In a significant shift in the rankings of Africa’s billionaires, Johann Rupert, South African luxury goods tycoon and his family have claimed the title of the continent’s richest, surpassing Nigerian business magnate Aliko Dangote. This change at the top marks the end of Dangote’s 12-year reign as Africa’s wealthiest person.
Forbes’ latest billionaire ranking places Rupert and his family at the 201st position globally, while Dangote now ranks 219th. The shift in fortunes can be attributed to a major devaluation of the Nigerian naira, which fell by approximately 40% last June. This devaluation significantly impacted Dangote’s wealth, primarily earned in naira, which ended 2023 as one of the worst-performing currencies globally according to Bloomberg.
Dangote, whose fortune is largely tied to his cement, sugar, and flour businesses in Nigeria, saw his wealth decline to $9.5 billion last year, a near one-third reduction from the previous year.
Meanwhile, Johann Rupert, born over 73 years ago in Stellenbosch, South Africa, has seen a steady increase in his wealth. Rupert, who chairs the Swiss luxury goods company Compagnie Financiere Richemont and the South African investment holding company Remgro, has witnessed his net worth, combined with his family’s, grow significantly. Notably, Richemont owns prestigious brands like Cartier and Montblanc. Rupert’s wealth climbed from $7.1 billion in 2021 to a peak of $11.1 billion, propelling him to the 157th spot in Forbes’ World Billionaire Ranking in 2023.
Apart from his business achievements, Rupert, a known rugby enthusiast, part-owns the Saracens English rugby team and runs Anthonij Rupert Wines, named in honor of his late brother. However, he also harbors a notable regret: missing the opportunity to acquire 50% of Gucci for a mere $175 million.
Johann Peter Rupert’s journey to becoming Africa’s richest person is marked by a distinguished business career and personal achievements. Having started his business apprenticeship in New York City, he later returned to South Africa to establish Rand Merchant Bank and subsequently joined his father’s company, the Rembrandt Group. Rupert founded Compagnie Financiere Richemont in 1988 and has been awarded numerous accolades, including being appointed “Officier” of the French “Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur.”
A man of diverse interests, Rupert has made significant contributions to sports and conservation. He founded the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and took over the L’Ormarins wine estate following his brother’s tragic passing. Committed to preserving the environment, he is actively involved in conservation efforts, overseeing about 25,000 hectares in the Graaff Reinet area and chairing the Peace Parks Foundation.
This shift in the rankings of Africa’s wealthiest individuals not only highlights the dynamic nature of global wealth but also underscores the impact of economic fluctuations on personal fortunes. As Rupert ascends to the top spot, he continues the legacy of business acumen and philanthropic efforts, shaping a notable narrative in the continent’s economic landscape.