Entrepreneurship Is The Most Reliable Way To Build Wealth In Africa, Not Inheritance -The African Wealth Report

In Africa, wealth isn’t inherited but made, says a new report entitled The African Wealth Report, recently released by Africa’s biggest bank Standard Bank. The report found entrepreneurship to be the most common option used by Africans to create wealth. No less than 148 of 265 people surveyed in Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria and South Africa they made their first million dollars and continued to make more thereafter from entrepreneurship.

“To draw a more complete picture of the wealth sector in Africa, a total of 265 respondents were surveyed and 75 face-to-face interviews conducted across five key markets — Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria and South Africa — with the estimated net worth of 67% of participants in the $1 million to $5 million range. Around 16% of respondents had an estimated net worth of $5 million to $20 million, while the researchers from our partners, Intellidex, also canvassed those with $20 million to more than $100 million in net worth,” said Chris Browne Group Head, Standard Bank Wealth and Investment. 

Here Is What You Need To Know

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  • 38% of high-net-worth individuals in the survey were between the ages of 36 to 50 years.
  • The favoured industries for entrepreneurs were real estate, construction, trade, financial services, manufacturing, oil and gas, technology and retail.
  • Only 71 chose an executive career. The report also found that entrepreneurship is a side hustle of respondents who have executive careers, particularly in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya.
  • 51 others cited the family business as a viable route to wealth creation, while less than 10% of those polled indicated that they had inherited their wealth.
  • Kenya (38%) followed by Mauritius (29%), Ghana (26%) and Nigeria (23%) stated tangible assets as the most favoured asset class for wealth preservation.
  • In South Africa, stocks or equities (51%) were by far the most popular asset class for preserving wealth, with tangible assets such as property comparatively less important (18%).
  • South Africans assigned the greatest portion of their estates to family (89%) followed by Mauritians (86%), Kenyans (84%) and Ghanaians (82%).
  • Of the five countries surveyed, respondents from Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya were far more likely to cite entrepreneurship as the main driver of wealth creation. By contrast, respondents from South Africa and Mauritius, with their more developed and sophisticated financial systems, were more likely to have opted for a traditional corporate career as a path towards achieving financial freedom. Consequently, South Africa, with the continent’s most developed financial services sector and the most liquid capital markets, has the lowest level of entrepreneurship among these five countries.
In The African Wealth Report Africa’s wealthy made their money most from real estate . Source: The African Wealth Report, Standard Bank

Qualities Of Africa’s Wealthy According To The Report


  • Most strikingly, entrepreneurialism stands out as the strongest trait amongst High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. While most HNWIs in these countries made their wealth in one business area, after their first million they tended to expand into businesses in a host of other industries, services or sectors. These high levels of entrepreneurialism appeared to trail off among Mauritian and South African HNWIs. In these economies, with their sophisticated and well-developed financial services sectors, HNWIs were more likely to have made their wealth in their professions — and then invested this in local and global financial markets.


  • Eclecticism is a strong feature of African entrepreneurialism. HNWIs in Africa do not restrict themselves to certain sectors. Instead, Africa’s entrepreneurs, once established, tend to be open to new ideas, regardless of whether they have had direct experience in a sector or not. Perhaps the emerging nature of most of Africa’s economies means that all fields are still wide open for Africans to develop products, services and solutions. This reflects the excitement about possibilities and opportunities that characterised our interviews with most of the HNWIs that we met.

Conservative Attitude To Spending Wealth

  • It is also interesting to see that HNWIs in Africa appear to have a conservative attitude to spending wealth, according to the report. While spending time with family featured highly, along with quality leisure time — including pursuits like travel, reading and fine dining — most HNWIs in Africa were primarily focused on preserving their wealth for broader investment or for future generations, rather than spending it. Few of Africa’s HNWIs were considering acquiring airplanes or prestige purchases that did not grow or preserve their wealth.


  • According to the report, relatively few respondents opted to give up working after accumulating their wealth, with almost two thirds still working at least 40 hours a week. A significant portion of respondents from all countries still maintain long office hours — between 40 and 60 hours a week — with many still working more than 60 hours a week. Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria were the only countries where any respondents spent more than 10 hours a week on leisure time. In Mauritius and South Africa, no respondents spent more than 10 hours a week on these activities and a significant proportion (39% and 27% respectively) didn’t spend any time on them at all.

“For you to be successful in your business you must work hard, you must be a workaholic like the likes of [Nigerian billionaire] Aliko Dangote, Bill Gates and others. They work all round and that has [convinced me to] wake up very early, go to bed late, thinking of how to add some innovations to my business,” a Nigerian respondent was quoted as saying. 

A Ghanaian respondent, however, said: “For every transaction, for every deal that you do, take 10 percent of that money and just have fun with it. There’s no sense in working very hard if you aren’t going to enjoy the money that you’ve made and play with it… And when you’ve made money there’s a lot of satisfaction in enjoying it. But there must be a balance, you have to know when to say, ‘playtime is over’.”

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The Most Common Vehicle For Consolidating And Preserving Wealth Is Property

  • The study found that in Africa, the primary vehicle chosen for consolidating and preserving wealth was property — from urban residential and commercial, through to industrial property, farmland and agribusiness. In fact, across all five countries surveyed, only in South Africa was property not the primary vehicle for wealth preservation. Investments in stock and – equities took the top spot in this country.

Strength in Diversification

  • The insights show that there is a strong appreciation of the power of diversification across Africa, which was consistently cited by respondents across all markets as being critical to long-term wealth preservation. 

“All business is risky. I have diversified my portfolio and invested in different things. I have property, I am in farming, I have a car hire business. So, I might lose in one area but not in all,” one respondent said. 

  • While it may also reflect the strong entrepreneurial streak prevalent in these three countries, respondents also appeared to believe that continued investment in what had helped them accumulate wealth in the first place was a prudent strategy. One Nigerian interviewee said:

“One of the major problems business people have is that … they withdraw the capital and use it for pleasure, but I don’t think that is the right thing. As [my] business is growing, I should keep investing in my business more so that it can grow bigger and better.”

Where Africa’s wealthy made their money from. Source: The African Wealth Report, Standard Bank

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What Worries Africa’s Wealthy The Most

  • When it comes to concerns about preserving wealth, political instability and personal security are the key issues for most high-net-worth Africans. The report noted that without long-term visibility of the policy environment, it is very difficult to make informed investment decisions as a volatile political climate can dramatically affect the value of assets. The political environment is seen as a significant risk to wealth preservation in the majority of markets surveyed — with 82% of South Africans highlighting it as a concern, followed by Ghanaians (67%), Nigerians (64%) and Kenyans (55%). By contrast, only 31% of Mauritian respondents saw the political environment as a threat.
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The Bottom Line: 

Good report! Africa’s wealthy as analysed in the report is completely captured in what one respondent was quoted (in the report) as saying “what enables you to build wealth in Africa is exactly the same thing that enabled you to build wealth in America and European countries in the 19th and 20th centuries.” However, it should be noted that the 265 sample opinions may not holistically represent what obtains across Africa. The report also appears to have completely excluded North Africa’s wealthy. But the report entirely presented the enormous investment potential across Africa. With 38% of high-net-worth individuals in the survey being between the ages of 36 to 50 years, it means that over 62% of Africa’s wealthy are still 50 and above. With rapidly expanding technological disruptions across the continent and the average age of Africa’s population being 19.7 years, Africa’s wealthy’s psychology and interests in the near future remain open-ended.

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Nichole Manhire

Is the media and brand manager at GFA News. She works very closely with editors and podcasters that contribute to telling the African business success story. For marketing and advertising send Nichole an email:

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