Brendan Seery
Deputy Editor
3 minute read
29 Jun 2019
6:00 am

Money, money, money – the secrets of SA’s super-rich

Brendan Seery

The country boasts nearly 40 000 dollar millionaires, and here's what they do, how they live and how they play.

South Africa has almost 40 000 “High Net-Worth Individuals” – those with net assets of more than $1 million – or enough people to fill two-thirds of Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg.

But the average wealth of South Africans – calculated on a per capita basis – is only one-hundredth of that, held by even the least well-off.

The wealthiest place in South Africa is Johannesburg, followed by Cape Town, Durban (including Umhlanga), Pretoria and Port Elizabeth.

The AfrAsia Bank SA Wealth Report for 2019 said there are five South African US dollar billionaires living in the country (those with net assets of $1 billion or more). It notes that a further nine US dollar billionaires who were born in this country no longer live here.

The sixth edition of the report, published by Johannesburg-based New World Wealth and released this week, said there were 94 centi-millionaries (those with assets of $100 million or more) and 2 070 South African multi-millionaires (those with assets of $10 million or more).

Of the 39 200 High Net-Worth Individuals (HNWIs) – with assets of more than $1 million – 16 600 call Johannesburg home.

Total private wealth held by people in SA totals $649 billion, and it includes all their assets (property, cash, business interests, less any liabilities). This excludes government funds.

This makes SA the 31st largest wealth market in the world. About $275 billion (or 42%) of this total is held by the HNWIs.

The report said the average South African has net assets worth $11 500 (based on wealth per capita), which is second only to Mauritius in Africa.

The wealthiest area, Johannesburg, has a total private wealth of $248 billion.

There are 16 600 HNWIs ($1 million plus) and 870 multi-millonaires ($10 million-plus) living in this city and its surrounds.

Cape Town’s private wealth is calculated at $133 billion, with 7 100 HNWIs and 420 multi-millionaires living there. Durban, Ballito and Umhlanga area has a total wealth of $ 4 billion, but has grown the most in the past decade at just on 25%.

And if you are concerned about the pondok you call home, it probably won’t comfort you to know that there are about 2 200 homes in South Africa valued at more than R20 million. About 900 of them are in Cape Town and 480 in Johannesburg.

But, the most expensive streets in the country were both in Cape Town – Victoria Road in Clifton and Bantry Bay and The Ridge and Cliff Road, in the same area, where properties fetch R90 000 a square metre.

In Johannesburg, Sandhurst has the highest number (100) of homes worth more than R20 million, followed by Hyde Park and Houghton with 90 each.

What work do they do?

The top sectors where the super-rich earn their bread are financial and professional services (30%), real estate (16%) and tech and telecoms (9%).

The most lucrative university degrees in terms of percentages of HNWIs are law (28%), finance and economics (19%) and accounting (9%).

Medicine and related qualifications enabled just 7% of the top earners HNWI status.

The value of a tertiary education is highlighted by the fact that 95% of all HNWIs have a graduate qualification ( 68%) or post-graduate (27%) degree. Just 5% of the rich people have made it with only a high-school education.

Most successful universities are Wits (20% of HNWIs), followed by the University of Cape Town (19%) and Stellenbosch (12 %).

Games of the blessed

The most popular pastime for the wealthy is – no surprise – golf, with the “some of the best golf courses in the world” in South Africa – including Leopard Creek, Fancourt Links and Sun City – being singled out. This was one of the reasons for the boom in golf estate lifestyles.

Fly-fishing was also a hobby for the well-heeled. With emphasis on wellness and longevity, cycling is also popular with the loaded.

Many of them also leave

After analysing investor visa programme statisticis in various countries, and regular interviews with HNWI intermediaries like migration experts and wealth managers, and looking at property purchases, the report estimated that 3 000 HNWIs had emigrated from South Africa in the past 10 years.

Most of those leaving went to the UK, Australia and the USA, but “Switzerland and Portugal were also popular destinations”.


  • Top selling luxury cars in the country were recorded as being (in order): Porsche, Ferrari, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, McLaren and Lamborghini.


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