While Africa loses high-net-worth individuals at an alarming rate, SA is the biggest loser

South Africa might have the most high-net-worth individuals on the continent, but they’re thronging to the exits.

Africa’s poor are getting poorer, its rich are getting richer, and its super-rich are jumping ship, suggests the latest Africa Wealth Report, which reveals the continent has lost more than 12% of its wealthiest citizens over the past decade.

South Africa has fared even worse, losing 20% of its millionaires over the same period, even though it has more than twice as many high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs, with liquid investable wealth of at least $1-million) as any other African country, with 37,400 millionaires, 102 centi-millionaires (worth more than $100-million), and five billionaires. 

The findings come in the wake of StatsSA’s first migration report, which shows SA has lost almost a million citizens to emigration since 2000.

Egypt has the second most HNWIs, with 15,600 millionaires, 52 centi-millionaires, and seven billionaires, followed by Nigeria with 8,200 HNWIs, Kenya (7,200 millionaires), Morocco (6,800), Mauritius (5,100), Algeria (2,800), Ethiopia (2,700), Ghana (2,700), and Namibia (2,300).

The annual report, published by wealth advisory Henley & Partners and New World Wealth, finds 18,700 HNWIs have left Africa since 2013, when its wealthy population was still a healthy 153,900.

Africa might be the birthplace of one of the world’s richest — Elon Musk — but he is among 33 other African-born dollar billionaires who no longer live on the continent. Only 21 of these dollar billionaires choose to remain on the continent, holding on to pots of gold worth a total of $2.5-trillion.

The continent’s top “Big Five” wealth markets — South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya and Morocco — account for 56% of the continent’s millionaires and over 90% of its billionaires.

Johannesburg is still the wealthiest city in Africa, with 12,300 millionaires, 25 centi-millionaires, and two billionaires, although Sandton — the “richest square mile in Africa” can only command $1,800 per square metre for property, while Cape Town’s property is the most expensive, with prime residential spaces fetching $5,600/m2, followed by Grand Baie in Mauritius at $5,000/m2 for a prime 200-400m2 apartment.

Five of Africa’s most expensive cities are in South Africa: Plettenberg Bay ($2,400/m2), Hermanus ($2,300/m2), Umhlanga ($2,000/m2), and Sandton.

Cape Town

Cape Town — also nipping at Joburg’s heels with 7,400 millionaires, 28 centi-millionaires, and one billionaire — is on track to overtake the City of Gold as Africa’s richest city by 2030. 

New World Wealth’s head of research Andrew Amoils says they expect several major Joburg-based companies to move their head offices to Cape Town over the next decade, which will help to drive wealth growth in the city. Cairo has 7,200 millionaires, Nairobi 4,400 and Lagos 4,200.

The Whale Coast, Kigali, Windhoek, Swakopmund, Nairobi, Tangier, and Marrakech are all expected to see 85%-plus millionaire growth over the next 10 years.

Dominic Volek, group head of private clients at Henley & Partners says currency depreciation and underperforming stock markets have chipped away at Africa’s wealth compared to global benchmarks.

“The South African rand fell 43% against the US dollar from 2013–2023, and even though the JSE All Share Index, which makes up well over half of Africa’s listed company holdings, rose in local currency terms, it was down 5% in US dollar terms over that period. Currencies in most other African countries also performed poorly compared with the dollar over the past 10 years, with dramatic depreciations of over 75% recorded in Nigeria, Egypt, Angola, and Zambia.”

Amoils says African countries are also losing large numbers of HNWIs to migration, which is eroding the continent’s wealth. “Most of these individuals have relocated to the UK, the US, Australia, and the UAE. Significant numbers have also moved to France, Switzerland, Monaco, Portugal, Canada, New Zealand, and Israel.”

Over the next decade, Mauritius, Namibia, Morocco, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda all expected to see a sharp rise in millionaire growth. Mauritius, with its stable governance and favourable tax regime, is projected to grow by 95%, positioning it as one of the world’s fastest-growing wealth markets, says Amoils, with Namibia forecast to exceed 85% by 2033. 

Sub-Saharan Africa

Reflecting on the report, political commentator Justice Malala says that with growth projected at 4% by the IMF, sub-Saharan Africa will be the second-fastest–growing region in the world in 2024, after Asia

“The African Development Bank predicts that Africa will account for 11 out of the 20 fastest-growing economies in the world this year. And with a new global political order emerging, African voices are also being elevated in international decision-making bodies.

“With Russia, China, the US, and the EU all jostling for favour on the continent, African leaders have become more emboldened and are demanding a seat at the top tables. These will come with closer relationships between continental leaders and other “middle powers” such as India, Turkey, Argentina and Saudi Arabia.

“Already, Ethiopia and Egypt have joined the BRICS grouping and the African Union has become a permanent member of the G20. Previously, only South Africa was in these exclusive clubs.”

Passports are a golden ticket to economic mobility, the Henley Passport Power Index adds, affecting Africans’ ability to travel internationally without being hampered by visa issues. 

Only two African passports ­— Mauritius and Seychelles — give their holders access to more than 50% of global GDP.

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