Despite tough economic trading conditions, a stagnant economy and the rand depreciating by 5% over the past year, a number of South Africans reached uber-rich status with around 47 000 people in SA holding bragging rights to US-dollar-millionaire status.
According to the latest Global Wealth Report conducted by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, 5 000 more South Africans became dollar millionaires in the past year, largely driven by rigorous equity markets and strong life insurance and pension fund industries.
Around 63 000 South Africans are estimated to fall within the top 1% of global wealth holders.
Just under three quarters of South African household wealth is generated through financial assets, largely in the form of shares, cash and bonds.
“SA is quite skewed towards financial assets, so its wealth tends to be driven more by the stock market than the property market and more by corporate SA,” Michael O’Sullivan, Credit Suisse private banking and wealth management division MD was quoted saying in Business Day.
From a global perspective, wealth levels grew significantly by $20,1 trillion (8%) to $263 trillion. North American and Western European countries appear to be on the road to recovery in the aftermath of the global recession, with the real standouts of this year’s report recording wealth gains above 10%.
While Switzerland ranks highest, with an average wealth per adult sitting at $581 000 (R6,4 million), Australia has the highest median wealth per adult in the world with 225 000 dollar-millionaires, growing just under 5% over the past year, followed by Belgium with 173 000 dollar-millionaires and Italy with 142 000.
The median wealth is considered to be more representative of the average person within a population.
The report has also highlighted the gross inequality in global wealth distribution, which has been on the rise since 2008 particularly among individuals in developing economies. The bottom half of the global population are said to own less than 1% of total wealth, while the top 1% own almost half of all global assets.
In Africa, the number of super-wealthy households grew by 6% and currently totals $2,8 billion (R30,9 billion).
Estimates suggest there could be more than 53 million dollar-millionaires in the world by 2019, while the number of millionaires in emerging markets is expected to grow by around 21% by 2019. Chinese people are expected to represent nearly 10% of the millionaires in emerging markets totalling around 2,3 million people, while the number of millionaires in Brazil and Mexico are expected to collectively reach around 921 000 in five years’ time.