By David Nicholson
AFRICANGLOBE – When hopping on a plane it is understandable that you might carry a few personal belongings with you: a toothbrush or some bed socks, a little cash for incidentals in the airport or in-flight, duty-free shopping. So one can only imagine Christo Wiese’s surprise when he was stopped by customs at Heathrow Airport for carrying what he considered “small change”. Customs confiscated over $1 million in cash, the South African billionaire had bundled into rolls with elastic bands and nestled in his carry-on. A man with a personal fortune worth over $3 billion, complete with a wine estate, five-star hotel and private game reserve, considered this kind of cash “peanuts” – small change indeed.
Africa, a continent home to 80 percent of the world’s population living in poverty, is also the home of some of the world’s wealthiest people. Like their international brethren, despite the struggles of their poor neighbours, the region’s rich have no compunction about flashing their fancy cars, fleets of private jets, tickets to outer space, lavish weddings and exclusive and extravagant real estate.
In late 2008, South African luxury retail magnate, Johann Rupert, was quick to swear that his 22-year-old son Anton was not a “spoilt brat”, despite the young man having just smashed his father’s $1.2-million Ferrari F50 – one of only 349 in the world. Publicly, at least, the billionaire blamed only himself for his son’s error. The car – one of 400 sitting in the billionaire’s private-collection-cum-vintage-car-museum – did need driving to remain in mint condition, Johann Rupert said. “Cars that are not driven regularly suffer irreparable damage,” the tycoon remarked at the time. “The museum cars are therefore driven often.” Rupert senior brushed off his son’s ill-fated joy ride, saying: “I did far worse things at Anton’s age, often involving an Alfa Romeo Giulia Super.” Who knows whether the boy would have received more than a slap on the wrist had he taken out dad’s 2003 supercar Ferrari Enzo or the rare 1931 Austro-Daimler Bergmeister.
While Rupert seems fairly nonchalant about his jam-packed garage, Nigerian self-made businessman, Aliko Dangote, worth a whopping $20.2 billion, might be a bit more territorial about his latest purchase: a $43-million custom-made luxury yacht. The richest man in Africa for the second year running and widely reported as the 43rd highest-grossing billionaire in the world, Dangote paved the way to his billions through his publicly traded cement company, Dangote Cement, which operates in 14 countries on the continent. The yacht, named Mariya after his mother, can often be seen moored alongside Nigerian oil tycoon, Femi Otedola’s almost identical boat – in his case, named Nana after his wife.
Africa’s Monopoly “Mayfair”
If you are on the lookout for Africa’s superrich, Nigeria is the place to start. The capital Abuja is considered the most expensive city in Africa. A four-bedroom duplex in the upscale Maitama district, for example, runs to about $4 million. Nigeria’s vast oil resources and poor infrastructure raise the cost of living in this inland city but so do the tastes of some of its residents. Ferraris, McLarens and Lamborghinis have been seen on its roads, with local bloggers also claiming to have spotted a Bugatti Veyron (the world’s most expensive car at $2.4 million apiece), with a mystery driver behind the wheel.
Recently, well-heeled politicians and senior civil servants have been snapping up real estate in the city’s Goodluck Jonathan District, newly named after the Nigerian president, amid talk that the district will house governmental heavyweights like the Senate president and the speaker of the House of Representatives. Developers have scaled up prices accordingly: a 2,800-square-metre residential plot – undeveloped – now goes for upwards of $5 million.
Not far away on the coast near Lagos, the residents of the Banana Island district, a sliver of reclaimed land aptly named for its shape, enjoy first-world luxuries that elude many Nigerians and then some.
While a four-bedroom apartment can cost as much as $21 million, residents pay for benefits including a 24-hour electricity supply – a privilege found in only one other place in Nigeria: the presidential residence. Other rare conveniences include freshly paved roads and a central sewage system, two watch towers and a banquet hall with seating capacity for 200 guests. The extravagantly landscaped grounds are decorated with statues of frolicking deer and a bull. In 2012, the rare luxury of its premises earned Banana Island the coveted “Mayfair” spot on Lagos’s first Monopoly board.
Among the residents of Banana Island is Mike Adenuga, Nigeria’s newest billionaire, who counts a gilded duplex in the development among seven homes he owns. This is not the only kind of real estate Adenuga has been buying. He recently spent $1.24 million on a burial plot in the Vaults and Gardens cemetery in Ikoyi, Lagos. The sum is typical of the cemetery, where vaults and plots costing millions wait for their super-rich occupants. Adenuga, who built his fortune in banking, oil and telecommunications, reportedly paid the same amount for his sister to be buried here after she passed away in 2009.
Eccentric as this may seem, Adenuga and the other buyers in Vaults and Gardens aren’t the only wealthy Africans to choose an exclusive resting place. Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed, the former owner of Harrods, once announced that he wanted to be mummified and entombed on the roof of the department store when the time came. “There’s a glass studio on the top floor in his private suite,” a long-time friend reputedly said. “It has a glass dome and he said he wanted to be placed beneath that.” The Qatari royal family, which bought the place in 2010 for £1.5 billion, may have other ideas.
How Wealthy Women prefer To Do It
In the coming years, according to the United Nations, most African countries are expected to achieve growth higher than the global average, and the continent’s billionaires are reaping the rewards of this upward trend. The combined fortune of Africa’s 55 billionaires is $143.88 billion. There are three female billionaires in Africa.
Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the president of Angola, enjoys a net worth of $2.4 billion. Her 2003 wedding to wealthy Congolese art collector, Sindika Dokolo, reportedly cost $4 million. African presidents mingled among the 100 guests, a choir was flown from Belgium and two charter planes full of food made the journey from France. Her 10-year wedding anniversary party this year was no less extravagant. The invitation to celebrate a “decade of passion, a decade of friendship, a decade worth a hundred years” meant three days of extravagance for hundreds of lucky local and European guests, who partied in Luanda and brunched on the swanky Mussulo peninsula.
New luxury apartments owned by dos Santos in the Angolan capital of Luanda, which the Mercer Group this year ranked the world’s most expensive city in which to live, currently stand empty. With rent costing upward of $3,000 a month, most Angolans would struggle to step foot in such a place.
Let’s not forget Folorunsho Alakija, who got her start in the early 1980s when she quit her job as a secretary at a bank to study fashion design in England. The ambitious Nigerian returned home to Africa to set up Supreme Stitches. She picked up an exclusive clientele, made friends in high society and enticed the wives to wear her designer threads. Her brand soon became a household name.
In 1993, Alakija began to dabble in oil exploration, despite having no experience in the industry. Her oil riches today have helped amass her a net worth of $7.3 billion. She gets around in a $46-million private jet and owns a reported five apartments in one of the world’s most expensive apartment blocks, One Hyde Park in London, where penthouses sell for up to $9,350 per square foot.