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Tech, telecommunications investment a windfall for Africa’s billionaires

By , Sub Saharan Africa Business, Tech, News and Development Journalist
Africa , 10 Feb 2021

Investment in Africa’s telecommunications and technology industries has paid off for billionaires on the continent, according to a recent report by Forbes Africa.

The trend is likely to continue as more start-up businesses enter the tech and internet markets, driven by rising mobile and internet penetration.

In a recent report, Forbes Africa named the 18 billionaires, including those who made their fortunes in telecommunications, internet and technology from countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

It also covers Nigerian Aliko Dangote as the richest African, followed by Nassef Sawiris from Egypt while Isabel Dos Santos has been dropped from the list after her corporate assets were frozen by Angolan authorities following the #LuandaLeaks scandal in 2020.

The list includes 67-year old Nigerian Mike Adenuga, the fourth richest person in Africa with a net worth of U$6.3-billion, a slight drop from US$7.7-billion in 2020.

Forbes Africa, which describes his source of wealth as telecommunications and oil, states that Adenuga’s “mobile phone network, Globacom, is the third largest operator in Nigeria, with 55 million” network users.

Listed as the eighth African billionaire for 2021, 66-year old Egyptian telecom investor, Naguib Sawiris has a net worth of US$1.2-billion. “Sawiris is a scion of Egypt’s wealthiest family. He built a fortune in telecom, selling Orascom Telecom in 2011 to Russian telecom firm VimpelCom (now Veon) in a multibillion-dollar transaction.”

Sawiris is now chairman of Orascom TMT Investments, which has shares in an asset manager in Egypt and Italian internet company Italiaonline.

Through his Media Globe Holdings, Sawiris also owns 88% of pan-European pay TV and video news network Euronews, reports Forbes Africa.

In position on the African billionaires list is South African investor, Koos Bekker, with a net worth of US$2.8-billion (2020 net worth U$2.5-billion). Bekker’s origin of wealth is in media and internet investments, especially in e-commerce through Naspers as well as in cable television.

“He led Naspers to invest in Chinese Internet and media firm Tencent in 2001 - by far the most profitable of the bets he made on companies elsewhere. In 2019, Naspers put some assets into two publicly-traded companies, the entertainment firm MultiChoice Group and Prosus, which contains the Tencent stake,” notes the Forbes Africa report.

Othman Benjelloun from Morocco and in position fifteen on the list has seen his wealth decline from US$1.4-billion in 2020 to US$1.3-billion this year, despite rising on the rankings from last year’s 17th position. Apart from being CEO of BMCE Bank, which has operations in 20 African markets, Benjelloun is said to have a stake in the Moroccan arm of French telecom firm Orange.

His holding company, FinanceCom “is part of a project to develop a multibillion-dollar tech city in Tangiers” (Morocco) that is expected to host 200 Chinese companies.

Zimbabwean telecommunications tycoon, Strive Masiyiwa’s net worth is calculated at US$1.2-billion by Forbes Africa, rising from US$1.1-billion in 2020.

Masiyiwa “owns just over 50% of the publicly-traded Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, which is one part of his larger Econet Group” in addition to owning “over half of private company Liquid Telecom.

He also has stakes in mobile phone networks in Burundi and Lesotho, and investments in Fintech and power distribution firms across Africa.

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