In a recent report by U.S. business magazine Forbes, Africa’s billionaires experienced a notable upswing in fortunes over the past 12 months, marking a reversal from the decline recorded the previous year. Notably, Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola has made a significant comeback, rejoining the Forbes list after a seven-year hiatus.
According to Forbes, the combined net worth of the 20 billionaires on the 2024 Forbes list of Africa’s richest people stands at an impressive $82.4 billion. This marks a $900-million increase from the previous year’s $81.5 billion when the number of African billionaires rose from 18 to 19, despite a collective wealth hit of $3.4 billion in 2022.
The resurgence in Africa’s richest individuals’ fortunes is largely attributed to the return of Otedola, who makes his third appearance on the Forbes billionaires list. Otedola initially debuted on the list in 2008, becoming the second Nigerian after Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, to be included in Forbes’ elite ranking.
From peaks to reappearance: Otedola’s rollercoaster ride on Forbes Africa’s billionaires list
Otedola’s wealth journey has been characterized by peaks and troughs. In 2008, he was the largest shareholder of fuels distributor African Petroleum and owned Zenon Petroleum, dominating Nigeria’s diesel sector. Although he fell off the list the following year, Otedola made a reappearance in 2016 due to the value of his stake in Forte Oil, the successor of African Petroleum.
The Nigerian billionaire last appeared on the Forbes Africa list in 2017, holding a controlling stake in fuel distributor Forte Oil (now Ardova Plc). However, this time, his stake in Geregu Power, Nigeria’s first publicly-traded utility company, along with offshore cash holdings, international real estate portfolio, and shares in two of Nigeria’s largest commercial banks, have bolstered his fortune, securing his return to the coveted list.
While initially owning about 95 percent of Geregu when it was listed in October 2022, Otedola has since sold shares to institutional investors, including Afreximbank’s Fund for Export Development in Africa and the State Grid Corporation of China. His current 73-percent stake in Geregu is valued at more than $850 million, constituting three-quarters of his $1.1-billion fortune and placing him at the 20th spot on the Forbes list.
African billionaires navigate turbulent markets: 2023 resilience amid economic strains
Despite a slight dip in the overall fortunes of Africa’s billionaires after accounting for Otedola’s comeback, they still outperformed the previous year’s decline of four percent. The continent’s stock markets faced challenges, with businesses grappling against strained economies, poor infrastructure, and volatile exchange rates.
Nevertheless, their performance in 2023 underscores the resilience of longstanding billionaires like Aliko Dangote, Johann Rupert, Nicky Oppenheimer, and Nassef Sawiris, who have maintained their positions on the list despite the challenging economic landscape in Africa.