Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s $17 billion net worth makes the Nigerian the richest person in Africa and the only member of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index from one of the 60 poorest countries. According to Bloomberg, about half of Nigeria’s 190.9 million citizens subsist on less than $1.90 a day, giving it a Gini coefficient (a measure of wealth distribution) of 48.8, compared with 41.5 for the U.S. and 29.2 for Sweden.
Dangote, 61, is among just a few Nigerian billionaires, most of whom accrued their wealth by coming into possession of lucrative oil blocks or, in the case of telecom magnate, Chief Mike Adenuga, providing services to a fast-growing population. Adenuga, the nation’s second-richest person, owns mobile phone network Globacom Ltd., with 45 million subscribers.
He’s worth $2.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg wealth index. South Africa is the only other country in the sub-Saharan part of the continent with any representatives on the Bloomberg wealth ranking. Its three wealthiest citizens — De Beers heir Nicky Oppenheimer, luxury tycoon Johann Rupert and property and wholesaling mogul Natie Kirsh — are worth about $20 billion combined. All three have extensive holdings outside Africa.
There are just six Africans on the ranking of the world’s 500 richest people, including Egyptian brothers Nassef and Naguib Sawiris.
By comparison, China, with a population that rivals Africa’s, has 44. And though Dangote’s $17 billion fortune is a startling figure in such a poor country, his wealth in proportion to the size of Nigeria’s economy is on par with or even lower than the richest citizens of more developed countries.