Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

ZIMBABWEANS are among the poorest people in Africa, with the country’s controversial indigenisation laws expected to further erode their wealth, while South Africa tops the continent’s list of wealth per capita, a new survey released on Tuesday showed.

South Africa’s wealth per person last year was $11,310, according to research by consultancy New World Wealth, which has offices in the UK and South Africa. South Africa’s wealth per person grew 169% from $4,200 in 2000. Zimbabwe’s wealth per capita last year stood at $570.

This was slightly better than that of Tanzania ($450), Mozambique ($430), Uganda ($360) and Ethiopia ($260).

Wealth per capita is a measure of the net assets held by individuals including real estate, shares, business interests and intangibles, while excluding primary residences, according to the research released on Tuesday.

Should Zimbabwe continue with its controversial indigenisation programme, which requires foreign companies to cede 51% shareholding in their companies to locals, its citizens’ wealth would continue to erode, said senior analyst at New World Wealth, Andrew Amoils.

Zimbabwe was among the wealthiest African countries in 2000, ranked ahead of Nigeria, Kenya, Angola, Zambia and Ghana, he said. In the past 13 years, it has fallen far behind these countries, due partly to the erosion of ownership rights, currency devaluation and hyperinflation. Fortunes improved in 2009 when it adopted the US dollar as its official currency and formed a unity government.

But now the Movement for Democratic Change’s exclusion from government, the indigenisation programme, the lack of a free press and the threat of abandoning the dollar as official currency have raised fears that the country’s economic situation could further deteriorate, Mr Amoils said. "We have already seen people queuing up at the banks … everything that can go wrong has, so it is difficult to know where the country can go from here."

In contrast, Libya ($11,040 wealth per capita), Tunisia ($8,400), Algeria ($6,250), Morocco ($5,780) and Egypt ($4,350) rank high on the list.

Namibia, with per capita wealth of $10,500, and Botswana at $6,580 were among the top-ranked countries in Africa last year. This was, however, well below the global average of $27,600 and a fraction of that of the top-ranked countries such as Switzerland and Australia with wealth per capita of more than $250,000.

When it comes to fastest-growing countries by economic growth per capita from 2000 to 2012, Angola tops the continental list, followed by Ghana and Zambia.

The figures for last year are not yet available.