The Indicator

Understanding the Wealthiest Individuals in East Africa

People who follow those three rules and take appropriate risks in new ventures in fast growing industries are likely to prosper

In this column called “The Indicator”, we will be taking an economic or financial statistic from East Africa and breaking it down into bite-sized nuggets of knowledge for investors.

This month’s indicator figure is 11.

11 what?

Years ago, the wealthiest among us were known as millionaires. However the wealthiest people on the planet now have billions of US dollars worth of assets and wealth.  In banking and finance this collection of the wealthiest of the wealthy are known as “ultra-high net worth individuals” (UHNWI) or for the purposes of this article “Individuals”.  This month’s Indicator will take a look at the 11 wealthiest people in the world who call East African Community (EAC) countries home.

What do you mean by Ultra-High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWI)? 

For the purposes of our discussion ultra-high net worth individuals all have assets valued at over $500 million USD according to the most recent estimates available. It can be challenging to estimate the total net worth of these Individuals because a significant amount of their holdings are typically retained in privately held corporations.

Which EAC country has the largest collection of ultra-wealthy Individuals?

Kenya has five ultra-wealthy Individuals whereas Tanzania has four and Uganda has two. It is unknown but certainly possible that Rwanda and Burundi have individuals who are extremely wealthy, but in a more private manner.

How does the EAC compare to other regions of the world in the number of UHNWIs?

To provide some context, the world’s eight wealthiest Individuals have as much wealth as the bottom half of the entire planet, an estimated 3.5 billion people according to UN estimates.

By a large margin the majority of the world’s wealthy Individuals reside in North America, Europe, Middle East, or Asia.

South Africa, Egypt and Morocco have respectively the largest number of wealthy individuals in Africa.

How did these wealthy Individuals in East Africa make their money?

Usually by running and growing businesses.  Overwhelmingly, the wealthiest Individuals in East Africa are business owners who created the majority of their wealth in their own lifetimes. Frequently, their businesses can be found in fast-growing industries such as food, commodities, media, telecom, and real estate.

Is the wealth of these Individuals increasing or decreasing? 

According to our estimates, the wealth of these Individuals is likely increasing on average. Most of the wealth-generating prospects of these Individuals are tied to the growth of the overall economy of East Africa. A growing population means more demand for vegetable oil, telecommunications, and housing which results in increased revenue, profit, and corporate valuations for the companies these Individuals own or control. In addition, these Individuals are expanding their business interests in adjacent industries where there are attractive opportunities.

How can a person of modest means in East Africa become ultra-wealthy?

Nearly all of the wealth generated by these Individuals was created in their own lifetimes.  The general rules of personal finance for wealth creation are to:

(1) Spend less than you earn

(2) Invest wisely

(3) Protect your downside risk

People who follow those three rules and take appropriate risks in new ventures in fast growing industries are likely to prosper. People who meet the needs of a significant volume of consumers, demonstrate passion and trustworthiness enough to secure investment, and manage their risks are likely to emerge as the new up and coming wealthy of East Africa.

How can I learn more?

To learn more about the topics in this article you can visit:

About the authors:

David L. Ross is Managing Director of Statera Capital and US Ambassador to the Open University of Tanzania active in growing companies in Eastern and Southern Africa through primary investment, investment advisory, strategic partnerships, and executive education. Connect on LinkedIn at or at

Catherine Mandler is a Senior Analyst at Statera Capital. Connect on LinkedIn at or at

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