Three African billionaires now have more wealth than the poorest 50%. That’s a staggering 650 million people across the continent
And, the most unequal country in the region is eSwatini, formerly Swaziland, where Nathan Kirsh is the wealthiest person.
Estimated to have $5.4 billion, if Kirsh worked in one of the restaurants that his wholesale company supplies goods, as a worker, it would take him 5.7 million years to earn his current level of wealth, according to a report by Oxfam.
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eSwatini is a country where about 80% of the 1.3 million people live on subsistence farming. The largely agrarian nature of the economy means that growth rates are slower.
So rich is Kirsh that if he even gave $2,000 to every Swazi, he would still be a billionaire.
Born 6 January 1932 in Potchefstroom, South Africa, with a property empire spanning Australia, Swaziland, and the UK, Kirsh left South Africa permanently for Swaziland in 1986 after a business partnership between his company, Kirsh Industries, and Sanlam, one of South Africa’s leading financial services groups, unraveled, according to People Pill.
Kirsh’s main holding group, Kirsh Holdings Group, owns Swazi Plaza Properties – his biggest interest in that country – in a 50/50 partnership with the government-owned Swaziland Industrial Development Company (SIDC).
Kirsh’s father died when he was 16, and he had to assume responsibility for a family that was “ill-prepared” for the death, which came quite suddenly and unexpectedly.
“It left my mother in charge of a reasonably sized business, knowing nothing about it. She had to learn, and she insisted that I go to university, which I did. I used to work whenever I had spare time in the business, and the business was 70 miles away,” Kirsh told Tregernomics.
According to People Pill, Kirsh’s companies are registered in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands and Liberia, listed on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s tax-haven “Grey list”.
As of 2012, Kirsh had a 63% stake in Jetro Holdings, a holding company that owns 86 Restaurant Depot stores plus 10 Jetro Cash & Carry stores. It is believed that the company earned $6.5 billion in revenue in 2011, People Pill reported. On or around the time of his purchase of Restaurant Depot, Kirsh solicited capital from Warren Buffett, but Buffett turned him down.
Since 2012, Kirsh has continued to work in real estate. According to Kirsh, real estate “is the only sector where ‘stupid people’ can make money.”
Speaking of his business principle Kirsh told Tregernomics: “I am very reluctant to invest in something where I can see the finishing line before I start. I look at things that have scale, but then you have to be at a certain point in time in your business cycle.
“I am in a very mature business cycle, where I’m not looking to start new things, and I’m not looking to start the beginning of my thought process in what I want to look for. This would not be what I looked for 30 years ago, 40 years ago, or even 20 years ago.”