Ranked by Forbes as Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote is a Nigerian business mogul and the Chairman of ‘Dangote Group,’ a multi-billion dollar conglomerate with portfolios in cement production, food processing, freight and manufacturing. He may have been born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, but his rise to the top of the chart of the continent’s biggest earners is not necessarily a consequence of his affluent backgrounds. He owes this personal distinction to his uncanny business brains, by which he is able to make gold of anything that he touches.
Birth and Education
Aliko Dangote was born to Mohammed and Mariya Dangote, an affluent business family in Kano State, Nigeria on 10 April 1957. His family’s business, then chaired by his uncle, Sanusi Dantata, was at its profitable best during his childhood. Sanusi made a fortune, dealing in rice, oats, and groundnuts. His great-grandfather, Alhaji Alhassan Dantata, had also been a wealthy man, and at the time of his death in 1955 was thought to be the richest man in Africa.
Dangote’s father, Mohammed, passed away early, thus his maternal grandfather took up the responsibility of caring for him as his guardian. His interest in business was evident quite early in his life. His first business venture was in primary school boy and involved purchasing boxes of sweets which he then sold at a little profit.
His early education was at the Sheikh Ali Kumasi Madrasa and the Capital High School in his home state of Kano. He thereafter headed to Cairo, Egypt, for higher education and subsequently received a bachelor’s degree in business studies and administration from the Al-Azhar University in 1977. In that same year, he returned to Nigeria to start off his business enterprise.
Business Career Achievements
To start his trading business, in 1977, Dangote borrowed a sum equivalent to US$ 2,500 from his uncle and promised to repay the loan within three years. It was a huge amount at that time. He soon moved from Kano to Lagos and ramped up imports of essential high-demand commodities. He started importing rice and sugar from Thailand and Brazil, respectively, in a deliberately planned business move, and sold them in Nigeria at a huge profit. The demand for those commodities went through the roof, and Aliko began earning great profits within the very first year of establishing his business venture and was able to return the loan he took from his uncle in just three months.
In 1981, he formed the corporation that later became Dangote Group. As his business grew further, he diversified his trading business into importing other commodities like fish, milk, and iron. Soon, he realised that manufacturing goods was a better option than imports. Thus, in 1996, he travelled to Brazil to study the country’s manufacturing complex and system. On his return, he turned the focus of his business from trading to manufacturing. He started local manufacturing operations to cater to the basic consumer needs of Nigeria’s growing population. By 1999, he had successfully established salt, sugar and pasta factories.
Soon, he was starting to be recognized as one of the few billionaires of Nigeria. Somehow, in 2000, the federal government awarded him the purchase rights to the Benue Cement Company and thus began his cement manufacturing business. In 2003, he commissioned the Obajana Cement Plant, which currently is the largest cement facility in sub-Saharan Africa. His entry into the cement-manufacturing business further increased his fortunes becoming the Group’s major revenue generator. The sugar business has equally fared well and has turned the group into the country’s biggest sugar supplier. Its diverse clients include soft-drink manufacturers, confectioneries, and breweries. In 2012, he purchased an abandoned piece of land from the Nigerian Ports Authority, where he built a flour-manufacturing factory.
The Dangote Group controls about 70% of the current Nigerian sugar market and operates as the third-largest sugar refinery in the world and the largest in Africa. It is estimated that about 8,000,000 tonnes of sugar are manufactured annually by the company.
Dangote also has investments in salt business under his Dangote Salt company. He has also started a polypropylene bagging factory in the Ikeja industrial estate, which provides bags for the packaging of goods produced by the company. The Group’s huge fleet of 600 trailers is responsible for distributing its goods to different parts of the country and the ports, from where they are exported. A vehicle-leasing company with more than a hundred fleet of air-conditioned buses constitutes another part of the Dangote Group business. Further areas of business interest include importation of agricultural produce like cotton, cocoa, sesame seeds, and cashew nuts. There are also investments in real estate, oil, gas, and transport. The group is currently the largest business conglomerate in the entire West African region.
In 2010, Dangote Cement debuted on the Nigeria Stock Exchange. Dangote Group’s main publicly traded businesses —Dangote Cement, Dangote Sugar, Dangote Flour Mills, and Nascon Allied Industries—make up about one-third of the market capitalisation of the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Aliko Dangote’s businesses focus on helping the Nigerian economy benefit from their earnings. Currently, the Group employs more than 12,000 people in Nigeria, and it is estimated that when all the on-going projects of the company are completed, among which is a petroleum refinery in Lagos, employment figures will reach the 22,000 mark.
His efforts in the development of Nigeria have of course attracted recognition. He earned the country’s second-highest honour, the ‘Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger,’ conferred on him by the country’s former President, Goodluck Jonathan. In addition, he has also been honored by ‘Forbes’ magazine, with the title of the 2014 Forbes Africa Person of the Year. In 2015, he won the Clinton Global Citizen Award.
Philanthropy and Other Involvements
The Aliko Dangote Foundation is Mr. Dangote’s charitable endeavor to combat malnutrition and starvation among children in Nigeria. Through the foundation, he spends millions of naira each year towards the development of the education and healthcare system in Nigeria. The foundation also provides scholarships to indigent students and contributes towards the development and maintenance of road and housing infrastructure in Nigeria. He is also known to have made financial contributions towards the building of mosques and other Islamic projects across the country. In 2014, the Nigerian government announced that he had donated US$ 750,000 to stop the spread of the deadly ‘Ebola’ virus.
His interest in football could also be gleaned from the news that gained spotlight in media in 2015, that he wanted to buy Arsenal Football Club, one of the top football clubs in the English Premier League. However, the purchase is yet to happen.
Aliko Dangote goes by the honorific ‘Alhaji’ which is used for a practising Muslim who has completed a pilgrimage to Mecca. His personal life has been a matter of curiosity for quite a while now. Twice divorced, he is not known to currently have a wife. He spends most of his time in Lagos, which is the base of his business, although he has properties elsewhere across the country. He has fathered 15 children from his marriages, three of whom are already grown-ups: Halima, Mariya, and Fatima.
“Aliko Dangote.” Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. Bloomberg, New York City. https://www.bloomberg.com/billionaires/profiles/aliko-dangote/. Accessed 25 July 2019.
“Aliko Dangote.” Famous People. https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/aliko-dangote-35430.php. Accessed 17 July 2019.
Allison, Simon. “An In-depth Look at How Africa’s Richest Man Made His Fortune.” How We Made It In Africa, 13 June 2014. Lagos, Nigeria. https://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/an-in-depth-look-at-how-africas-richest-man-made-his-fortune/40460/. Accessed 26 July 2019.