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January 26, 2021

According to the recent Forbes 2021 list, out of the over 2,100 billionaires in the world, only 18 are African and 13 are black. In comparison, the state of New York has 113 billionaires. There are 6 times more billionaires in a single state with a population of 8.5 million than an entire continent with over 1.3 billion people. Not 6 more, 6 times more! During the Covid-19 Pandemic, the richest people in the world, gained an increase in wealth of over 30%, meanwhile the World Bank warns that the number of people living in extreme poverty is set to increase for the first time in decades, affecting over 150 million people.

The only 2 female African billionaires Isabel Dos Santos and Folorunsho Alakija have both fallen off the list of the richest people in the world. This comes as the falling oil prices pull Alakija’s net worth below $1 billion, as her major source of wealth comes from her oil exploration company.

Dos Santos who has been Africa’s richest woman every year since 2013, has seen her wealth virtually evaporate. The oldest daughter of Angola’s former longtime president, Jose Eduardo Dos Santos who was in power for 38 years, Dos Santos has seen all her assets seized by courts in three nations, and a lawsuit claiming hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid debt in a fourth country.

While her father ran the poverty-stricken but oil-rich country of Angola, she garnered significant stakes in its strategic industries—banking, cement, diamonds and telecom—making her the most influential businessperson in her homeland. Her empire began to crumble after her father retired, and the country came under the leadership of Angola’s new president João Lourenço who promised to attack corruption which has eaten deep into the country. The hammer fell in December 2019 when an Angolan court froze assets in the country that belonged to Dos Santos and her husband, Sindika Dokolo, who died in a diving accident in October 2020. The court claimed they caused the Angolan government to lose more than $1.1 billion.

More incriminating evidence came when Launda Leaks released documents showing that Dos Santos corruptly obtained stakes in Angolan companies. Courts in other countries followed suit by freezing her assets in their country. It is unlikely she will be able to retrieve her assets. As a result, Forbes calculated her net worth as zero.

In regards to her former contemporary, Alakija, as other countries begin to embrace more environmentally friendly energy sources and shift from fossil fuels, it seems that the price of oil will continue to drop. Therefore if Alakija wants to return to the Forbes list, she may have to diversify her portfolio into more sustainable energy sources.

2020 has really been a rollercoaster year for the billionaires of the world.