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66 000 South Africans in top 1% of wealthiest

Nov 27 2016 06:00
Justin Brown

Johannesburg - About 66 000 South Africans are members of the top 1% of global wealth holders – and 45 000 are US dollar millionaires, according to the latest annual Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, released this week.

Figures show local household wealth in South Africa grew exponentially before the 2008 global economic crisis from $8 400 (R119 161) in 2000 to $25 800 in 2007.

“Recent drops in the exchange rate have resulted in wealth per adult continuing to be well below its 2007 peak in US dollar terms,” the report states.

“Along with Brazil and Indonesia, South Africa has a distribution of wealth that is roughly similar to the distribution for the world as a whole, although a smaller fraction of individuals have wealth above $100 000,” Credit Suisse said.

Africa is estimated to have 136 000 millionaires. This is expected to increase by 44% to 196 000 millionaires by 2021.

Regarding global wealth, the report said overall growth was limited in 2016, continuing the trend that emerged in 2013 and contrasting sharply with the double-digit growth rates witnessed before the 2008 global financial crisis.

“In the midterm, only moderate acceleration is expected. Switzerland once again ranked as the global leader in terms of average wealth per adult in 2016,” Credit Suisse said.

Total global wealth in 2016 increased by $3.5 trillion to a total of $256 trillion – a rise in line with the rise in the world’s adult population.

By 2021, global wealth is expected to climb to $334 trillion.

The report goes on to highlight the effects of adverse currency movements, which caused wealth to fall in every region except Asia Pacific. “The highest rise in wealth among individual countries was achieved in Japan with a total increase of $3.9 trillion, followed by a $1.7 trillion rise in the US.”

The UK was the main loser, recording a $1.5 trillion drop in household wealth as a result of the Brexit vote. This saw its number of US dollar millionaires fall by 406 000.

China lost $680 billion because of equity price adjustment and currency depreciation.

In 2000, the number of millionaires totalled 12.4 million, with 96% of them living in wealthy countries. “Since then, 20 million new millionaires have been added, of whom about 2.6 million – or 13% of the total additions – come from emerging economies,” the report said.

The number of millionaires is projected to reach 45.1 million by 2021 and the number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals could reach 208 000, up from the current 141 000.

Turning to wealth inequality – measured by the share of the wealthiest 1% and the wealthiest 10% of adults as compared with the rest of the world’s adult population – the figure continues to rise.

“While the bottom half collectively own less than 1% of the total wealth, the wealthiest top 10% own 89% of all global assets,” Credit Suisse said.

The report estimates that 3.5 billion adults own 2.4% of global wealth, while 33 million millionaires – comprising less than 1% of the adult population – own 46% of the world’s riches.

The report has identified Russia as the world’s most unequal country, with 74.5% of the nation’s wealth controlled by the richest 1%.

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