founded Zenith Bank in 1990 and built it into one of the largest financial services groups in Africa with a market cap of close to $2 billion.

Zenith has consistently paid some one of the most generous dividends among listed companies in Nigeria and Ovia has pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars in dividends over the years.

In 2016, Ovia sold his telecoms company, Visafone, to MTN.

But apart from his banking interests, Ovia is easily one of the ten largest property owners in Lagos.

He owns landmark properties in Nigeria’s Victoria Island include Civic Center, Civic Towers and Zenon Towers, among others.

Theophilus Danjuma

Nationality: Nigeria

Source: Oil, Shipping

Theophilus Yakubu (TY) Danjuma, a Nigerian billionaire and former minister of defense, is well known for founding the oil exploration company South Atlantic Petroleum (SAPETRO).

In 2006, SAPETRO sold part of its stake in OML 30 for $2.27 billion.

He also owns NAL-COMET, one of Nigeria’s largest shipping companies, five-star hotels in Lagos and Port Harcourt as well as significant stakes in Industrial and Medical Gases Nigeria Plc and fertilizer producer Notore Chemical Industries.

His family owns an impressive property portfolio in Nigeria, London, Los Angeles, Marbella and Singapore.

Tony Elumelu

Nationality: South Africa

Source: Banking, Real Estate

Elumelu, 60, is the chairman of Heirs Holdings, a Lagos-based, family-owned investment company that manages a $2.5-billion portfolio of assets in real estate, power generation, oil exploration and production.

Folorunsho Alakija

Nationality: Nigeria

Source: Oil

Alakija has featured on the Forbes list in the past, but not anymore. But she is still a billionaire. She is a co-founder and vice chair of Famfa Oil, a Nigerian oil exploration company with a stake in Agbami Oilfield.   

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