Africa may be full of democratically governed countries, but it is still the land of many kings.
Sure, there are only three African countries with constitutional monarchies – Morocco, Swaziland and Lesotho — but there are several hundred traditional monarchs dispersed across Africa in urban, semi-urban and rural communities in independent countries.
Mostly, these monarchs wield little or no formal political power, but they fulfill spiritual and ceremonial obligations to members of their community.
Being a traditional monarch in Africa can be a lucrative affair. A significant number of these rulers are formally recognized by state institutions and as a consequence, many of them receive generous stipends and allowances from the government.
For example, King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, the traditional King of the Zulu people, South Africa’s largest ethnic tribe, receives an annual allowance of about $6 million to cater to the needs of his royal household. He also gets to enjoy other perks like frequent private air travel and keeps an exotic collection of automobiles, all paid for by South Africa’s taxpayers.
Many African monarchs also earn a significant income through the goodwill and generosity of their communities. It is not uncommon for wealthy members of a tribe or community to give substantial sums of money, cars, land or houses to their traditional Kings in return for spiritual blessings or unrelated favors.
And since these traditional monarchs may wield significant influence in political circles, some of them get invited join boards of large corporations. Obi Nnaemeka Achebe, the Obi (King) of Onitsha, a mid-sized commercial town in Nigeria’s southeastern region, serves as the Non-Executive Chairman of Unilever Nigeria, a large publicly-listed manufacturer of consumer goods, and he previously served as Chairman of Diamond Bank, a leading Nigerian commercial bank.
Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, who is the Alake (King) of Egbaland, a clan of Yoruba-speaking people in Nigeria, is the Chairman of Oando, a large Nigerian energy company.
Some of these rulers control large fortunes. Some have built their fortunes from scratch by starting successful enterprises and shrewdly reinvesting their profits into a diverse range of business concerns. Others have simply had wealth transferred to them by their forefathers.
Who are the wealthiest Kings in Africa? I spent quite a bit of time trying to find out. In doing the research for this list, I excluded wealth held or controlled by rulers in trust for their nation or territory. Meet the 5 richest Kings in Africa.
FORBES ON OTUMFUO
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Ashanti, Ghana
Estimated net worth: $10 million
Source: Mining Equipment, Property, Jewelry
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II is the King of Ghana’s gold-rich Ashanti kingdom, home to the country’s largest ethnic group, the Asantes. He ascended the throne in 1999 and serves as the political and spiritual head of the Asante people.
After studying in the United Kingdom, Osei Tutu II worked briefly in private and public organizations in the United Kingdom and Canada before returning to Ghana in 1989 to set up Transpomech Ghana, a $12 million (sales) company that provides mining equipment to several large industrial companies in Ghana.
The King also owns extensive real estate in Ghana and South Africa as well as a collection of valuable gold crown jewels.
Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
Estimated net worth: At least $75 million
Source: Construction, Property, Oil
Oba Obateru Akinrutan, Ugbo Land, Nigeria
Estimated net worth: $300 million
King Mohammed VI, Morocco
Estimated net worth: $2 billion
King Mswati III, Swaziland
Estimated net worth: At least $50 million
Source: Investments and Forbes