Born in 1957, Aliko Dangote is the richest African on the planet. Dangote is a business magnate who, in addition to being the richest African in the world, recently leapfrogged the Saudi-Ethiopian businessman Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi to become the richest black person on Earth. Known for his ruthless and efficient approach to business, Dangote has a net worth of around $25 billion USD, making him the 23rd wealthiest person in the world according to Forbes.
Aliko Dangote capitalized upon his fairly privileged (in comparison to most Nigerians) Muslim upbringing in Kano, Nigeria (the largest city in northern Nigeria) to construct a gigantic business empire that spans the whole of Africa. He started out from an early age being interested in business, buying sweets and selling them at a profit in school. This led on to Dangote enrolling in Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt to study business. Once Aliko Dangote graduated from university he returned to Nigeria, aiming to start his own business aged just 21.
Dangote succeeded in starting his own business, the Dangote Group, and has expanded it massively over the 35 years it’s been operating. The Dangote Group is now a multinational industrial conglomerate, dealing in various commodities, that has earned its owner billions of dollars. Based in Lagos, Nigeria, the Dangote Group operates in a variety of other countries across the continent, including Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Togo, and Zambia.
On his long, hard road to unprecedented African success, Aliko Dangote, alongside his vast amount of wealth, has earned himself a lot of very powerful friends along with a lot of enemies. Here are some interesting facts that you might not know about the richest African in the world, Aliko Dangote. Some show him in a positive light, whilst others show his ruthless and controversial side.
5 Aliko Dangote Started Out With a Non-Bank Loan
After graduating from Al Azhar University, Aliko Dangote returned to Nigeria with the goal of starting his own successful business. However, as a fresh faced 21-year-old university graduate, he didn’t have the funds available to do what he wanted and as such went to his uncle for a loan. His uncle, Sanusi Abdulkadir Dantata, loaned him the princely sum of 500,000 Naira, the equivalent of just over $3,000 USD, to jump into the world of business. Dangote used these funds to launch the Dangote Group, and started out trading in mainly rice and vegetable oil. However, with the Nigerian construction industry booming and the infrastructure of the country rapidly improving, the Dangote Group soon moved in a new direction, buying trucks and cement to take advantage of the emerging market demands.
Today, 37 years on from its inception in 1977, the Dangote Group is a giant, multinational industrial conglomerate, one of the biggest in Africa in fact. The company employs over 21,000 people and operates in a very diverse range of sectors, including cement, sugar (of which Dangote holds 70% of the Nigerian market), pasta, beverages, and flour. Not to mention the fact that it generates over $2 billion USD annually. Not a bad little earner from the fresh faced graduate from Kano right?
4 Aliko Dangote is Still Diversifying
Not content with the large array of products that the Dangote Group produces, manufactures, imports, and exports, Aliko Dangote is still diversifying and exploring new markets. When you think about it, this is not that surprising considering Dangote openly admits that he is a major workaholic, sleeping little and never taking a vacation break.
Aliko Dangote’s latest exploits involve him taking the Dangote Group into the telecommunications industry. He has started testing the waters by plunging head first into them, and has already begun building fibre optic cables that will accommodate the entirety of Nigeria. This is a mere 14,000 kilometres of fibre optic cables to be precise, not to mention the task of installing them. This new enterprise has earned Dangote the honor of becoming the largest employer in Nigeria’s construction industry.
In addition to his telecommunications endeavours, Dangote also plans to take the Dangote Group into the petroleum sector. Again, not starting out small, Dangote has planned the construction of a $7 billion USD oil refinery in Nigeria, which would process up to 400,000 barrels of petrol every year. This is all part of his plan to make Nigeria self sufficient in areas where they still rely on importation.
3 Aliko Dangote Has Some Major Critics, and For Good Reasons
Despite his incredible success, well, more likely because of his incredible success, Aliko Dangote has gained quite a lot of enemies in his career. Some may think of this as jealousy or spite, but Dangote certainly doesn’t help himself in some situations. His critics believe that Dangote’s rise to success hasn’t been entirely ethical, and has most definitely involved a large amount of shady activity. One anonymous source states that Dangote’s overall business plan is simple: He finds a suitable market he can dominate, enters the market, and then proceeds to crush the competition through pricing wars, all whilst leveraging the fact that the market is poorly regulated.
One of these critics is Brian Browne, former United States consul-general to Nigeria, who stated that the key to Aliko Dangote’s success is a massive amount of preferential treatment. The preferential treatment that Browne refers to includes a ban on certain imported goods, goods that the Dangote Group produces. In addition to this, he also believes that the Dangote Group has exclusive import rights to certain products. This all amounts to the Dangote Group, and therefore Dangote himself, holding a monopoly over many different sectors in Nigeria.
There are other stories illustrating Dangote’s underhand tactics, one such is when he threatened to withdraw all of his money from a certain bank, all because they were thinking about lending money to one of his competitors.
2 Aliko Dangote’s Involvement in Politics Does Not Help His Controversial Status
Much of the controversy surrounding Aliko Dangote is regarding preferential treatment, and many claim that he gets this preferred status through his role in political campaigns.
His roles in these campaigns aren’t exactly small ones, it is thought that Dangote was a large contributing factor in former Nigerian president Olusegum Obasanjo’s re-election back in 2003. During Obasanjo’s re-election bid, Aliko Dangote ploughed 200 million Nairo ($2 million USD) into the political campaign itself. In addition to this extremely generous donation, Dongate also contributed 250 million Nairo into various public amenities such as the National Mosque and the Presidential Library, using the alias ‘Friends of Obasanjo and Atiku’. It’s not just Obasanjo either, Dangote has reportedly supported every Nigerian president there has been during his business career.
Obviously, all these donations are highly controversial. Come on, it wouldn’t be the first time we've heard of corruption in African governments would it? The aforementioned Brian Browne thinks that Dangote used these ‘gifts’ as bribes in order to gain favor with the government. In return, Dangote would receive favors, such as the favorable import bans and exclusive import rights that he enjoys. Browne sums his own view up perfectly with the quote “It is no coincidence that many products on Nigeria’s import ban lists are items in which Dangote has major interests.”
1 Aliko Dangote is also a Philanthropist
It is not very well documented, but Aliko Dangote is also quite the philanthropist as well as a remarkable entrepreneur. Despite his highly competitive business mind, his controversial political decisions, and his very uncharitable nature towards competitors, Dangote still finds the time and money to donate to the cause.
The main benefactor of Dangote’s money is a foundation that he set up 20 years ago, The Dangote Foundation. So far, The Dangote Foundation has distributed over $100 million USD to charitable causes in Nigeria and throughout Africa. The foundation supports a variety of causes, but places great emphasis on education, health, and forwarding the youth of Africa, especially Nigeria. To back up these statements, The Dangote Foundation has donated 1 billion Naira to Nigerian universities; half of this went on the development of a business school in Bayero University. The Dangote Foundation is also in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in an effort to eliminate Polio in Nigeria. There was also a donation of £2 million USD made by the foundation to the World Food Programme, to aid Pakistan after the horrendous floods of 2010.
But Aliko Dangote isn’t stopping there in his philanthropic efforts; he is set to donate $1.2 billion USD to the foundation from his own personal fortune.