Since time immemorial, there has always been a synergy between politics and business. Though some African billionaires inherited their wealth or built it from scratch, the driving force behind some stems from the extent of their political influence.
This advantage has seen some business tycoons build empires through favourable business policies in industries such as manufacturing, banking and finance, petrochemicals, and oil and gas. It is an advantage to them, the monopolistic nature puts the majority of Africans at a disadvantage.
From a report released by the World Bank in 2016, Africans pay more for their commodities due to monopoly. It was discovered that African cement prices averaged $9.57 per 50kg bag compared to $3.25 globally. This reveals that Africans pay 183% more than people worldwide for the same product.
Here are some African billionaires enjoying some economic opportunities due to their political influence.
Apart from being the wealthiest man in Nigeria and Africa, Aliko Dangote is also one of the people with the most political influence in Nigeria. His political network, to an extent, can be said to have benefited his business.
Though a wealthy businessman, Aliko Dangote was largely unknown until 2003, when he sponsored the second term political campaign of the ex-president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo. This has seen him have a monopoly over the manufacturing sector. The monopoly over cement gave him the leeway to set the market price for the commodity. This advantage increases his net worth, with 90% of it generated from the cement market.
With this, he expanded his business beyond the borders of Nigeria, becoming one of the leading cement companies in Africa. In 2015, the vice president of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajio, led government delegates to Zambia to commission a Dangote Cement Plant.
His influence has also seen him receive preferential treatment and support from the government. In 2015, Reuters reported that when the government restricted the supply of dollars to increase the value of the naira, Dangote’s companies received preferential foreign currency allocations from the Central Bank.
The Dangote refinery is not left out. The yet-to-be-completed refinery has been visited by top political and business people, such as the vice president of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo, the president, Mohammadu Buhari, and the central bank of Nigeria governor, Godwin Emefiele.
The Rupert family’s political influence spanned from Anton Rupert, the father of Johann Rupert, who was a close friend of the late former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. This relationship also extended to Johann, who considered Mandela a father figure.
Though not directly involved in some political matters, he moves and relates with some politicians who have directly or indirectly influenced the trajectory of his business. Some of his close political connections are Trevor Manuel, current president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa and Helen Zille.
His close connection with these people saw him, Cyril Ramaphosa and some other people establish themselves in the business world. Though Johann was not directly involved in Ramaphosa’s presidential campaign, he openly supported him and expressed his displeasure against Jacob Zuma’s tenure. He also sponsored the ANC’s gala dinner for Ramaphosa’s election celebration.
This, in turn, has seen the family business boom in South Africa. Even when Ramaphosa confronted Johann Rupert about creating a new business outside the country, he said it was about the ANC’s talk of nationalisation and that all the money made by the company comes back to South Africa.
In giving back to the continent, Nicky Oppenheimer’s family is working with government and political figures in Africa. This is done through the Brenthurst Foundation. This was founded in 2005 by him and his son, Jonathan Oppenheimer. To deliver the best to the continent, the foundation has a team, advisors, and associates from all over that offer insights into African development.
One of the advisors is the former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, the chairman of the Brenthurst foundation.
Naguib Sawiris is one of the Egyptian billionaires and businessmen and a political advocate of democracy in the country. Though he said he wants to concentrate on social and political work, he has always involved his business in politics. In 2013, he said, “My family and I will inject investment in Egypt like never before, in any new projects we could invest in.” This was following the impeachment of former president Mohammed Morsi.
To further promote his political activities, he founded the political party ‘Free Egyptian’ and the television station ONTV. Through the two instruments, he fought against the regime of Mohammed Morsi.
Aziz Akhannounch is the current prime minister of Morocco, the best friend of Morocco’s King, Mohammed VI and a businessman and billionaire. His company, Akwa Group, is a significant player in Morocco’s oil and gas industry. With political and economic power under his control, 200 days after his ascension into office, Moroccans complained about the hike in the price of fuel and other commodities. The Akwa Group benefited from the oil sector in the economy. One such example insistent is the case of the $1.75 billion (17 billion dirhams).
A case was filed against him by the president of the Competition Council, Driss Guerraoui. This was followed by his dismissal in 2021.