Texture pattern for continuous replicate.

Last year, South Africa had more than 44 700 high net worth individuals, with a combined wealth of $188 billion (R1.6 trillion), according to data provider WealthInsight.

The group held 17.4 percent ($33bn) of their wealth outside South Africa, below the global average of about 30 percent for offshore wealth, the London-based wealth consultancy said.

The figures confirm that South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world.

High net worth individuals, which represent less than 0.1 percent of the country’s population, accounted for roughly 27 percent of South Africa’s total individual wealth of $740bn. Wealth includes equities, bonds, cash and deposits, fixed-income products, real estate, alternative assets and business interests.

People with assets worth more than $30 million are described as ultra high net worth individuals. Of these, 261 live in Joburg, 103 in Cape Town, 31 in Durban and 28 in Pretoria.

According to official estimates, WealthInsight said, South Africa’s wealth per capita amounted to $14 234, the second-highest among the Brics bloc of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa: above India ($2 863), Russia ($8 192) and China ($12 240) but below Brazil ($16 410).

“This reflects the fact that the middle class in South Africa is larger [in percentage terms] than in India, China and Russia,” the data provider said.

But within Brics, South Africa has the fewest high net worth individuals, while China has the most: 1.3 million.

In South Africa the number increased by 17.9 percent between 2007 and last year, while their wealth grew 15.2 percent, “supported by a strong local property market, high savings rates and a significant appreciation of the rand against the dollar over the review period”.

This year, the currency has depreciated sharply, which will be reflected in the next set of data by WealthInsight.

However, the data provider said these individuals’ wealth and numbers “would continue to be robust over the forecast period between 2011 and 2016, as more new businesses are developed within the country”. It forecast the wealth of this group would grow 51 percent, to reach $285bn in 2016. “However, there will be a smaller percentage increase, 41 percent, in number to reach just over 63 200 individuals in 2016.”

Last year, the main repository of wealth was real estate (27.8 percent of total assets), followed by equities (25 percent), cash (13.8 percent), business interests (12.8 percent), fixed income (12.8 percent) and alternatives (7.7 percent).

“Business interests recorded the strongest growth over the review period, driven by new business formation, particularly in the BEE (black economic empowerment) arena.

“Over the forecast period, WealthInsight expects a movement away from real estate, cash and fixed-income investments and towards equities and business interests.”