From being awarded Nigeria’s second-highest honour to being the richest man in Africa 10 years standing, Aliko Dangote seems to be an ever-expanding brand; an empire all by himself. Industrious (quite literally), innovative and entrepreneurial are a few words to describe him, especially since we keep discovering greater depths to his abilities and vision.
Born in 1957 in Nigeria, Dangote rose from a wealthy Muslim family. His father passed when he was 8 years old, after which he was raised by his maternal grandfather, the son of West Africa’s richest man then. Despite his wealthy background, what Dangote reaped most from his upbringing was a wealthy man’s mindset, as opposed to his money. As a primary school child, he would buy and sell sweets to other children just to make money. Driven by this passion, he went on to pursue a degree in business studies and administration from Al-Azhar University in Egypt.
At 21 years old he went back to Lagos, Nigeria, and was able to convince his uncle to loan him capital that he used to start a trading business. And thus began the Dangote empire. Over the years, he would import in wholesale and sell a variety of products, including cement, sugar, rice, flour and iron. He then studied manufacturing in 1996 and towards the beginning of a century started putting together his manufacturing plants. He bought a government cement factory that he has established to become Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest of its kind, now part of Dangote Cement. His other businesses include Dangote Sugar and Nascon Allied Industries, all a part of the Dangote Group, the largest conglomerate in West Africa.
Unlike many businessmen, Dangote has made it his purpose to invest, re-invest and build in Africa. His businesses are the number one single source of employment in Nigeria and this will be the case as he expands through the Sub-Saharan territory. He has also stood out as a philanthropist, partnering with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to eradicate polio in Africa. An interesting fact to also note is the kind of diversification he is willing to undertake to facilitate growth. Armed with the skill and resources, he targets the industry and takes it by its horns. ‘Go big or go home’ might even be a mantra he keeps reciting to himself. And to young ambitious entrepreneurs, he might say ‘Just Start’.