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Economic stagnation for many, while billionaires thrive

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(GIN) — Africa has 55 billionaires at a time when the number of Africans living in extreme poverty has risen from 205 million to 414 million over the past three decades, according to the World Bank.

Three of the billionaires are women — the mother of Kenya’s president, a daughter of Angola’s president and a Nigerian oil tycoon and fashion designer. The richest man is Nigeria’s Aliko Dangoe, with a fortune of $20 billion, according to the Nigeria-based Ventures financial magazine.

The number — 55 — is more than three times the figure in the U.S. magazine Forbes last year. Dozens more billionaires were identified by using “on-the-ground knowledge” to overcome hurdles that may have “hampered” other researchers, Ventures said.

The magazine estimated the billionaires’ combined fortunes at $143.88 billion, an average of a $2.6 billion per person.

Of the 55, 20 are Nigerian, nine are South African and eight are Egyptian, Ventures said.

A report earlier this month by research group Afrobarometer suggested economic growth in Africa was primarily benefiting a small elite.

Afrobarometer, a research partnership of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, the Ghana Center for Democratic Development and the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, measures public attitudes on economic, political and social matters in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Afrobarometer, one in five Africans still suffer from frequent shortages of food, water, medical care and cash, or what researchers refer to as “lived poverty.”

The accumulation of wealth has been helped by the impunity long enjoyed by public officials. However in Liberia, an anti-corruption commission is pursuing top officials who may have benefited illegally.

A former deputy at the Ministry of Public Works who deposited US $305,590 into three separate bank accounts outside of his official salary of  L$14,137.50 is under investigation.

One official declared more than $300,000 in the bank, despite earning a monthly salary of just $2,500. A police official earning $704 per month could not explain a one-time deposit of $33,855.

Last week, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said with more than a billion people in the world living on less than $1.25 per day, extreme poverty was “the defining moral issue of our time.”

Speaking at George Washington University, he said, “Share prosperity with the bottom 40 percent, and share it with future generations. We have an opportunity to bend the arc of history and commit ourselves to do something that other generations have only dreamed of.”

His speech can be heard at www.zeropoverty2030.org.

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