From a kid in Ga-Rankuwa to one of the world’s richest people

Dr Patrice Tlhopane Motsepe has a net worth of $3.1 billion (R56,2 billion) and is one of the richest people in Africa.

He has built an incredible business empire with assets in mining, the finance industry, telecommunications, and sports.

His business success belies the fact that he had a humble upbringing without the luxuries many of his fellow billionaires enjoyed as children.

Motsepe was born in South Africa in the early 1960s, where he grew up in Ga-Rankuwa during the height of Apartheid oppression.

His father was a schoolteacher and owned a spaza shop. Here, Motsepe was taught basic business skills. He was also exposed to miners, who often frequented the store. 

Later, his father became a successful liquor distributor through his affiliation with South African Breweries.

Motsepe’s father sent him and his six siblings to a Roman Catholic boarding school in the Eastern Cape because he was opposed to Apartheid’s segregated schooling systems.

He later earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Swaziland and a law degree from the University of the Witwatersrand. 

He joined the Bowman Gilfillian law firm in 1988 and became its first black partner in 1993. He specialised in mining and business law.

After South Africa became a democracy, Motsepe leveraged South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) laws to build his mining enterprise.

He believed he could use management techniques, such as low base pay and production incentives, to transform less-productive shafts into moneymaking operations. 

He found ways to benefit from the country’s BEE laws, which required companies to have a minimum of 26% black ownership before a mining license would be granted.

In 1994, he founded Future Mining, which grew rapidly into a successful contract mining company. Motsepe launched African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) in 1997, which was listed on the JSE in 2002.

The company merged with Harmony Gold and acquired Anglovaal Mining’s unproductive mines in 2003. 

Motsepe took up the role of executive chairman of ARM after this merger and has held the position since. The success of ARM catapulted Motsepe onto Forbes’ billionaire list in 2005.

Two-Rivers Mine, owned by ARM

Ubuntu-Botho Investments (UBI), Motsepe’s investment company, acquired a significant stake in Sanlam in 2004 as the insurer’s black empowerment partner. 

Currently, Motsepe still holds the Deputy Chair position on the Sanlam Board.

According to Sanlam, the empowerment deal has made R15 billion net value for Ubuntu-Botho investors and has created 700 black millionaires. 

In 2016, he launched a private equity firm, African Rainbow Capital, focused on investing in Africa. Its holdings include major stakes in Rain and Tyme Bank. 

Motsepe purchased a 51% interest in the Mamelodi Sundowns association football club in 2003. The next year, he gained full control of the club. Today, he is the president and owner of the Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club.

In 2021, he was elected president of the Confederation of African Football, the sport’s governing body on the continent.

Motsepe acquired a share in the Blue Bulls Company in 2019 and is a joint-owner with Johann Rupert’s Remgro and the Blue Bulls Rugby Union. 

Apart from his business ventures, he also has a history of philanthropy. 

In 1999, he founded the Motsepe Foundation to tackle poverty and unemployment in South Africa. 

In 2013, he became the first African to sign the Bill Gates and Warren Buffett Giving Pledge, agreeing to give away half his wealth to aid the poor.

His business acumen has been widely recognised, and in 2002, the chief executive officers of the top 100 companies in South Africa voted him South Africa’s Business Leader of the Year. 

In the same year, he also won the Ernst & Young Best Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

In 2017 Forbes Magazine commemorated its 100th Anniversary and honoured Dr Motsepe as one of the “100 Greatest Living Business Minds” in the world. 

He is the only person living on the African continent to be recognised as one of the “100 Greatest Living Business Minds” in the world.

Political affiliations

Motsepe maintains strong political ties. The Electoral Commission’s (IEC’s) latest Party Funding Disclosure Report shows that Motsepe has donated to all of South Africa’s big political parties.

Mining companies linked to Motsepe, African Rainbow Minerals and Harmony Gold Mining were the biggest funders of political parties during the 2023/2024 financial year. 

Through these companies, he donated to the African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Freedom Front Plus. 

Two of the ANC’s biggest donations, valued at R6.9 million each, came from Motsepe’s companies. 

These companies also donated another combined R5.04 million to the DA, R2.64 million to the EFF, and R600,000 to the VF Plus for the same period. “I have a duty to multi-party democracy,” Motsepe said

However, he has expressed that he would always remain loyal to the ANC.

“The family gives money to all political parties. Of course, we grew up in Mandela’s party, and we will always support Mandela’s party.”

He also has direct ties to the ANC. His sister, Dr Tshepo Motsepe, is married to the party’s leader and South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa.

Despite his avid financial support, he has made it clear that he has no plans to work as a politician. 

“It’s important for people like myself, in particular, to keep focusing on the things that bring us together across political parties and backgrounds from which we come,” he said.

“I will keep away from politics because if you participate in politics, you lose the focus, you lose the broader obligation.”


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