HARARE – Despite pictures from Zimbabwe’s rich and famous that flood various social media networks very so often, a Research and Markets report titled The Africa 2016 Wealth Report claims that Zimbabweans are the poorest individuals in Africa with at least $200 wealth per person.
The report, which stops at nothing to tell Zimbabwe’s few millionaires that they should take several seats when it comes to wealth highlights, said Mauritians are the wealthiest individuals in Africa with $21 700 in wealth per person.
While it may come as a shock to many — as luxury cars are a common sight in the country’s leafy suburbs — the report measured wealth using indicators like private banking, prime real estate and second homes abroad, and homes in South Africa.
With an entire section of the report devoted to the luxury sector in Africa, Research and Markets also examined the largest luxury markets on the continent as well as luxury clothing and accessory brand stores.
Luxury cars, luxury hotels and lodges, super luxury men’s watches, exclusive liquor, private jets and yachts were some of the indicators used in the survey.
The report also looked at wealth management in Africa, foundations and venture capital companies linked to the rich while providing a comprehensive review of the wealth sector in Africa, including wealth trends, luxury trends and wealth management patterns in each country.
Its scope was African countries ranked by multi-millionaires, the top performing African countries for the wealthy and top African cities for multi-millionaires.
The opulence survey indicated that there are approximately 165 000 extremely wealthy people living in Africa, with combined wealth holdings of $860 billion, but Zimbabwe’s rich failed to account for at least 10 percent of this wealth.
It should be noted at this stage that while their Nigerian counterparts reportedly spent at least $500 million acquiring private jets between March 2014 and March 2016, known Zimbabweans who own private jets can be counted on one hand.
According to Nigerian newspaper, The Punch, a couple of the acquisitions were made by billionaires Aliko Dangote and Mike Adenuga.
In 2011, Dangote acquired a $45 million Bombardier jet as a gift to himself on his 53rd birthday, while Adenuga purchased a Bombardier Global Express XRS. Both Dangote and Adenuga own at least two private planes each and they both upgraded last year.
The wealth report also examined fastest growing cities on the continent as asset allocations were put under the microscope, with countries ranked by average wealth per person.
Top luxury markets in Africa by revenue were defined in the report as it emerged that while luxury brand manufacturers were thronging to Nigeria and South Africa, Zimbabwe was yet to tickle their fancy as a market, so they rather operate through distributorships.
As much as it is not a secret that the culture of saving is “dead” as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya puts it, Research and Markets notes that approximately $125 billion of African wealth is tied up with wealth management companies.
“It is estimated the African private banking market will grow by seven percent per annum over the next 10 years.
“The most promising emerging African markets for private banking are Ghana and Kenya,” said the report, also noting that on the continent, around $28 billion is tied up in venture capital companies and foundations that are linked to the wealthy.
Many Zimbabweans who came across the report’s findings slammed the think tank on social networks saying the figures released were biased.
Users of micro-blogging site Twitter called Research and Markets out for the “generalised report.”
“There are extremely wealthy people in Zimbabwe but they do not go around flaunting their wealth on account of tax collections,” one user said.
However, economists defended the findings saying while there were rich people in Zimbabwe, the wealth was unevenly distributed, which made it difficult to average it to wealth per individual.
“Look, we all know the country has some seriously rich people but then the gap between the rich and the impoverished is so wide, with an absent middle class the figures are correct,” Harare-based analyst Issis Mwale said.
While the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal identified Zimbabwe’s economy as one of the most repressed economies in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the bottom five of the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, there is still an elite living large.
“The country has a very small elite that hides in the eastern suburbs cruising in imported vehicles, having fun in yachts and flying first class, Zimbabwe’s wealthy failed to make the cut in the opulence report simply because the wealth is unequally distributed and we do not have as many private jets,” another analyst said.
With residential areas like the luxurious golf estate of Borrowdale Brooke and people who have 18-bedroomed houses, the locals were shocked by the survey’s findings.
However, what most Zimbabweans on social media failed to realise was that poverty has risen in Zimbabwe, with over 100 million people living on less than a $1 a day, according to the United Nations, in the wake of ever shrinking economic growth projections.
President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF controversially won the 2013 elections on the back of a promise to create 2,2 million jobs through the implementation of an ambitious economic blueprint, ZimAsset, but little has been done to implement the programme.
With an unemployment rate of about 90 percent, most Zimbabweans have resorted to other means to eke out a living, as informal trading which has small profit margins in most cases has emerged as one of the few viable options.
The Daily News on Sunday spoke to ordinary Zimbabweans on the streets of Harare who said $200 per person was a “very extravagant figure”, despite social media sentiment.
“I sell airtime on this street corner, I come to work every day and let me just say I have never held $200 in my hand at the same time,” said Mukudzei Kanondo, a 28-year-old airtime vendor.
A gardener who operates in one of Harare’s low density areas said while he was aware that the country has its fair share of rich people, they were the minority.
“Oh yes, I work for such a family and they go abroad for the holidays but not everyone is as rich as they are. Everyone has different realities and for some of us a $100 bill is a big deal,” he said.
Zimbabwe seems to be losing the income equality battle. In fact, the New World Wealth research shows the gap is widening as the wealthy are increasing at a faster rate than the middle class.
This is not limited to Zimbabwe alone, inequality in Africa is a malady that is widening at alarming levels and continues to paint the “Africa Rising” narrative with shades of black.
Africa is the second most inequitable region in the world, hosting six out of the 10 most unequal countries worldwide.