AFRICANGLOBE – Meet Africa’s richest man: Aliko Dangote. Forbes magazine estimates his wealth at $25bn, making him the 23rd richest man in the world with a growing portfolio of investments across Africa.
The Nigerian business magnate began with a small trading firm in 1977. Today his businesses cover everything from cement manufacturing, food processing to freight.
Dangote group now employs about 25,000 people in Nigeria. It is building cement factories in 16 African countries and buying mining licences from Kenya to Zambia.
“Africa is full of opportunities and I think what we did was actually harness fully the opportunities that we met on the ground,” he says.
“We have done quite a lot in various areas. We started with trading, after we succeeded in training what we did was go into manufacturing, which is normally a very difficult area, especially in this part of the world because of lack of power. But we have been able to resolve those issues and we are able to succeed in most of what we are doing.”
Dangote’s is not a rags-to-riches story however. He comes from a wealthy Nigerian family. After losing his father at the age of eight, he was brought up by his uncle, who gave the businessman his first loan, which he then turned into the most successful business conglomerate in Africa.
“I paid [the loan] back in three months because business was so good” Dangote says.
His story, many say, shows what is possible about Africa.
On being the poorest continent’s richest man for the fourth year in a row, Dangote says “it feels a little bit odd, yes it’s true, but then it gives you a lot of thinking and responsibility. You ask ‘what do I do to impact humanity?’ And that is why we do quite a lot [philanthropically] in terms of our [Dangote] foundation.”
He adds: “We are giving back because we are creating quite a lot of jobs. We are not doing like other Africans, where most of the money is in the bank. We don’t keep any money in the bank; whatever we have we fully invest and we keep on investing – and that’s what we do.”
Because of his success, Dangote has taken on the aura of an economic folk hero for some.