Alfred Beit (15 February 1853 – 16 July 1906) was a German born gold and diamond magnate in South Africa, and a major donor and profiteer of infrastructure development on the African continent. He was a patron and one of the richest men of his time.
He also was the "silent partner" who structured the capital flight from post-Boer War South Africa to Rhodesia, and the Rhodes Scholarship, named after his employee, Cecil Rhodes.
Born and brought up in Hamburg, Germany, he was the eldest son and second of six children of an affluent Jewish-German citizen of Hamburg. Alfred Beit was an unpromising scholar and was apprenticed to Jules Porgès & Cie, the Amsterdam diamond firm where he developed a talent for examining stones.
Beit was sent to Kimberley, South Africa in 1875 by his firm to buy diamonds—following the diamond strike at Kimberley. He became a business friend of Cecil Rhodes through his role in the Kimberley Central Company. Beit was captivated by Rhodes' talk of 'big schemes'. He rapidly became one of a group of financiers who gained control of the diamond-mining claims in the Central, Dutoitspan, and De Beers mines. Rhodes was the active politician and Beit provided a lot of the planning and financial backing.
In 1889 he founded the commodity trade holding Beit & Co. which was specialized in gold and diamonds, through which he also held numerous shares in diamond mines. Beit became life-governor of De Beers and also a director of various other companies such as Rand Mines, Rhodesia Railways and the Beira Railway Company.
In 1888 Beit moved to London when he felt he was better able to manage his financial empire and support Rhodes in his Southern African ambitions. Beit moved into Tewin Water, near Welwyn, a large Regency house with Victorian additions and 7,000 acres (28 km²) of land. In the 1890s, he had a mansion built in Park Lane named Aldford House. Living with severe health issues since 1902, he died in the summer of 1906 unmarried and childless.