That Forbes rich list: If you want to be an African billionaire, this is what you should NOT do

The continent’s richest are playing it safe, as Americans and Asians make money off unlikely industries and investments

FORBES Magazine recently released its annual list of the world’s richest, and the Africa section kept its familiar look, with Nigerian Aliko Dangote for the fifth year in a row retaining his top perch despite taking a $15 billion hit due to a weakened local currency and stock market losses.

He was not alone; seven Africans failed to make it onto the publication’s list of the richest 50 Africans as commodity price plunges and market uncertainty ravaged their net worth— While in 2014 one needed $510 million to be counted in this list, of which 23 were dollar billionaires, this year the price of admission was $330 million, a reversal that comes after several years of steady growth.

A look at the African list suggests its residents made their money mainly off mining, manufacturing, financial services, telecoms and fast moving consumer goods. This was generally true of the world’s richest, but it’s notable that African tycoons are missing from a whole range of industries that catapulted the rest of the world. We look at 10 of them, where the continent is not yet minting billionaires:

1: Software

The world’s richest man, Bill Gates, made his fortune, estimated this year $79.6 million, from software, and for all of Africa’s progress in technology that has spawned conversation about Silicon Savannahs the continent is sorely missing from Forbes first-ever list of the 100 richest in Tech, a count that sees 51 Americans and 33 Asians. The list excludes telecoms and media—categories that at least five of the richest Africans trade in.

2: E-commerce

China’s second-richest man Jack Ma, made money off e-commerce though Alibaba as do a clutch of Asian tycoons.

For a category that taps the Internet that has been growing in leaps and bounds on the continent, just one of the 50 richest Africans is identifiable in e-commerce—the chairperson of the South African-headquartered Naspers, which is now Africa’s largest company. Even apps have few takers in Africa, while Chinese taxi-app mogul Cheng Wei is worth $1 billion.

3: Renewable energy

Clean energy is all the rave as the world seeks to combat climate change, but African tycoons have sought the safety of fossil fuels, a count dominated by Nigerians including one of the only two women on the list—Folorunsho Alakija.

4: Vaccines

Africa carries the continent’s largest disease burden, but vaccine production has remained a forte of western companies. But emerging market players are catching up: India’s ninth-richest person, Cyrus Poonawalla, has made his money of his privately-held Serum Institute of India.

5: Sewage treatment/waste management

Another opportunity given the lack of infrastructure to manage the continent’s waste—yet  at least five Chinese billionaires are minting their fortunes in this ever present space.

6: Aviation

None of Africa’s richest is listed as a major player in aviation—an industry that has been hit-and-miss in recent years as several regional airlines went bust. But it may be a matter of time, as entrepreneurs such as the owner of Nigeria’s Arik Air, Sir Joseph Arumemi- Ikhide, look to grow.

7: Education

Despite the biggest share of most African government budgets going to education there is not anyone invested in publishing or providing knowledge on the continent’s list. Or in paper making.

8: Youth

Facebook CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg, who is set to be among the world’s youngest billionaire philanthropists, retains a high place on the list with a net worth of $33.4 billion, at just 31 he is one of the world’s 10 richest people.Globally, photo and video messaging service Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel is the youngest of Forbes richest 400 list, at 25.

For Africa, its youngest rich person is aged 40: Tanzania’s Mohammed Dewji runs a manufacturing conglomerate.

9: Motorcycles

A phenomenon in Africa, the two-wheelers have created millions of jobs for youth—and even more accidents, but no African is listed growing rich from them—most are imported from Asia, giving rise to a number of billionaires that are minting fortunes off them.

10: Assorted

For this we note the lack of rich Africans in industries that have spawned billionaires in Asia and the America, and which would not be first on your list: pig  breeding, soy sauce making, making playing cards, spandex, detergents, gambling, adhesives or biscuits.

However, all is not lost—there may be Africans actually invested in these sectors, but off grid—various reports say there are more billionaires in Africa, where discussing wealth is still not widely accepted, than officially captured by lists such as Forbes’.

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