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SA may be rated among the world’s least safe countries, and its economy may be flagging, but it is one of the most important destinations for high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), research released on Wednesday shows.

According to New World Wealth, a research company that compiles annual wealth reports, private wealth held by people living in SA stood at $649bn (R9.2bn) at the end of 2018. It declined from $722bn in 2017 largely because of the rand’s depreciation, with the local currency weakening to R14.40/$ from R12.30/$ at the end of 2017.

The SA Wealth Report was previously not publicly available until Mauritius’s AfrAsia Bank sponsored its public release two years ago. New World Wealth uses benchmarks such as movements in privately held property, the value of private pensions and equity investments to gauge how much private wealth in a country has increased or fallen in a given year. It fills any gaps in the data with macro-economic indicators such as income distribution statistics.

New World Wealth’s head of research, Andrew Amoils, said despite the 10% decline in SA’s private wealth in 2018, the country is still the largest wealth market in Africa, even surpassing Egypt. Mauritius has the highest net asset value among its HNWIs in Africa.

“SA has very well-established luxury areas, probably one of the best of the residential estates in the world and some of the best shopping centres. In many ways SA is probably one of the 15 to 20 most important countries in the world, though it is not ranked in the top 15 in terms of GDP,” said Amoils.

New World Wealth produces wealth reports for all regions and conducts research to understand what draws wealthy individuals to the destinations they choose. Given the growing luxury areas in the country and the influx of luxury brands, SA is now home to 39,200 HNWIs, who have net assets of $1m or more. At the current growth rate, New World Wealth expects SA’s private wealth to reach $844bn by 2028.

Gari Matarirano, legal director at Pinsent Masons, said SA has all the resources needed to attract investments by wealthy individuals and is punching above its weight in that sphere, thanks partly to the sophistication of its stock exchanges and financial sector.

“Capital markets are very deepened. You have a world-class reserve bank, a world-class legal system and a sophisticated tax system,” he said.