Africa has about two dozen dol­lar bil­lion­aires. Is their wealth more a sign of grow­ing economies or of sweet­heart sup­port from gov­ern­ments?

The Africa Report - - EDITORIAL -

LYAL WHITE Se­nior Di­rec­tor, Jo­han­nes­burg Busi­ness s School, South Africa YES

They say “a rising tide lifts all boats.” An im­prov­ing econ­omy will ben­e­fit all par­tic­i­pants, even if a few ap­pear to have risen to a new strato­sphere. The emer­gence of African bil­lion­aires is one of the talk­ing points re­sult­ing from Africa’s re­cent growth spurt be­tween 2002 and 2012 – much the same as China’s rise a decade be­fore. These new bil­lion­aires, or en­trepreneur­s, are a crit­i­cal force be­hind the rising tide that draws much-needed rein­vest­ment and eco­nomic growth to Africa. By plac­ing the con­ti­nent and its in­dus­tries at the centre of global value chains, African bil­lion­aires are help­ing to di­ver­sify economies well be­yond re­source ex­trac­tion. African bil­lion­aires carry enor­mous po­lit­i­cal and com­mer­cial in­flu­ence. They are able to drive devel­op­ment through shared value or what some have coined ‘Afr­icap­i­tal­ism’. Aliko Dan­gote, Tony Elumelu, Ashish Thakkar and James Mwangi are widely known for their dis­rup­tive in­flu­ence in tra­di­tional in­dus­tries, relentless com­pet­i­tive­ness and entreprene­urial flair, not to men­tion their com­mit­ment to devel­op­ment by build­ing true African in­dus­try. These lead­ers rep­re­sent the opportunit­y to rise to bil­lion­aire sta­tus within the African con­text. They in­spire hope for the next tier of African en­trepreneur­s driv­ing the fu­ture.

ROLAKE AKINKUGBE-FILANI Head of En­ergy & Nat­u­ral Re­sources, Fb­n­quest Mer­chant Bank, Nigeria NO

I un­der­stand the need for de­pic­tions of the African story from mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives since we’re so over the images of poverty stricken, ema­ci­ated Africans. That Africa’s richest elite now fea­ture on global wealth in­dexes in itself is not a bad thing – it’s ac­tu­ally great PR. The is­sue is whether the growth that has en­abled this wealth has trans­lated into so­cio-eco­nomic div­i­dends for Africa’s ma­jor­ity. Hardly. Ac­cord­ing to the UN Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme, 10 of the world’s 19 most un­equal coun­tries are African. It is not even as if Africa has a swarm of bil­lion­aires. Despite the fact that many are phil­an­thropic, the com­bi­na­tion of their good­will dol­lars and pri­vate sec­tor dol­lars will not be enough to lift the poor­est out of poverty at the con­ti­nent’s av­er­age growth rate of just un­der 3% to­day, even though the in­dus­tries that some of them build help to create thou­sands of jobs. If progress im­plies the type of devel­op­ment that is sus­tain­able and in­clu­sive, a tiny ex­clu­sive class of bil­lion­aires can­not be our yard­stick for gaug­ing Africa’s fu­ture prospects. Not all boats are lifted in a rising tide. My coun­try Nigeria is a case in point: In 2018 it be­came the coun­try with the largest num­ber of ex­treme poor (87 mil­lion) glob­ally but it is also home to Africa’s richest man. The irony.

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