Who owns what of Africa’s $2.7 trillion wealth?

By Trevor Analo

In 2013 Credit Suisse estimated the continent’s wealth totaled $2.7 trillion, which is equivalent to $4,929 per adult in Africa.

This is a decline of $300 billion from an all-time high of $3 trillion in 2007 after the global financial crisis. However, it is a 59 per cent increase from the $1.1 trillion at the start of the millennium.  Nineteen countries together hold $2.052 trillion, which represents 76 per cent of Africa’s total wealth, while the remaining 35 control only $648 billion.  A recently released report spotlights the distribution of this wealth among African nationals.  The data, published by consultancy firm New World Wealth, also reveals that the commodities boom seen in the early 2000s greatly changed the fortunes of many African countries.

According to the report, wealth is greatly concentrated in the continent’s polar opposites, northern and southern Africa.  All north African countries are situated at the top end of the study’s band. This is due to their strong commercial ties with Europe.  The least wealthy Africans are to be found in the eastern and central regions.  South Africans remain the wealthiest individuals on the continent with $11,310 in wealth per person up from $4,200 in 2000. The report notes that this figure is still well below the global average of $27,600.

Despite the civil war, Libyans are the second wealthiest people in Africa with average individual net worth standing at $11,040. Post-war reconstruction efforts are expected to accelerate wealth creation in the coming years.  Namibians come in third with an impressive mean wealth of $10,500 up from $2,700 more than a decade ago. Morocco, Botswana, Algeria and Tunisia are close behind with average wealth per adult in the $5,000 to $8,000 range.  At the “intermediate” league, the wealth of an average Egyptian stands at $4,350, while that of an average Angolan at $3,890 – a 527 per cent increase since the end of the civil war in 2002.  Countries at the lower end of the band have average individual wealth ranging from $1,000 to 1,350.  This group includes Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria.

At the extreme lower end are Ethiopia, Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia whose average wealth per adult ranges from $260 to $970.

“Trickle-down economics”

According to the report, wealth inequality remains astoundingly high with variations between and within countries.  Despite posting double-digit growth rates in the last six years, Ethiopia’s new-found wealth has not trickled down to the average citizen.  Even though wealth per capita has grown by 189 per cent over the last ten years from a mere $60 to $260 – it is the lowest in the group of countries surveyed.  This country of 85 million people has its total assets standing at $22.1 billion, a billion dollars lower than Namibia, which has a population of 2.2 million.  In most African countries that have recently experienced rapid economic growth, wealth has failed to filter through to the ordinary people and remains concentrated at the top.

However, the trend from the report shows an upward trajectory in changing household’s wealth since 2000. The only exception is Zimbabwe. Before President Robert Mugabe’s disastrous land reform policy in 2000, an average Zimbabwean was among the wealthiest Africans with individual wealth standing at $630 at the time.  Among the 19 countries surveyed, which also happen to be the wealthiest on the continent, Zimbabwe is the only country that has registered a decline in per capita wealth.  The average Zimbabwean has seen his wealth drop by 10% since 2000.

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