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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

Kenyan businessman John Kimani receives $1.2 million in dividends from agro-allied firm, Kakuzi

Kimani owns a 32.3-percent stake in Kenyan agricultural company.

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Kenyan businessman John Kimani.

Despite a double-digit decline in the profit of Kenya-based agro-allied company Kakuzi in 2021, Kenyan businessman and leading media mogul John Kimani was paid a dividend of Ksh139.3 million ($1.2 million) from his stake in the agricultural firm on Friday.

Kimani, one of the Nairobi Securities Exchange’s wealthiest investors, owns a 32.3-percent stake in Kakuzi, He also controls substantial equity positions in Centum Investments and Nation Media Group.

The $1.2-million dividend, which was paid into Kimani’s bank account on Fri., May 20, following shareholder approval at the group’s annual general meeting, was paid from the Ksh431-million ($3.7-million) payout approved by the company’s board based on its 2021 financial results.

At the end of 2021, Kakuzi’s board of directors proposed paying its shareholders a dividend of Ksh22 ($0.189) per share, a 22-percent increase from the Ksh18 ($0.154) per share paid last year, despite reporting a 48.6-percent drop in earnings from Ksh622.03 million ($5.43 million) in 2020 to Ksh319.74 million ($2.8 million).

The company’s 8.7-percent drop in revenue from Ksh3.61 billion ($31.5 million) to Ksh3.29 billion ($28.7 million) caused the earnings to decline, which did not prevent the company from increasing its dividend payout by 22 percent.

Kakuzi Chairman Nicholas Ng’ang’a assured shareholders that strategic plans had been activated to accelerate and enhance returns by diversifying the variety of produce delivered to domestic and global markets in an effort to reward shareholders with an even higher dividend payout in the coming years.

“We are part of a global marketplace and the products we produce often face stiff competition from producers in other countries. We, therefore, embarked on a very significant diversification program several years ago to ensure that Kakuzi is not dependent on any one crop,” Ng’ang’a said.

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East Africa

Led by Kenyan banker James Mwangi, Equity Group invests $3.3 million in DRC subsidiary

Its total investment in the country is now $148.4 million.

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Kenyan banker James Mwangi.

Equity Group Holdings, Kenya’s largest financial services group led by renowned banking tycoon James Mwangi, has invested an additional Ksh383 million ($3.3 million) in its Democratic Republic of the Congo subsidiary in 2021, as it moves to scale up the operation of one of its most profitable operations outside Kenya.

Its latest investment in its DRC subsidiary brings its total investment in the country to Ksh17.3 billion ($148.4 million), second only to Kenya’s Ksh40.7 billion ($349.1 million), highlighting its interest in the Central African nation.

The move comes after the Mwangi-led banking conglomerate purchased a 7.7-percent stake in Equity Bank Congo (EBC) from the German sovereign wealth fund KfW for Ksh996 million ($8.54 million), increasing its stake in EBC to 94.3 percent.

The acquisitions in other market segments sparked a change in the group’s traditional policy, as it had never acquired any lender outside of the local market, resulting in the group gaining a significant 27-percent market share in the DRC, compared to the 15-percent organic growth that it recorded in Kenya.

Equity Group’s profit increased by 36 percent in the first quarter of 2022, from Ksh8.7 billion ($74.9 million) in the first quarter of 2021 to Ksh11.9 billion ($102.4 million) in the same period of 2022.

The strong growth in earnings can be attributed to an increase in net interest income, which increased from Ksh20.34 billion ($175.1 million) to Ksh26.67 billion ($230 million) as the group delivered a resilient financial performance despite operating environment challenges.

EBC had the highest earnings growth in the first quarter ended March, with a 269-percent increase in net profit to Ksh1.4 billion ($12 million), as margins improved.

The subsidiary contributed 12.1 percent of the group’s net income of Ksh11.9 billion ($102.1 million) in the period, a 33.7-percent increase from Ksh8.6 billion ($73.8 million).

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East Africa

Tanzania’s richest man Mohammed ‘Mo’ Dewji gives commencement speech at Georgetown University

Tanzania’s richest man also received an honorary doctorate in humane letters.

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Mohammed Dewji. ©Billionaires.Africa

Mohammed “Mo” Dewji, Tanzania’s richest man, delivered Georgetown University’s commencement address on Friday, where he also received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from President John J. DeGioia and the Georgetown McDonough School of Business.

In his speech, Dewji mused on how the interconnectedness of the world today has rendered us even more disconnected.

“Like many parents here today, I worry about the challenges facing your generation,” he said. “Today’s world makes it easier to forget our community. New apps offer simulations of human connection, but make us feel more isolated. You can sleep five feet away from a roommate, yet still feel more distanced than two isolated villages in Tanzania.”

The billionaire called on graduating students to create a sense of purpose for the environments in which which they’ll find themselves; devote themselves to service of community; and not pursue success for vainglory or the sake of self-aggrandizement.

“So, when we get lost, how do we find the natural path back to community?,” he said. “It comes from the Jesuit phrase, outlined in Georgetown’s mission statement: Cura Personalis. Care of the Person. In Tanzania, we commonly use a similar phrase: ‘Tuko Pamoja’, meaning ‘We are together.’ We are community. No matter where I travel, from rural Tanzania, to London, to right here in D.C., I’m reminded that the values of Cura Personalis and Tuko Pamoja transcend languages, politics, religions, and cultures. The need for community is universal, because it brings responsibility and purpose to our lives. Remember, graduates, your successes are not yours alone. When we focus only on ourselves, we lose sight of our community. And, eventually, we lose sight of our most precious investment: our time with each other.”

Dewji spoke of how his personal sense of purpose and desire to uplift the lives of Tanzanians inspired his decision to return to Tanzania and join his father’s commodity trading company after studying and working in the United States. Dewji also said he was dissatisfied with merely trading food and general merchandise items, and was keen to create jobs and opportunities for Tanzanians – a move that led him to pivoting his father’s company from a trading house to an industrial behemoth.

In the past two decades, Dewji has built METL Group, his family’s company, into one of the largest homegrown industrial conglomerates in East and Central Africa, with 35,000 employees and annual revenues in the region of $2 billion. The group manufactures everything from textiles and beverages to edible oils and detergents.

METL is also one of the world’s largest farmers of sisal, owns container depots and liquid storage facilities, and has an extensive property portfolio in Tanzania. Dewji, who owns 70 percent of the company today, has a net worth that Forbes estimates at $1.5 billion.

Dewji previously served as a member of parliament for Singida-Urban in Tanzania from 2005 until his retirement in 2015. He received a BSBA from the McDonough School of Business in 1998.

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