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Africa's billionaires see decline in fortunes

22 August 2016, 13:40Eugenie du Preez

Cape Town - Africa puts up a creditable showing among the world's super wealthy, with a tally of 41 of the world's 2 473 billionaires, according to the Wealth-X Billionaire Census 2015-2016.

Ultra wealthy individuals in Africa such as Johann Rupert, Nicky Oppenheimer, Christo Wiese, Koos Bekker and Patrice Motsepe make up 1.7% of the world's richest, and between them hold a $98bn chunk of the total $7.7trn in assets owned by billionaires - down from $115bn in 2014.

This compares with Europe at 806 billionaires, North America at 628, Asia at 645 and the Middle East at 166. Defined as people with a net worth of US$1bn or above, these individuals controlled 3.9% of the world’s total household wealth in 2015, slightly down from 2014. And with only one billionaire for every 2.95 million people in the world, they form a highly privileged and exclusive club.

With 57% of all net billionaire additions and 70% of all new billionaire wealth in 2015, Asia is at the forefront of growth in all regions in both billionaire population and wealth, at 15.2% and 19.6% respectively.

While Europe's billionaire population rose by 4.0%, accounting for 21% of net billionaire additions, the wealth of European billionaires fell by 0.8%, an 11% drop for net billionaire wealth.

North America's billionaires increased by 3.1% in population and a solid 8.0% in wealth, with the region's size helping it make up 13% of all net billionaire additions and 48% of net billionaire wealth.

Most billionaires are also not afraid to roll up their sleeves: the common denominator of the world’s billionaires is their entrepreneurialism. Just inheriting health is in most cases not enough to become a member of the super wealthy club, with 87% of billionaires, up from 81% in 2014, having made the majority of their fortunes themselves.

Most of the world's wealthiest individuals are self-made, with fruitful business ventures or successful investments the source of wealth in over 55% of the total population and self-made billionaires representing 57% of total billionaire wealth - up from 7% in 2014.

Social media-savvy billionaires

The potential of technology has opened the door to a new wave of self-made entrants to the ranks of the super wealthy. Big data analytics and increasing global accessibility have helped young, tech-savvy entrepreneurs and innovators make huge fortunes relatively quickly by engaging with clients through social media channels.

Travis Kalanick, co-founder of Uber, and Brian Chesky, co-founder of Airbnb, have taken full advantage of the opportunities offered by the internet and mobile technology to completely re-landscape the transport and hospitality industries.

By contrast, the number of billionaires with inherited wealth has tumbled by 29% since 2014, with billionaires whose wealth is inherited comprising a mere 13% of all global billionaires and 14% of total billionaire wealth. This drop is significant against the backdrop of growth of over 3% in this population between 2013 and 2014, while total inherited wealth increased 13% over the same period.

While it is not necessary to possess a degree to belong to the billionaires' club, 70.1% have at least a bachelor’s degree under their belt and 13.1% hold an MBA. Harvard University is by far the preferred educational institution, awarding twice as many degrees as runner-up Stanford University.

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