*This article first appeared in Forbes Africa. Subscribe today by emailing Lieria Boshoff:[email protected] or visit www.forbesafrica.com
Rich Africans may make their money in Africa, but enjoy spending it in London. After all, London has it all. The legal system is fair and what’s yours remains yours. Best of all, London has a world-class financial system, which is quite happy to take an African’s wealth and grow it for them. Even with a first-world tax system, London boasts 45 billionaires, making it the world’s fourth richest city.
For successful Africans, nothing is more important than educating their children for future success. Britain is rather good at this, and school is where you make friends and contacts for life. It defines your social status. A recent Tatler article on wealthy Nigerians revealed that Florence Otedola, the daughter of Femi Otedola, one of Nigeria's richest men, recently graduated from King's College London. Boarding fees for King’s in 2014-15 were $55,700, and according to Tatler, Nigerians spend $500 million every year at British universities and schools, such as Benenden, Wycombe Abbey, Cheltenham Ladies' College, Eton, Harrow and Bradfield.
Rich people employ a concierge business to open doors in London, and rich Africans are no exception. Veronica Voronina is CEO and Founder of her own concierge business, The Anonymous, which has a number of wealthy African clients. The idea is to allow the superrich to plug into a network of excellence.
“Our database is our best asset. We source the best of everything – doctors, lawyers, property agents, party planners, nannies, restaurants, hotels, even the best diamonds,” says Voronina.
It’s all about price and quality.
“Rich people didn’t get rich by wasting money.”
Many wealthy Africans have business interests in London. So, even if they are only there for a few weeks a year, Africans like to buy. The preferred areas are Knightsbridge, Belgravia, St John’s Wood, and Kensington and Chelsea. The most controversial development is One Hyde Park in Knightsbridge, described as the most expensive residential development on earth. One apartment reputedly sold for $230 million. Several billionaire Africans have bought there, but few live there; it is an investment not a home. Upper-class Londoners, priced out of their natural habitat by international interlopers, are said to be increasingly unhappy.
Africans fly around the world in pursuit of business deals and the hotel they choose to stay in often defines their social status. The most prestigious hotels to namedrop are the grand old London hotels, The Lanesborough, The Dorchester and Claridges. The Royal Suite at Claridges will set you back around $82,000 per week. And of course the Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge is the quintessential business hotel chain. Younger entrepreneurs may prefer boutique hotels like Andre Balazs’ Chiltern Firehouse hotel. All reek of exclusivity.
Wealthy Africans love to shop. Their favourite stores in London are Harvey Nichols, Harrods and Selfridges. It’s a well-oiled world of shopping by appointment, private openings, personal shoppers and trips to private shopping departments, as well as limousines and drivers to carry the shopping home. The shopping company Premier Tax Free reports that Nigerians account for 46.3% of total African sales in London and the fastest-growing region for international sales in Britain in 2014 came from Africa, whose spend has grown by 45% year on year.
The Beatles sang money can’t buy you love. But according to concierge company, The Anonymous, money can buy pretty much everything else. One client, convinced the world was coming to an end, decided to splash out. Alongside gas masks and copious quantities of food, they wanted the best, no expense spared, holiday ever. A private jet was hired for a three-week trip around the United States. Helicopters flew the family over the Grand Canyon and New York. The client splashed $25,000 on the illusionist Criss Angel and then went to Universal Studios in Florida on a VIP pass. Hopefully the holiday offset any disappointment that the world still exists.
For mere mortals, travel is conducted by commercial plane and train. For the uber-wealthy transport is done by private jet. And if you don’t own one, you charter one. Charter companies like Little Blue will fly you to Paris for the weekend for around $20,000. Nigerians don’t just use private jets to carry themselves; they take their lifestyle with them.
“If someone wants basic food - milk, bread, cheese, yogurt - I'll go somewhere, like Whole Foods, and pick up the employer on the way to Farnborough (a small airport on the outskirts of London), load it on the plane and send it off,” says Ansema Fagapona, who works with rich families.
Yachting is as much about the exclusive lifestyle as it is about owning a boat. With it comes access to a world beyond the reach of mere mortals. For those who can afford it, glittering European destinations like Monaco, Cannes and the azure seas of Sardinia beckon, and few luxury experiences are better than being on a yacht. To order a new superyacht at one shipyard, tycoons need to put their names on a five-year waiting list. A weekly charter of the stunning 65-metre superyacht, Imagine, at $710,000 per week may be the preferred option.
What is better than going to an Akon concert with friends to celebrate your 16th birthday? How about a private Akon gig? Did I mention that the 15 friends were all flown to a private island near Dubai, transported in limousines and given Michelin-star catering? Wealthy Africans certainly know how to party. And if you would like to treat your wife on your wedding anniversary, why not hire the renowned Cipriani’s Italian restaurant in Mayfair for a night. You and your beloved can be the only diners on the night, with Beverly Knight on vocals to add a special touch of romance. Ahhh.
Polo is famously the sport of kings and was introduced to Lagos in the 1930s through the Lagos Polo Club. Today, in Britain, you will find oil and gas supremo Kola Karim playing polo with Prince William and Prince Harry at Andrew Lloyd-Webber's private estate, and at Cowdray Park, the best polo ground in the country. The Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup is the most prestigious competition and Nigeria’s Prince Albert Esiri has competed several times. A team of four players, each with a dozen or more top polo horses, would need millions of dollars to play a single season.
*This article first appeared in the October 2014 issue of Forbes Africa. Subscribe today by emailing Lieria Boshoff: [email protected] or visit www.forbesafrica.com