How much does your typical African ruler earn?

Despite being the least wealthy continent on the planet, many African kings, presidents and prime ministers take home salaries that would raise eyebrows even in the most developed countries. 

On the flipside of this, of course, there are African leaders who voluntarily choose to take less from the national pot for the sake of the people they serve. For example, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, along with the Deputy President, Ministers and Deputy Ministers all agreed to donate a third of their salaries to the Covid-19 Solidarity Fund for three months in late April of 2020.   

But for the most part, being an African president tends to be a pretty financially rewarding career. Just how financially rewarding? Let’s take a look!

Eswatini – King Mswati III – estimated annual salary: US$50 million / R750 million per annum

With an estimated net worth of some US$200 million, Africa’s last absolute monarch, King Mswati III of the Swazi Royal Family, gets an eye wateringly large ‘household budget’ allowance from the country’s national assembly.   

Then again, it’s not cheap keeping 15 wives in luxury, (and Rolls Royces). One of his most infamous purchases was a Maybach 62 luxury automobile, which goes for around $500,000. 

He has been widely criticised for leading such an extravagant lifestyle in a country where most of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day.  

Cameroon – ‘President for Life’ Paul Biya – $610,000 / R9.4 million per annum 

Here we can clearly see the disparity between the salary of a dictator versus an elected president. Biya has been Cameroon’s leader since 1982, and earns a figure you’d more expect to see come up in the Powerball jackpot than on a pay slip.

He makes roughly 230 times the average Cameroonian salary, and indeed earns more than other world leaders from developed nations, including France’s Emmanuel Macron.

Algeria – President Abdelmadjid Tebboune – R2.8 million / $183,000 per annum 

Fans of Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune got a scare in November when the country’s president was diagnosed with Covid-19. At 74 years of age, the news was troubling, and a lengthy recovery period in Germany caused something of a political vacuum – especially seeing Tebboune is also the country’s Minister of Defense. Before his presidency, he served in several political roles, including as Prime Minister in 2017.

Democratic Republic of the Congo – President Félix Tshisekedi – $110,000 / R1.68 million per annum  

The January 2019 election which saw Tshisekedi sworn in was notable for being the first peaceful transition of power since the DRC became independent from Belgium in 1960. This challenging role has seen Tshisekedi attempt to deal with numerous crises ranging from both an Ebola and Measles outbreak, to continued violence in the east of the country thanks to dozens of armed rebel groups. We assume his generous salary goes at least a little way towards easing the stress of the job, however!

Kenya – President Uhuru Kenyatta – 18 million Kenyan shilling / $162,000 / R2.5 million per annum  

Currently in his second term as Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta also has a strong business background, as well as coming from the politically powerful Kikuyu family – his father, Jomo Kenyatta, was Kenya’s first president. 

The combination of family wealth and business acumen (he started a highly successful horticultural business) has allowed him to amass an estimated net worth of about $500 million, making him one of Kenya’s richest citizens.

Perhaps that’s why he’s not keeping it all to himself. In March of 2020, he announced that he and his deputy, William Ruto, would take a voluntary pay cut of 80% in the face of the coronavirus pandemic – making him the first Kenyan president to earn less than many of his juniors.

South Africa – President Cyril Ramaphosa – $195,000 / R3 million per annum  

Renowned for his sharp business and negotiating skills, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa has been South Africa’s president since 2018. And while he’s set to become the first South African president to earn over R3 million a year, he’s also received praise for donating often hefty chunks of his earnings to good causes, as well as fighting against widespread corruption. In 2018, he donated half his salary to the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Still, he earns roughly 25 times what the average South African does. 

Ethiopia – Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed – $300 / R4500 per month  

Yes, you read that right! To prove he’s serious about reforming the country’s economy, Ethiopia’s current Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, chooses to take an extremely modest $300 salary each month. He was also awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize for Peace for his efforts to curtail fighting with neighbouring Eritrea. 

So while we may associate Africa with wealthy despots and dictators, remember that there are still many shining examples of leadership too! 

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