Richest PoliticiansPresidents
Net Worth:
$3 Billion
May 9, 1955 - Aug 20, 2012 (57 years old)
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What was Meles Zenawi's Net Worth?

Meles Zenawi was an Ethiopian politician and businessman who had a net worth of $3 billion.

Meles Zenawi served as the President of Ethiopia from 1991 to 1995 and then as the country's Prime Minister from 1995 until his passing in 2012. During his tenure, he brought Ethiopia to ethnic federalism, fostered one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa, and oversaw the Eritrean-Ethiopian War and the Ethiopian police massacre. Meles died from an undisclosed illness in August of 2012 in Brussels, Belgium.

Early Life and Education

Meles Zenawi was born as Legesse Zenawi Asres on May 9, 1955 in Adwa, Tigray Province in the Ethiopian Empire. His parents were Zenawi Asres, who came from Adwa, and Alemash Ghebreluel, who came from Eritrea. He was the third of six children. Zenawi was educated as a youth at Queen of Sheba Junior High School and General Wingate High School. After graduating from the latter in 1972, he enrolled at Haile Selassie I University. There, Zenawi changed his first name to Meles in honor of his fellow student Meles Takele, who had been executed by the Derg government in 1975.

Ethiopian Civil War

Meles ultimately left university to join the Tigray People's Liberation Front, one of the primary armed groups fighting against the Derg military dictatorship during the Ethiopian Civil War. In 1989, he became the chairman of the TPLF. Meles was also the head of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, which he led to victory over the Derg regime to end the Civil War in 1991.

President of Ethiopia

Following the victory of the EPRDF, Meles became the President of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia, a position he held from 1991 to 1995. He received widespread support from international groups, including the Arab League, as well as from Western nations. During his presidency, an independence referendum was held for Eritrea, which voted to become independent in 1993. This upset many people, eventually sparking the Eritrean-Ethiopian War in 1998.

Prime Minister of Ethiopia

In 1994, a new constitution ushered in a parliamentary system in Ethiopia. The following year, the EPRDF won the general election and Meles was sworn in as Prime Minister. During his first term, he focused on privatizing companies, lands, and investments, and instituted a system of ethnic federalism. Meles also allowed freedom of religion and freedom of press, and fostered substantial economic growth in the country. However, he also oversaw the bloody Eritrean-Ethiopian War, during which nearly 100,000 people were killed. Meles won reelection in 2000. During his second term, he worked to expand schools and agricultural interests, and to combat droughts by encouraging collectivist land reforms and redistribution. Although Meles and the EPRDF won reelection again in 2005, opposition groups alleged that the election was fraudulent, causing protests to break out across Addis Ababa. Hundreds of protestors ended up being massacred by government forces, and thousands more were imprisoned. Meles was elected to a fourth and final term as Prime Minister in 2010. During this term, he advocated for gender equality alongside First Lady Azeb Mesfin, organizing forums and discussing issues on national television. As a result, a number of women's rights groups were created.


Continuing Education

While serving as the President of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia in 1995, Meles obtained an MBA degree from the Open University in the United Kingdom. Later, in 2004, he earned an MS degree in economics from Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Meles also has an honorary doctoral degree in political science from Hannam University in South Korea.

Personal Life and Death

Meles was married to Azeb Mesfin, a former rebel fighter in the TPLF who later became a Member of Parliament. He had three children named Semhal, Marda, and Senay.

In the summer of 2012, questions began emerging about Meles's health when he failed to attend African Union summit meetings. The government soon acknowledged that he had been hospitalized. In August, Meles passed away from an undisclosed illness in Brussels, Belgium. His funeral was held the following month in a religious ceremony attended by around 20 African presidents.


During Meles's tenure as Prime Minister, Ethiopia became the fast-growing economy in Africa. The economic prosperity continued after his passing. He also received numerous honors during his career, including the Good Governance Award from the Global Coalition of Africa and the Green Revolution Award from Norway's Yara Foundation.

All net worths are calculated using data drawn from public sources. When provided, we also incorporate private tips and feedback received from the celebrities or their representatives. While we work diligently to ensure that our numbers are as accurate as possible, unless otherwise indicated they are only estimates. We welcome all corrections and feedback using the button below.
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