You may have heard the term ‘ultra high net worth individual‘ or UHNWI tossed around before. But what exactly does it mean and what does the global distribution of extreme wealth look like today? As a Kenyan, understanding where the ultra wealthy live can give us perspective on this exclusive club – and insights into Kenya’s position.
Defining ‘Ultra Wealthy’
UHNWIs are defined as people with a net worth of at least $30 million (or ~3 billion Kenyan shillings). This includes all their assets like properties, businesses, investments etc minus any debts.
So we’re talking about incredibly affluent individuals here – Kenya’s 50 or so UHNWIs are worth a combined ~150 billion shillings alone!
Only about 395,000 people worldwide, according to Statista, meet the ‘ultra wealthy‘ criteria. To put it into perspective, you could fit all of the world’s UHNWIs into a couple of stadiums.
North America: Home of the Most Ultra Rich
Let’s start with North America, base for over 140,000 UHNWIs. America especially stands out with nearly 130,000 ultra rich residents – they hold close to a third of the world’s total ultra wealth.
Even with its giant economy, America’s dominance is staggering. It shows how public policy can concentrate wealth, since lower taxes and limited social services benefit the rich.
Asia Follows – But China’s Growth Stalls
Asia comes next with ~108,000 UHNWIs. China and India are major hubs, home to over 55,000 ultra rich between them.
But China’s rising wealthy class took a hit in 2022 as lockdowns shaved billions off fortunes. It shows how quickly elite wealth can vanish.
Europe: Ultra Wealth Spread Across Many Countries
Europe’s ultra wealthy population stands at ~100,000 people but it’s more evenly distributed than in the Americas. Germany, UK, France – all have between 10,000-20,000 UHNWIs.
The region’s diversity demonstrates how culture and policy shape wealth inequality. Stricter European taxation makes extreme wealth accumulation less viral.
Middle East Fortunes Surge While Africa Lags
The Middle East saw the fastest ultra wealthy growth globally last year. Saudi and UAE elites cashed in on economic expansion.
Africa remains far behind with about 3,000 UHNWIs total. But markets like Kenya are steadily grooming more centi-millionaires and billionaires.
Kenya’s Ultra Wealthy Tribe Slowly Grows
Kenya’s 50 or so UHNWIs are dwarfed by South Africa’s 2,200. But since 2012, Kenya’s ultra-elite club has tripled in size.
If political and business climates stay stable, Kenya could reach 100+ UHNWIs by 2030. Not huge, but it would cement Kenya’s position as a regional leader.
Kenya’s Ultra Wealthy: Top 15 Richest — Descending Order
While Kenya’s ultra wealthy population is still small, it’s interesting to examine who exactly makes up this elite circle and how they acquired their immense fortunes.
- Baloobhai Patel – Mr.Patel is a Kenyan businessman and entrepreneur with a net worth of $4 billion (approx. Sh45.6 billion) as of 2023. He is the founder and managing director of Transworld Safaris Limited, a tour company that he fully owns. He also owns minority stakes in a number of publicly listed companies at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE).
- Mama Ngina Kenyatta – The former First Lady of Kenya, has a net worth of $1 billion (Sh86 billion) as of 2023. She is the richest woman in Kenya and one of the richest women in Africa. Her wealth is derived from her investments in real estate, banking, and hospitality. She also owns a number of businesses, including a hotel, a coffee plantation, and a dairy farm.
- Naushad Merali – Business tycoon Merali has interests in manufacturing, agriculture, real estate and more. He’s the founder of Sameer Group and is worth an estimated $790 million.
- Bhimji Depar Shah – Shah is the founder and current chairman of Bidco Group, which manufactures edible oils, hygiene and cleaning products. His net worth stands at $750 million.
- Jaswinder Singh Bedi – Bedi chairs Kenya’s largest cooking oil manufacturer, Bedi Investments. He’s diversified into real estate and is said to be worth $680 million.
- Uhuru Kenyatta – Kenya’s immediate former president belongs to one of the country’s wealthiest families, with an estimated net worth of $500 million. The Kenyatta family has interests in banking, media, agriculture, land and more.
- William Ruto – Kenya’s new president was estimated to be worth $450 million by Forbes in 2021. He has substantial interests in farming, real estate and hospitality among other sectors.
- Mohammed Jaffer – Jaffer is the founder of Africa Gas and Oil (AGOL) which owns Proto Energy Limited and sells Pro Gas. Jaffer’s empire also spans manufacturing, transport, agriculture and real estate. He founded Coleus Crowns and is said to be worth $400 million currently.
- Chris Kirubi – One of Kenya’s most famous businessmen, the late Kirubi built his wealth in manufacturing, media, real estate and investments. His estate is valued around $300 million. He was a Kenyan businessman, entrepreneur, industrialist, and philanthropist. He was the founder and chairman of several companies, including Haco Industries, Capital FM, and DHL Express Kenya. He was also a large shareholder in Centum Investments, a private equity firm.
- Raila Odinga – The long-time opposition leader and current president is said to be worth around $250 million. His family has stakes in manufacturing, oil importation, real estate and more.
- Peter Munga – Munga chairs investment group TransCentury and also founded Equity Bank. His net worth stands at around $200 million.
- James Mwangi – Mwangi is CEO of Equity Group Holdings, one of Kenya’s largest financial services firms. His stake is valued at over $150 million.
- Gideon Moi – The son of former president Daniel Moi, Gideon is a businessman and senator with an estimated wealth of $140 million inherited from his father.
- Kalonzo Musyoka – Musyoka previously served as vice president and has run for president multiple times. He owns a large estate and is estimated to have a net worth of over $100 million.
- Musalia Mudavadi – The former vice president has built his fortune through land ownership and partnerships in agriculture, food processing and more. His net worth is estimated at $50 million.
While Kenya’s ultra wealthy population is still small on the global scale, it has been steadily rising over the past decade. Key business moguls and political elite have concentrated much of the country’s extreme wealth, with combined fortunes exceeding $3 billion.
Kenya’s journey mirrors a broader shift happening in Africa, with more countries grooming larger ultra wealthy circles. However, this exclusive group remains dominated by North American and Asia Pacific regions for now.
As Kenya continues its development trajectory, its ultra wealthy class will likely keep expanding. But growth must be balanced with policies that reduce inequality and ensure wider prosperity sharing. With prudent leadership, Kenya can grow its wealthiest ranks while still lifting millions out of poverty.