AFRICANGLOBE – Most members of the continent’s select club of billionaires do not think twice while buying exclusive duplexes worth hundreds of millions, writes Peter Muiruri.
Africa, Kenya included, has been touted as the new playground for the world’s billionaires, with the number of foreign investors angling to get a slice of the huge development pie continuing to rise daily.
In Kenya, this has been validated by the fact that almost all the mega real estate projects have an element of foreign ownership.
Currently, the continent is building up a select club of billionaires that is giving the world’s wealthiest a run for their money. What has not been in the public domain, though, is how they privately use their immense wealth apart from the known investments.
Some of the continent’s super-rich have no problem buying a private jet worth Sh3.9 billion or spending more than Sh10 million on a small family burial site. And this on a continent hosting the world’s poorest.
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.
This is not surprising considering that in its 2014 Wealth Report, Knight Frank stated that the continent’s ultra high net worth individuals would rise by 53 per cent in the next decade.
Nigeria, the country that has taken the rest of the continent by storm and having dislodged South Africa on the economic front, has some of the most extravagant spenders. The super-rich in the capital Abuja will not wince twice while buying a four-bedroom duplex for more than Sh340 million.
Most Expensive Car
Curiously, the high cost of living in Abuja is partly attributed to poor infrastructure. Stil Ferraris, McLarens and Lamborghinis have been seen on its (Abuja’s) roads, with local bloggers also claiming to have spotted a Bugatti Veyron, the world’s most expensive car at $2.4 million (Sh206 million) apiece.
The construction sector continues to excite the continent’s super rich. Take Aliko Dangote, Africa’s wealthiest man, whom everyone on the continent wishes to court. With a net worth of Sh1.73 trillion ($20.2 billion) Dangote can fund Kenya’s entire budget for a whole year and have some change to spare. But he doesn’t have to.
During a visit to Nigeria two months ago by a Kenyan delegation led by Deputy President William Ruto, Dangote expressed his desire to build a cement factory to the tune of Sh35 billion. The 43rd richest man in the world expressed optimism that prerequisite licences would be issued for the rollout to commence.
This is no small matter for the magnate who is keen to expand his flagship company, Dangote Cement, which currently operates in 14 other African countries.
“Kenya’s market is very important to us. We will start as soon as we get the licences which are just about to be ready,” an optimistic Dangote told the delegation in early March. Exit Dangote and enters Mike Adenunga, Nigeria’s newest billionaire with his peculiar real estate investments.
It is Adenunga who planned for his hereafter by purchasing the aforementioned burial site in the Vaults and Gardens cemetery in Ikoyi, Lagos, for Sh10 million, besides owning seven homes in the high end Banana Island. Though his time has not yet come, he can take comfort in knowing that his sister lies in the multi-million cemetery since 2009.
Women billionaires on the continent also know how to make their money work for them. Despite their small number – three out of 55 – they make up for this by their unequalled spending and mega investments.
For example, Folorunsho Alakija, another Nigerian, is said to be worth over Sh600 billion or half of Kenya’s annual budget.
With such cash, she can afford to invest in the most expensive real estate address in the United Kingdom, One Hyde Park, London, where a penthouse goes for more than Sh800,000 per square foot. To track such vast investments, the former office secretary has no choice but get around in a private jet worth Sh3.9 billion.
The list would not be complete without the mention of Isabel Dos Santos, daughter of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos whose net worth is estimated to be Sh260 billion. Like her counterpart from Nigeria, Isabel has invested in real estate, building some apartments in Luanda where tenants pay a monthly rent of Sh260,000.
But in a country where 70 per cent of citizens live on less than two dollars a day despite the mineral wealth, it is not difficult to understand why the homes are still empty. Despite the many tales of hopelessness, the continent has finally come of age – at least for the select few.