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They will be missed: The African tycoons and billionaires who passed away in 2021

An Eritrean cereals tycoon and an Egyptian billionaire patriarch are among the African mega-rich who passed away in 2021.



Egyptian billionaire Onsi Sawiris.

From an Eritrean tycoon who made a fortune manufacturing breakfast cereals in Nigeria to an Egyptian patriarch who built a conglomerate that made all his sons billionaires — quite a number of ultra high net-worth individuals in Africa passed away in 2021, leaving behind legacies of entrepreneurship and incredible wealth.

In no particular order, these are some of the more prominent people who made the headlines.

Onsi Sawiris

Citizenship: Egypt

The billionaire patriarch of Egypt’s wealthiest family and the founder of Orascom Group passed away on June 29 at the age of 91. The late business magnate was father to billionaires Naguib, Nassef and Samih Sawiris. His sons run the construction, tourism, telecom, technology and industrial wings of Orascom Group.

Ahmed Nasreddin

Citizenship: Eritrea

Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, the Eritrean founder of the Nigeria-based Nasco Group, passed away in May at the age of 97. Nasreddin founded Nasco in Jos, Nigeria, in 1963, as the first jute bag factory in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa. Over five decades, he built Nasco into a large conglomerate famed for being one of the largest producers of breakfast cereals, biscuits and other consumer products in Africa. His eldest son, Attia Nasreddin, now calls the shots.

Chris Kirubi

Citizenship: Kenya

Kenyan industrialist Christopher Kirubi died at the age of 79 on June 14 after a protracted battle with cancer. Kirubi had suffered from the illness since 2017. Before his death, he was also the largest shareholder in Centum Limited, a Nairobi Stock Exchange-listed investment firm, holding a 39-percent stake. He also owned Capital Group, a media group and the parent company of Nairobi’s popular Capital FM and Haco Industries, a manufacturer of consumer goods.

Naushad Merali

Citizenship: Kenya

The Kenyan tycoon died in the early hours of July 3 while undergoing treatment for an undisclosed ailment at the Nairobi Hospital. Until his death, Merali was the chairman of Sameer Group, a Kenyan conglomerate with interests in agriculture, construction, information technology, property and finance.

Hosa Okunbo

Citizenship: Nigeria

Nigerian billionaire Idahosa Wells Okunbo died on Aug. 8 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Okunbo played seminal roles in successful companies and businesses in Nigeria, including CMES-OMS Petroleum Development, Wells Carlton Hotel and Apartments in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, and Wells San-Carlos Agro Farms Limited, which opened a $750-million, 9,000-hectare farm in Edo in March 2016.

Sani Dangote

Citizenship: Nigeria

Sani Dangote, a younger brother to Africa’s wealthiest man, Aliko Dangote, served as the vice chairman of Dangote Group, Africa’s most diversified manufacturing conglomerate, before he died on Nov. 14 after a brief illness. The late industrialist was also the founder and chairman of Dansa Holdings, a Lagos-based investment holding with investments and operations in fruit and vegetable conservation and specialty food manufacturing. One of its subsidiaries, Dansa Foods, a beverage manufacturing company, operates as a member of Dangote Group.

El-Hadj Faraj Ahmed Abri

Citizenship: Tanzania

El-Hadj Faraj Ahmed Abri, the Tanzanian businessman and founder of Asas Group, died on Aug. 13 in Dar es Salaam. ASAS Group, which was formed in 1978, is one of the oldest and largest business groups in Tanzania, with divisions in transportation, dairy, real estate and fuel distribution.

Mahmoud Elaraby

Citizenship: Egypt

In early September, the revered Egyptian business tycoon Mahmoud Al-Araby passed away at the age of 89. He was the co-founder of Al-Araby Group, a pioneer in the manufacturing and marketing of electrical products, such as televisions and audio systems, home appliances, air conditioners and lighting products.

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Nigerian gaming tycoon Kunle Soname ventures into aviation

Soname is a Nigerian gaming tycoon and chairman of Bet9ja.



Nigerian gaming tycoon Kunle Soname

Kunle Soname, a Nigerian gaming tycoon and chairman of Bet9ja, a Lagos-based betting platform, has taken delivery of the first two aircraft purchased under his recently launched airline company, ValueJet, as part of a move to begin regional flights after all necessary processes are completed.

On May 20, the airline’s fleet, which includes recently purchased aircraft (CRJ-900s with the registration, 5N-BXS and 5N-BXT), arrived at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.

ValueJet is preparing the fleet for demo flights as part of the regulatory requirements set by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which is a mandatory regulatory exercise toward receiving an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) from the NCAA.

The decision by Soname to enter the aviation industry is consistent with concerted efforts to make flight tickets more affordable for Nigerians and to create value for investors in an industry plagued by operational difficulties and a persistent rise in operating expenses.

According to available statistics, only about five percent of Nigeria’s population can presently afford a flight ticket, which ValueJet hopes to significantly increase through innovative fare pricing.

Soname emphasized Nigeria’s role as an African country in driving global trade. “Despite all of the industry’s current challenges,” he said, “Nigeria and Africa are well poised to drive economic growth with an effective aviation sector.”

“ValueJet is a visionary airline that is gradually positioning itself to efficiently facilitate growth opportunities across geographies,” he added.

According to ValueJet Managing Director Omololu Majekodunmi, the company’s recent move is the first of many in the industry. He went on to say that the firm’s recently purchased aircraft were chosen based on performance, safety, and comfort.

“ValueJet will deploy these aircraft for regional flight services once we have completed all mandatory processes and secured AOC approvals,” he said.

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Led by Egypt’s richest family, Orascom Construction sees profit drop 43.1 percent in Q1 2022

Nassef Sawiris owns 28.97 percent of the multinational construction group, or 33,825,323 shares.



Nassef Sawiris.

Despite reporting a double-digit percent increase in profit in 2021 due to improved collections and liquidity management, Orascom Construction reported a profit of $15.3 million at the end of the first six months of 2021.

Orascom Construction is Egypt’s richest family-founded multinational engineering and construction corporation.

The leading engineering and construction behemoth reported a profit of $15.3 million in the first quarter of 2022, down more than 43.1 percent from the $26.9 million in profit reported in the first quarter of 2021, according to recently published financial results.

Despite a 20-percent increase in revenue from $816.6 million to $979.9 million, the group’s earnings power was hampered by a surge in direct costs above $880 million, combined with an increase in operating expenses during the period under review.

Osama Bishai, CEO of Orascom Construction, commented on the financial performance, saying: “We indicated in the previous quarter that we expected to experience challenges associated with the changing global economic environment.”

“As always, we continue to prioritize project controls, cost optimization, supply chain, and collections. Our new awards strategy is also unchanged as we continue to focus on high-quality projects across our geographies in sectors in which we are competitive,” he said.

The group was able to keep its project backlog at $5.5 billion by awarding $617.5 million in new contracts during the first quarter of 2022.

Despite the depreciation of the Egyptian pound, the backlog is consistent with the level achieved a year ago, as it was supported by high-profile infrastructure projects in Egypt denominated in foreign currency, as well as projects in other markets in the Middle East, Africa and the United States.

As part of its commitment to shareholders, the board proposed a $27-million dividend distribution to be paid in the third quarter of 2022. This is the group’s fifth consecutive year of dividend payments.

Orascom Construction is a leading global engineering and construction contractor, with active operations and investments in the Middle East, Africa, and the United States.

Egypt’s richest man Nassef Sawiris owns 28.97 percent of the group, or 33,825,323 ordinary shares, while OS Private Trust Company owns 51.8 percent of the Egypt-based contractor for the benefit of the Sawiris family.

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South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe, wife join world leaders at 2022 WEF Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland

Motsepe is a member of the WEF Board of Trustees.



South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe. ©Billionaires.Africa

South African billionaire mining mogul Patrice Motsepe and his wife Precious Moloi-Motsepe have been confirmed as two of the 35 South African business representatives who will attend an event at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, tomorrow, which is partially dedicated to promoting South Africa as an attractive investment destination.

The event, “Preparing for Africa’s Growing Global Role,” was developed in partnership with the South African Broadcasting Corp.

The 2022 WEF Annual Meeting, which runs from May 22 to 26, is convening at the most consequential geopolitical and geo-economic moment in the past three decades against the backdrop of a once-in-a-century pandemic, COVID-19, and the continuing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Motsepe and his wife, a renowned medical practitioner, join South African Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana and International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor as top representatives who will offer ideas about how to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in Africa.

Other South African business leaders who will attend the WEF Annual Meeting this week include: Leila Fourie, group CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange; Rene Parker, CEO of RLabs; Nicola Galombik, executive director of Yellowwood; and, Bronwyn Nielsen, founder and CEO of Nielsen Media and Associates.

According to a statement issued by the South African government, the event will also provide an opportunity for the government to share an update on South Africa’s economic reconstruction and recovery plan, promote the country’s economic reforms, and advance critical public-private partnerships to support its development goals.

Just last weekend, Motsepe, a member of the WEF Board of Trustees, passed Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa to re-emerge as Southern Africa’s richest Black businessman.

According to Forbes, Motsepe is back on top as Southern Africa’s richest Black billionaire, with a net worth of $3.1 billion as of press time on May 21, while Masiyiwa’s net worth has dropped to $2.7 billion.

Motsepe’s net worth has increased from $2.9 billion at the start of the year to $3.1 billion at the time of writing, owing to a 6.1-percent increase in the share price of African Rainbow Minerals, the South African mining and minerals company that he founded in 1997.

In addition to other assignments at this year’s WEF Annual Meeting, the billionaire will also speak on, “Sport as a Unifying Force,” alongside Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, WEF Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab, and FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

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