The latest Forbes Billionaires List puts the total number of billionaires globally at 2,755. Some of those on the list made their fortunes through inheritance, but research from Wealth X has found that the majority of billionaires are actually self-made, clocking in at 68% of the total.
The ones that are often the most publicised in the West are understandably those in America. It’s no wonder, when some of the world’s most high-profile companies, such as the likes of Apple and Amazon, are based in the US. Likewise, most of our media in the West comes from America. That’s why in this article I will share some stories of self-made billionaires who are based outside of the Anglosphere, in the hopes that it might inspire other prospective entrepreneurs from all over the world.
While hardly unknown, the average person on the street may not have heard of Jack Ma, the third-richest person in China. A former English teacher, Ma was cofounder of Alibaba, one of the world’s largest e-commerce companies.
Ma struggled throughout his early career, failing three times to get into college, and facing rejection from over 30 odd jobs after graduating. However, he eventually struck gold with Alibaba. Following the company’s IPO in 2014 it became one of the most valuable technology businesses in the world after raising $25 billion.
Making his way in business through shrewd investments in telecoms, Patrick Drahi has amassed a fortune of $12 billion dollars throughout his career. Initially born in Israel, Drahi moved to France when he was a teenager. He worked for a number of cable and satellite TV companies after graduating from university, before co-founding two of his own in the 1990s. He eventually sold the businesses in a deal that netted him €40m.
In 2001 he set up Altice, a multinational telecommunications firm, with operations now spanning France, Israel, the USA and Portugal. In 2021, Drahi took the company private at a valuation of $7.3 billion. He has also recently become the biggest shareholder in UK-based BT, one of the world’s biggest telecoms firms.
The wealthiest person in Africa, Aliko Dangote is the founder of Dangote Cement, the continent’s largest producer. He has diverse business interests, including oil and gas, flour, sugar, and more recently telecommunications. He was also honoured in 2009 as the leading provider of employment in the Nigerian construction industry.
Dangote got his start at the age of 21 when he borrowed $3,000 from his uncle to import and sell agricultural commodities in Nigeria. The early business venture was a success, with Dangote able to repay the loan within three months, eventually leading to him to replicate this success with other commodities throughout his career.
Sameer Gehlaut is the founder of Indiabulls, an Indian conglomerate whose Housing Finance division is the second-largest mortgage lender in the country. Gehlaut founded the company in 1999 and led it through its successful IPO in 2004, with the company later expanding into real estate, consumer lending, lighting, pharmaceuticals and heavy equipment rental.
Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi
Al Moudi is an Ethiopian-Saudi billionaire who made the majority of his money in mining. However, like many of the others on this list, he has broad business interests. His companies are active in construction, energy, agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing, and hotels among other sectors.
Currently one of Africa’s richest people, he made his initial fortune in construction in Saudi Arabia. Outside of Africa, he is also the owner of oil refiner Preem, which touts itself as the largest fuel company in Sweden.
Leonardo Del Vecchio
Del Vecchio is the founder of eyewear company Luxottica. He began his career as a tool and die maker, but eventually decided to use his metalworking skills to manufacturing spectacle parts. Since its founding the company in 1961, Luxottica has become the world’s largest producer and retailer of glasses and lenses.
Zhong Huijuan is the Chair of Chinese drugmaker Hansoh Pharmaceutical, which produces a range of different medications for the treatment of cancer and diabetes among other illnesses. She owns over three-quarters of the company alongside her daughter, Sun Yuan.
The company went public in June 2019 on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, which valued Hansoh at $10.4 billion. Interestingly, Zhong’s husband is also a billionaire, and also in pharmaceuticals. That makes the pair one of the richest biopharma families in the world.