African super-rich grow richer, move to Richistan

As part of my research on the African brand, I interviewed a Nigerian Hollywood public relations professional recently. Though his clientèle doesn’t consist purely of Africans, being a Hollywood connector he frequently encounters Africans with a bit of money looking to use his services for something or another. As we talked, the topic of money came up and the gentleman expounded on the different groups of Africans with money and their attitudes towards wealth. What I found interesting was how the Nigerian connector classified the groups: hustlers, who will do anything for a buck, and dignitaries, whose source of wealth is questionable. In his experience these were the two types of people who make up the affluent African class. Of course I found his tales of the affluent African a little disheartening, but it brought to light the issue of options for African wealth. We all know that the continent is rich with resources, however the access to those resources and who benefits from it’s potential revenue is another story.

The Wall Street Journal’s Informed Reader points to the recent release of Merrill Lynch and Cap Gemini’s 2007 World Wealth Report which reveals:

Globally, the HNWI (High Net Worth Individuals) population grew by 8.3% in 2006, to a total of 9.5 million individuals. HNWI population gains were particularly strong last year in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, advancing by 12.5%, 11.9% and 10.2%, respectively, and outpacing more developed nations. These gains came amid these emerging markets’ attempts to solidify their infrastructures and become more developed economies.

While this means there is more African representation in Robert Frank’s Richistan, many of us in lower to not-even-close Richistan, are beginning to ask even more questions about what role Africans play in the scramble for Africa’s resources. A BIG question raised in the conversation about African billionaires on Forbes’ list was, where are those billionaires getting their money? The wealth report hints that, China has been an active player in Africa, investing heavily in various sectors and showing particular interest in mining. Taken together, these factors bolstered the continent’s HNWI population, helping it grow by 12.5 percent in 2006 and increasing its wealth by 14 per cent.

While this seems like a good answer, I’m not sure many Africans will buy it. But I don’t want to be labeled a “player hater” so I will point you to this statement by the Informed Reader:

So when it comes to business and markets, the firms that cater to the top of the high end will continue to do the best in the coming years. Think megayachts instead of yachts, beachfront estates instead of McMansions, and Bentleys and Maybachs instead of Mercedes and BMWs.

Paul Redfern adds, “The report says much of the income is spent on luxury items, art collections, jewelery and charitable causes.” Maybe this growing area will give enterprising Africans such as my Hollywood connector friend a green card to Richistan. As another hustler friend of mine said, “Don’t hate, participate” - legitimately of course.

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