Kimberley, South Africa


by Geraldine Auerbach MBE

To continue, click on this link Alfred Beit Kimberley Revised 20 Nov 17.pdf

Alfred Beit – South Africa’s financial genius

Part 1 Kimberley

The Right Man, in the Right Place, at the Right Time!

The Man – was Alfred Beit, born in 1853, into a Jewish family in Hamburg. He was arguably the single most effective person in the transformation of Southern Africa from a sleepy dry agricultural backwater, into not one, but several modern industrial countries. But you would probably never know it – he hated publicity and preferred others to shine in the foreground.

He did not set out to be a rich or powerful man. He just loved to make things happen in the most effective way to benefit as many people as possible and he relished the work involved. He was popular and attracted business like a magnet. He had an enviable reputation for generosity, integrity and fair play. Nevertheless, when he died at the age of just 53 he was possibly one the wealthiest men in the world.

The place was the desert in the middle of South Africa where this boyish, fun-loving, young German arrived at the age of 22 to deal in diamonds. Kimberley is where he joined the influential French Diamond company J Porgès and Co and grew into a hugely successful organiser of and investor in mining companies as well a major diamond merchant – and became a great friend and colleague of Cecil John Rhodes.

Figure 1: Alfred Beit at his home in Park Lane with his beloved pet terrier Jackie

The Time was 1875 – nearly a decade after diamonds had been discovered in such abundance in what became Kimberley. The day of the individual digger was more or less over, and some strong organisation and control was urgently needed to make the extraction of them stable and profitable. And this Beit, working with others, was ultimately destined to accomplish.