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Africa's Top 40 Richest Men List- How did Forbes get the list?

Updated on November 21, 2011

Forbes just released its inaugural list of Africa’s richest men. The list of 40 Africa’s richest men interested me because we had two of them from Kenya. One is a famous Politician (Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta) and the other is a quiet businessman (Mr. Chris Kirubi). I shared the link on my face book wall and most of my face book friends were surprised that the names of some certain personalities were not on the list. What criteria did they use to judge how wealthy someone is? It’s a question that has crossed the minds of many people very many times. Before anything else, lets get a short history of the Forbes 400 list. Here are some quick historical facts on the now famous Forbes list

Forbes List timeline

1982- The Forbes list begins with only 100 million dollars. That’s right, with a net worth of a hundred million dollars, you would appear on the top ten list- if you had it in 82 of course.
1987- There were a total of 140 billionaires on planet earth

2005- People were either getting richer or the currency was quickly deprecating. 10 million dollars would not do for you in 2005. You needed at least 900 million dollars to appear on Forbes list

2006- 47% of the richest men in the world lived in America. This was followed by Europe which had a 26% stake of the men/women making it to the Forbes list. Middle East and Africa together shared 7%. Latin America also had 7% and the remaining percentage went to India.

400- This is the number of the men and women that are listed. So why did they choose the number 400? Why not 300 or 500? It began in 1900. Lady Astor’s 400 was the list of New York’s social elite in the early 1900s. Astor was the self proclaimed New York queen and she took it upon herself to regulate the society by keeping some of the new rich of the gilded society out. You might recall that this was the age when there was the industrial revolution and so there were more wealthy people in the society.

Enough timelines and history. So how does Forbes get its data?

The website has over the years grown to be one of the biggest data house for information of the rich men and women in the world.

Internet, documents

Apart from the Forbes website, the internet and other legally available documents like company results etc are all sources of lots of information. You can hide riches but you cannot hide wealth.

Industry experts/analysts

Forbes uses many experts to analyze the records and the data available in order to eventually end up with the top list. This collection of experts ranges from journalists to economic experts.

Continually making new calls

According to a Forbes official, the best source of information on billionaires is other billionaires. The rational is that wealth people know other wealthy people- and I can’t agree more.

And the process is usually a lengthy one. Speaking at the Liverpool IFC forum, a Forbes official revealed the entire process of arriving at that year’s top 400 list to the audience. An able team of at least forty reporters had been selected. The reporters had traversed at least nine countries where they spent most of their time valuing the assets of 793 billionaires. He reportedly said that the estimates they eventually arrived at after dropping 355 wealthy people from the original list was a "conservative estimate".

So what did they put into account?

Well, the tally included companies whether publicly traded or privately held, real estate, and various investments in art, rich men toys (that would be jets and yachts) and of course hordes of dough.

So was that the same criteria used in gathering data for the top 40 Africa's list? I would say yes but am no expert. But I doubt they would use a different criteria. What is clear however is that Forbes avoid personalities that are perceived to have attained affluence via corrupt means. That would explain why some notable figures from the continent are missing from the list. In fact, Forbes has another list for the top richest dictators from Africa. And how did they settle at the number forty? Well, I don’t think there is an African story behind forty like there is an American one behind 400. But still, it’s good the list is finally here. Am sure the journey to search next years top 40 list has began. Now I can start waiting to get a call from them. Someone needs to value my thousands and tell me what my position is.

And just to put things into perspective, lets compare Africa's Top five with America's top five

1. Aliko Dangote
1.Bill Gates
2.Nicky Oppenheimer & family
2.Warren Buffett
3. Nassef Sawiris
3.Larry Ellison
4. Johann Rupert & family
4. Charles Koch
5. Mike Adenuga
4. David Koch

To put it candidly, the rich dudes of Africa wouldn't even feature anywhere on America's top 400 list- unless if forbes decided to use the 1982 standard, but that is neither here nor there


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    • ronhi profile image

      ronhi 5 years ago from Kenya

      JenMC, thanks for reading. Glad you learned something new here. See you around

    • JenMc profile image

      Jenny McClease 5 years ago from Norfolk, Virginia

      Thanks for giving us the inside scoop on the Forbes list. Not many people think about how Forbes arrive at these numbers. People just naturally accept it because it's Forbes. Your article was very informative. I actually learned something.

    • ronhi profile image

      ronhi 5 years ago from Kenya

      @ Monicamelemdez, you are right...very hard work indeed. Thanks for your feedback

    • monicamelendez profile image

      monicamelendez 5 years ago from Salt Lake City

      Very interesting. Seems like it would be very hard to get that information!

    • ronhi profile image

      ronhi 6 years ago from Kenya

      @ Rachelle, now you know:) Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your feedback. See you around

    • Rachelle Williams profile image

      Rachelle Williams 6 years ago from Tempe, AZ

      Interesting. I always wondered how Forbes obtains the data to compile these lists. Great hub!

    • profile image

      Noxic Samoei 6 years ago

      Wealth and riches differ...