Africa’s Business Magnate- Alhaji Aliko Dangote

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’.

Re-Defining Global Industry Leadership-Mary Barra

At Fifty-Nine years old, it is curious to find that Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors (GM), has only ever worked at one company. Hers is a very unique career path, meandering through functions like Operations, Human Resource and Management at various levels. She has earned her spot in several leadership classes as a reference point for young upcoming global leaders and is an encouragement to current industry leaders. The big question at this point is, what exactly makes her stand out and why does she keep going?

Mary joined General Motors as a co-operative education student in 1980 at Eighteen years old. Five years after finishing her degree in electrical engineering, she received her MBA from Stanford University in 1990. She then went on to hold positions such as: Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering; Executive Vice President of Global Product Development and Vice President of Global Human Resources. It may seem that she kept gaining skills that would be helpful, even critical in her current position, but that is only in hindsight.

In every position Barra found herself in, her drive was being thoroughly accountable for what she was entrusted with. Healthy work environments were fostered wherever she went and her ability to easily adapt enabled her to make necessary adjustments when it came to it. As the head of HR, she reduced the long dress code to two words: ‘Dress Appropriately’! She would also allow junior managers and co-workers to make independent decisions as pertaining their responsibilities. In this way, she believed that she was empowering and allowing them to be responsible.

One might say that Barra’s leadership abilities have been tested in crisis. In 1998, there was a GM strike, and Barra was appointed the Internal Communications Director. With her leadership style, there was a forum where information could flow up and down the hierarchy and situations could be dealt with up-front. After her appointment as CEO, disaster struck again. A faulty ignition switch led to deaths and recalls of over 30 million cars. She faced the situation head-on, admitting errors made, laying off workers, appearing before the senate and adjusting policies to enable early reporting of problems. Instead of drowning in chaos, she was able to rise by putting lives first and by her own motto, being accountable enough.

We, alongside millions of people, will continue watching and learning as Mary Barra revolutionizes leadership globally.

Purity Buyanzi | The writer is an aspiring Financial Analyst, passionate about leadership and mentorship | puritybuyanzi@gmail.com

A PORTRAIT OF INTELLECT IN BUSINESS LEADERSHIP- Alvin Mbugua

In August 2021, Diageo PLC, a British multinational alcoholic beverage company with operations across the globe, appointed Alvin Mbugua to the position of General Manager in the Caribbean and Central American region. Mr. Mbugua, a Kenyan with experience of over seventeen years in the oil and gas, logistics, and FMCG sectors is rising to the apex of his career with this appointment. Alvin Mbugua has been the Managing Director of Uganda Breweries Limited which is a subsidiary of East African Breweries Limited, EABL. Other key positions held by this corporate titan at Uganda Breweries Limited include Head of Sales and the post of Finance and Strategy Director. He also served as the Group Financial Controller for EABL, Chief Finance Officer for East and Horn of Africa at Damco, and a Chief Finance Officer at Shell Tanzania where he started as a Systems Financial Consultant.

The successful career of Mr. Alvin Mbugua is built on a backdrop of key academic qualifications. He went to some of Africa’s best business schools and ventured into disciplines that sharpened his acumen for enterprise development and leadership. Alvin Mbugua graduated from the University of Nairobi with a bachelor’s degree in Geospatial Engineering and later pursued ACCA, Accounting, and Finance at Strathmore Business School in Nairobi. He is also a holder of Masters in Commerce in Development Finance from the University of Cape Town, a qualification that has given him sufficient capacity to work as a top business executive in leading companies.

In the words of Alvin’s former colleague at Damco, Mr. Mehul Bhatt, “Alvin is a leader, and a fantastic one at that. He is focused, extremely positive, and a fantastic change agent. His understanding of the business coupled with his strategic mindset and his ability to inspire his team is extraordinary.” It is rare to come across someone with such a unique combination of intellect, drive and influence that Alvin Mbugua possesses. Alvin Mbugua’s appointment to the position of General Manager in the Caribbean and Central American region at Diego PLC places him on the global league of business executives of our times. He is not only a portrait of intellect in business leadership but also an inspiration to young African professionals who dream to participate in international business.

Rick Okinda                                        

The writer is a Certified Accountant working with small business owners to deliver business plans that serve their management and financial needs. | rickokinda@gmail.com

THE MAN THAT MADE KENYAN JOURNALISM- Hillary Boniface Ng’weno

He was everything that a 20th Century parent wanted in their child. The late Hillary Boniface Ng’weno became the first Kenyan to join Harvard University and the first Kenyan to hold a degree in nuclear physics. Contrary to the norms of his times, the Harvard graduate returned to Kenya and found passion in storytelling as a newspaper scribe. He rose in ranks at Daily Nation to become an editor and later founded his own publishing company, Stellescope. Mr. Ng’weno diversified his media empire through publication of the famous Weekly Review and other periodicals including Financial Review, Industrial Review and Rainbow. After 24 years of publishing, he wound up Stellescope in 1999 to launch Kenya’s first independent television news station, STV. He sold STV in 2,000 and reinvested himself as a historian through his award winning documentaries such as The Making of a Nation.

Mr. Hillary Ng’weno had myriad opportunities to live and work abroad but chose to invest his intellectual capital into Kenya and its people. He dared entrepreneurship in an industry he knew nothing about except a passion for writing and shaping opinions. When every media company that had set footprint in Kenya was a “too-big to compete multinational”, the young Mang’u High School alumnus made his moves brilliantly to become a coveted “made in Kenya” media owner. As an editor, he understood the value of coffee in conversations with writers and how a formal outfit world limit the depth of connection between a leader and his teammates.

The industrial journey of Hillary Boniface Ng’weno is one that took paths not travelled before. He made new mistakes and like a caterpillar, he evolved from his enterprise failures as many times as he could. Anytime he sold his business, he never asked how much a seller was willing to pay, but why they wanted to buy. He understood that he was the most important asset in his businesses except for being a mortal being. Hillary wielded power through his work and used it to pioneer journalism that constructs government and governance. Mr. Ng’weno lived to his aspirations. When he died in July 2021, his legacy challenged many journalists to think beyond the newsroom and scientists to reimagine art. His portrait remains an icon on Kenya’s wall of fame and his name a household brand in Africa’s journalism.