Otedola returns to Forbes list as Dangote maintains spot as Africa’s richest man

After a six-year hiatus, Nigerian business magnate Femi Otedola has returned to the Forbes Africa list of the richest people, landing at No. 20 with a fortune of $1 billion.

Otedola’s comeback marks a significant milestone. He last graced the Forbes Africa list in 2017 with his controlling stake in fuel distributor Forte Oil.

However, a strategic shift saw him divest from oil and embrace the energy sector. In 2013, he used a Forte subsidiary to acquire Geregu, a public power generation plant and capitalised on its privatisation.

According to Forbes, Otedola’s 73% stake in Geregu is valued at over $850 million, forming the backbone of his fortune.

“He owned about 90% of Geregu when it was listed on the Nigerian exchange’s Main Board in 2022, but has since sold shares to institutional investors, which include Afreximbank’s Fund for Export Development in Africa and the State Grid Corporation of China,” Forbes said.

“His 73% stake in Geregu is worth more than $850 million, about three-quarters of his $1.1 billion fortune, which puts him at No. 20 on the list.”

Forbes added that despite Otedola’s rise, the overall wealth of African billionaires dipped slightly compared to last year. This reflects the global economic slowdown, but it’s important to note that African billionaires still fared better than their global counterparts, who saw a 4% decline.

“After taking Otedola’s comeback into account, Africa’s billionaires dipped slightly, but still fared better than the decline of 4% last year, when African markets faded in sync with equity values around the world. This year, African equities joined a late-year global rally, with the S&P All Africa index rising 10% in the final two months of 2023 but still ended down more than 9% in the 12 months through January 8, 2024,”

The magazine stated that “the continent remains one of the world’s toughest places to build – and hold onto – a billion-dollar fortune, as global investors remain leery of its stock exchanges, businesses struggle against strained economies, poor infrastructure and volatile exchange rates while changing political winds can make, boost or bust private fortunes.”

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote remains Africa’s richest man, with his fortune rising to $13.9 billion from $400 million, claiming the top spot for the 13th year in a row, despite political uncertainty following the February presidential election and a naira devaluation in 2023 that offset Dangote Cement’s rising share price.

The top three spots are rounded out by South African luxury goods magnate Johann Rupert held onto the No. 2 spot with $10.1 billion, down from $10.7 billion in 2023 as shares of his Compagnie Financiere Richemont–maker of Cartier watches and Montblanc pens – slid. South African Nicky Oppenheimer, who formerly ran diamond mining firm DeBeers before selling it to mining firm Anglo American a decade ago, ranks No. 3 with $9.4 billion, up $1 billion from 2023.

Interestingly, 13 of the 20 billionaires on the list saw their fortunes increase, while seven saw their net worth decline. The biggest decline on this year’s list belongs to Algerian industrial magnate Issad Rebrab, who was barred by a court in May from exercising any commercial or management duties at his conglomerate, Cevital.

Rebrab, who denied any wrongdoing, had previously served 8 months in jail on corruption charges until his release in January 2020. Rebrab, who shares the wealth with his wife and five children, including his son, Malik, who took over as CEO in 2022, saw his net worth fall by almost half to $2.5 billion.

The biggest gain belongs to Egypt’s Nasseff Sawiris, who added $1.4 billion to $8.7 billion thanks to a rise in Addidas shares (he owns about 6%), as well as dividends from the German sneaker company and family conglomerate OCI.

This year, South Africa claims six spots on the ranking, followed by Egypt with five and Nigeria with four. Algeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe each have one billionaire on the list, while Morocco has two.

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