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It’s easy to forget that people of African descent come from a rich legacy of community and wealth-building as the first kings and queens on the planet. In a world that stifles Black progress and seeks to recreate a Eurocentric world-view of history, the brilliance of Black business owners shines through like a diamond in the rough.
As communities of the African diaspora, from Historic Greenwood District to Cape Town, South Africa, seek to build generational wealth after decades and centuries of pillaging and persecution, a few exceptional entrepreneurs stand out. The 10 wealthiest people of African descent prove the potential that’s often locked away inside Black people everywhere.
Using data from Forbes, which tracks the net worth of the wealthiest human beings in the world, The Black Wall Street Times compiled a list of the top 10 wealthiest Black people. Out of the 10, four are American, and three are Nigerian. Additionally, two are women, and eight are men.
What lessons can we learn from their success? Let’s meet them.
Top 10 wealthiest Black people in the world
10. Folorunsho Alakija — Nigerian businesswoman and philanthropist.
Alakija has an estimated net worth of $1 billion as of 2020. Alakija is the founder and executive vice chairman of Famfa Oil, one of Nigeria’s largest oil exploration companies. Entering the business world with a fashion label, Alakija rose to financial prestige by cultivating high-profile clients, including the wife of former Nigerian president Ibrahim Babangida. At 72 years old, Forbes ranks her as the 20th wealthiest person in Africa and the wealthiest woman on the continent.
9. Mohammed Ibrahim — British-Sudanese businessman and philanthropist.
Ibrahim has an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion as of 2023. Born in Sudan, he’s the founder and chairman of Celtel International, one of Africa’s largest mobile phone companies. He also established the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to support good governance in Africa. He sold Celtel International to Kuwait’s Mobile Telecommunications Company for a whopping $3.4 billion in 2005, pocketing $1.4 billion in the process.
8. Michael Jordan — Former NBA player and American businessman.
The six-time NBA champion has stayed busy in his retirement years. He’s now a successful businessman with an estimated net worth of $2 billion as of 2023. Jordan is the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets franchise and has several other investments in business ventures across the world.
7. Strive Masiyiwa — Zimbabwean businessman and philanthropist.
Masiyiwa has an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion as of 2023. In 1998, he overcame government opposition to launch the mobile phone network Econet Wireless Zimbabwe. He also owns stakes in fiber optic and fintech companies in several African countries. Together with his wife Tsitsi, he found HigherLife Foundation. The organization supports orphaned and low-income children in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Burundi and Lesotho.
6. Oprah Winfrey — American media mogul and philanthropist.
Arguably one of the most famous Black American women, Winfrey has a net worth of $2.5 billion as of 2023. She is the founder and chairwoman of Harpo Productions, which produces television shows, films, and digital media for a variety of platforms. Beginning her career as a TV journalist, Winfrey transitioned her hit talk show into a media empire with the OWN network, reinvesting profits from movies into more ventures.
5. Patrice Motsepe — South African businessman.
In 2008, Motsepe became the first Black African billionaire and has an estimated net worth of $2.7 billion as of 2023. Motsepe is the chairman and founder of African Rainbow Minerals, a South African-based mining company. In 1997, he flippled low-producing mining shafts into a profitable enterprise. He is the owner of the Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club and was elected president of the Confederation of African Football in 2021.
4. David Steward — American businessman and philanthropist.
Steward has a net worth of $6 billion as of 2023, making him the fourth wealthiest Black person in the world. Steward is the founder and CEO of World Wide Technology, Inc., a privately held technology solutions provider. A man who once watched his car get repossessed has progressed past poverty to become owner of a company that boasts high-profile clients, such as: Citi, Verizon and the U.S. government. In 2018, Steward donated $1.3 million to the University of Missouri-St. Louis to establish the David and Thelma Steward Institute for Jazz Studies.
3. Mike Adenuga — Nigerian businessman and billionaire.
Adenuga has an estimated net worth of $6.1 billion as of 2023. He’s the founder and chairman of Globacom, one of Nigeria’s largest mobile phone networks. It’s the third largest operator in Nigeria, with 55 million subscribers. Adenuga also runs a profitable oil exploration company in the Niger delta. He supported himself as a college student earning an MBA in New York by moonlighting as a taxi driver. At age 26, he earned his first million dollars selling lace and soft drinks.
2. Robert F. Smith — American businessman.
Smith a net worth of $8 billion as of 2023, making him the second wealthiest Black person in the world. He is the founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm that specializes in software, data, and technology companies. Vista is one of the most successful private equity firms, with $96 billion in assets. The persistent self-starter earned an internship at Bell Labs during college after calling the company every week for five months. As an engineer, he worked at Goodyear Tire and Kraft Foods before earning an MBA from Columbia University. In 2019, he vowed to pay the student debt for the entire graduating class of Morehouse College.
1. Aliko Dangote — Nigerian businessman.
Topping the list of the wealthiest Black person in the world with an estimated net worth of $13.7 billion as of 2023, is none other than Nigeria’s own Aliko Dangote. He’s founder and chairman of Dangote Cement, one of Africa’s leading cement producers and he’s Africa’s richest man. The company has operations in 10 countries across the Motherland, and he also boasts a newly created fertilizer company as of 2022. Once completed, Dangote Oil Refinery is expected to be one of the world’s largest, even as climate change continues to disrupt the planet.
While Nigeria boasts the third and first richest Black people in the world, the list reflects a diverse array of personalities, backgrounds, and ingenuity across the African diaspora.