Home » 7 African billionaires who made a fortune in retail

7 African billionaires who made a fortune in retail

by Feyisayo Ajayi

With a population exceeding 1.3 billion and a rapidly expanding middle class, the African continent has emerged as a hub of untapped economic potential. Against this backdrop, a remarkable cohort of mercantile individuals has ascended to prominence, leveraging an intricate grasp of local markets to accumulate staggering fortunes within the retail sector.

The domain of retail has undeniably cultivated a plethora of billionaires and multi-millionaires across Africa. Billionaires.Africa presents profiles of seven ultra-high net-worth individuals who attribute their substantial wealth to their involvement in retail:

Christo Wiese

Nationality: South African

Company: Shoprite, Pepkor

Christo Wiese founded Shoprite in 1979 and built it into the largest food retailer in Africa. He also holds stakes in retailers Tradehold and Pepkor.

Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch

Nationality: Moroccan

Company: Aksal Group

Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch founded AKSAL Group in 2004. The group employs more than 1,130 people and is the sole franchisee for 45 leading brands in Morocco, including Emporio Armani, Fendi, Gucci, Oysho, Ralph Lauren, Zara, Banana Republic, Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear, Bershka, and Gap. In 2011, the group launched the Morocco Mall, which covers 10 hectares with 70,000 square meters of commercial space.

Raymond Ackerman

Nationality: South African

Company: Pick N Pay

Raymond Ackerman founded Pick ‘n Pay in 1967. He was CEO of the Group until 1999, when the roles of Chairman and CEO were split. He remained Chairman until 2002 at which time Gareth Ackerman was appointed in his stead. His listed Pick ‘n Pay Group has a supermarket chain with 870 stores in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Australia. Ackerman built a strong reputation as a consumer champion, fighting supplier cartels in bread, petrol, cigarettes and many other industries.

Ivan Saltzman

Nationality: South African

Company: Dis-Chem

Dis-Chem started in 1978 when pharmacists Ivan and Lynette Saltzman, opened their first retail pharmacy in Mondeor, a southern suburb of Johannesburg. Dis-Chem is the second largest retail pharmacy chain in South Africa, with 165 stores, plus four in Namibia and one in Botswana.

Eric Ellerine

Nationality: South African

Company: Ellerines

Eric Ellerine, one of South Africa’s wealthiest individuals, founded Ellerines, a furniture retail company, in 1950 at the age of 16 with £106 in savings. The first Ellerines store opened in Cyrildene, Johannesburg. His younger brother Sydney, now deceased, joined him in the business two years later. In 1969, Ellerines became a listed company on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). Over the next five decades, Eric and Sydney transformed Ellerine Holdings into one of South Africa’s largest furniture retailers. Remarkably, the company’s growth was primarily organic.  When the brothers retired from managing the company in 2000, Ellerines encompassed hundreds of stores across Southern Africa.

Michael Lewis

Nationality: South African

Company: TFG Limited

Michael Lewis is the chairman of TFG Limited. TFG Limited, also known as The Foschini Group, is a South African JSE listed retail clothing group, which trades under various brands and has more than 3,000 stores within its portfolio.

Ramachandran Ottapathu

Nationality: Botswanan

Company: Choppies

Ramachandran Ottapathu is the CEO of Choppies. Ottapathu relocated to Botswana from India in the 1990s and eventually joined Wayside Supermarket, a small family-owned supermarket, as its CEO. Over two decades, he transformed Wayside into Choppies Enterprises, Botswana’s largest grocery and general merchandise retailer. Ottapathu owns 19.7 percent of Choppies.

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