Zimbabwe has experienced one of the worst economic and political crises in history, and this is demonstrated by the country’s widespread poverty and unemployment rate which rose to a staggering 94% in 2008. The country’s involvement in the Second Congo War in 1998 as well as the Zimbabwe government’s controversial land reform programme and the hyperinflation of the Zimbabwean dollar, and many other factors, all played a role in the economy’s downturn.
However, the abandonment of the Zimbabwean dollar and the adoption of a government of national unity have since seen the country experience a period of positive economic growth.
With a GDP now exceeding $28 billion, Zimbabwe is slowly recovering after years of turmoil and turning into the next big thing. Its reputation as a tourist destination is once again improving and many successful businessmen continue to invest in different sectors in the country, including telecommunications, mining and manufacturing. But just who are these successful businessmen?
Join us as we take a look at the top 10 richest people in Zimbabwe.
10. Charles Davy
Net worth: $540 million (about £444 million)
Born in South Africa in 1952, Charles Davy owns some 1,300 square miles of land in the Lemco Safari Area or about 0.09 per cent of all agricultural land in Zimbabwe. The fact that he managed to keep it during President Robert Mugabe’s land seizures in the 2000s still stirs controversy, and he reportedly made his fortune from his links with Mugabe and his regime.
He also makes a lot of money by running hunting safaris which, in 2005, were reported to typically cost £660 (about $802 today) per day to shoot lions, elephants, leopards and buffalo on 24-day expeditions.
Davy’s daughter is none other than Chelsy Davy, the relatively famous former on-off girlfriend of Prince Harry between 2004 and 2011.
9. Ian Saunders
Net worth: $590 million (about £485 million)
Born in 1968, Ian Saunders has held many technical and managerial roles in South Africa and Zimbabwe and has more than 20 years’ experience in the mining industry. He has since gone on to hold a seat on five corporate boards, most notably at New Dawn Mining Corp. where he is also President and CEO (since 2006 and 2008, respectively).
8. Michael Fowler
Net worth: $645 million (£530 million)
Together with Zed Koudounaris (who also appears on this list), Michael Fowler co-founded Innscor Africa as a chicken shop in 1987. Over time, they expanded their business into other foods and, later, the manufacture and sale of fast-moving and durable consumer goods in Zimbabwe and internationally.
In May 2016, an investigation into the Panama Papers revealed that both Fowler and Koudounaris had violated Zimbabwean law by transferring money from their salaries to offshore accounts in the British Virgin Islands.
7. Sam Levy Family
Net worth: $677 million (£556 million)
Best known for constructing the Sam Levy’s Village shopping mall in Borrowdale, a suburb of Harare, Sam Levy was a self-made millionaire businessman and property developer. Born in 1929, up until his death in 2012, he was ‘never short of controversy’, as the Herald so eloquently put it. He reportedly built Sam Levy’s Village without municipal permission and only regularised the complex when authorities threatened to demolish it.
Interestingly, in 2000 50 motorbikes marked ‘Police’ were discovered at his farm, and he was only fined Z$200 (a ridiculous £0.45 or $0.55). He (andhis fortune) is survived by his wife and their four children. His eldest son Isaac took over the business upon his death.
6. Ken Sharpe
Net worth: $690 million ($567 million)
Born in 1973, Kenneth Raydon Sharpe is the Executive Chairman of West Properties Company. He started his entrepreneurial journey in 1990 when he established a confectionery and food distribution business which, ultimately, became the West Group.
Sharpe was involved in skiing accident while on a family vacation in Canada in 2007 – a CT scan revealed that 60% of his brain cavity was filled with blood and was given a 3% chance of survival. However, he pulled through and woke up on his daughter’s 11th birthday.
5. Zed Koudounaris
Net worth: $734 million (£603 million)
Zinona Koudounaris, better known as Zed, has served as Non-Executive Director of Innscor since 1996, which he co-founded with Michael Fowler. In 2016, he and Fowler were discovered to have opened four companies in the British Virgin Islands and transferred money from their salaries to the firms in early 2015. According to Zimbabwean law, this is prohibited unless authorised by the Zimbabwe Reserve Bank – which, naturally, was not.
4. Billy Rautenbach
Net worth: $740 million (£608 million)
Known as the Napoleon of Africa due to his business empire expanding to more than 12 countries on the continent, Billy Reutenback’s business ventures include car manufacturing, farming, mining and trucking. He was born in 1959 and took over the family business, Wheels of Africa, turning it into the largest trucking company in Africa. Reutenback’s participation in the construction of the Green Fuel Chisumbanje plant is regarded as his biggest achievement – an eco-project that has created more jobs in Zimbabwe than any other in the last 20 years.
3. Nicholas van Hoogstraten
Net worth: $750 million (£616 million)
Born in Shoreham-by-Sea, England in 1945, Nicholas van Hoogstraten is currently the third richest person in Zimbabwe. His story is quite a fascinating one: at the age of 11, he began selling stamps to collectors which he claimed to be worth as much as $30,000 (about £24,650). At 14, he began wearing a suit to school and reportedly excused himself from class to read the Financial Times.
He has since gone on to become a highly successful property tycoon – in fact, by the age of 23, he was Britain’s youngest millionaire with a portfolio of more than 300 properties. He later emigrated to Zimbabwe and by 2013 owned over 1,600 square miles of land.
In 2002, he was charged with manslaughter of a business rival and sentenced to 10 years in prison. However, the verdict was later overturned.
2. John Bredenkamp
Net worth: $793 million (£652 million)
Born in South Africa in 1940, John Bredenkamp moved to then Rhodesia with his family when he was a child. He was orphaned on his birthday: upon returning home from a bike ride, he discovered that his father had shot his mother and sister and them himself (his sister survived).
He founded the Casalee Group of companies in 1976, which was primarily a leaf tobacco merchant company, eventually becoming the fifth largest tobacco merchant in the world and effectively making Bredenkamp one of the richest people in Zimbabwe. Casalee was sold in 1993, and he has since expanded his business interests into many other different areas, including grey-market arms dealing, sports marketing and diamond mining.
1. Strive Masiyiwa
Net worth: $860 million (£707 million)
The man with the biggest money bags in Zimbabwe is Strive Masiyiwa, the founder and executive chairman of Econet Wireless, a diversified telecommunications group. The company was set up 1993 and was granted a telephony license in 1998 at a time when 70% of the country’s inhabitants had never heard a telephone ring, and is now one of the largest business empires in the world.
The only listed entity is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE). Masiyiwa moved to South Africa in 2000 and now lives in London, England with his family. He is considered one of Africa’s most generous humanitarians, using his wealth to provide scholarships to more than 100,000 young Africans over the past 20 years, as well as sponsoring students at universities in China, the UK and US.
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This article was originally published in March 2015.