Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote has been ranked as the 9th richest manufacturing billionaire in the world with a net worth of $10.5 billion, according to CEO World Magazine. Dangote is the only African on the list, which is dominated by billionaires from Asia and Europe.
The billionaire is arguably Africa’s foremost industrialist, owning an 85.2 percent majority stake in Dangote Cement, the largest cement manufacturing company in West Africa. Also, he owns Africa’s biggest oil refinery at the cost of $20 billion. The refinery has a capacity of 650,000 barrels per day. Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of crude oil, with peak production levels at an estimated 2.2 million barrels per day. However, the country lacks the capacity to process its crude oil.
Many of the oil products on the continent are imported from other oil-producing countries like India, Belgium, UAE, and the Netherlands. As a result, the country spends billions of dollars on imports annually and is exposed to the disruption of domestic fuel supply.
In the last decade and counting, Dangote has emerged as the richest businessman in Africa and the wealthiest Black man in the world, per Forbes and Bloomberg calculations. His story has inspired hundreds of Africans, African Americans, and other minorities worldwide.
He makes his money largely from Dangote Cement, one of Africa’s most successful and recognizable brands. His cement factory has the capacity to produce 48.6 million metric tons annually and has operations in 10 countries across Africa.
In addition to his cement factory, Dangote is also into the production of sugar and until recently, fertilizer and oil refinery. What is more, he is also into the assembling of cars under the name Dangote Peugeot Automobiles Nigeria Limited (DPAN). The assembling of the vehicles started with the Land Trek, 3008, 5008, and the new 508.
How did Dangote start his journey to become a successful businessman and the world’s richest Black person? Dangote was born into a family of wealthy traders from northern Nigeria some 65 years ago. Dangote’s grandfather, Alhassan Dantata, traded mainly kola nuts and groundnuts. But Dantata was also one of the wealthiest men in the British West African colonies.
“My great-grandfather was a kola nut trader, and the richest man in West Africa at the time of his death,” he told Time Magazine during a world economic forum event. “My father was a businessman and politician. I was actually raised by my grandfather. It’s traditional in my culture for grandparents to take the first grandchild and raise it. I had a lot of love, and it gave me a lot of confidence.”
Although Dangote comes from a privileged background, he carved his own entrepreneurial path. At a very young age, while still in primary school, he started looking for his own money. He sold candies to make money in school. He also worked diligently for his uncle, Sani Dangote, which set the stage and laid the foundation for him to dominate the business world.
“I can remember when I was in primary school, I would go and buy cartons of sweets (candies) and I would start selling them just to make money. I was so interested in business, even at that time,” he said.
Shortly after completing his degree in business studies and administration at the Al-Azhar University in Egypt, one of the biggest Islamic universities, he approached his uncle for a loan to start a business.
The success of his cement factory inspired him to start manufacturing some of the products he was importing or buying from others. In 1997, he built a plant and started manufacturing pasta, sugar, salt, and flour.
Today, all his companies operate under the empire Dangote Group, where he is the chairman. The group employs over 30,000 workers in Nigeria and across Africa. Dangote Group includes the following: Dangote Cement Plc, Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc and Dangote Flour Mills Plc.
Dangote’s rise to become one of the most powerful and successful entrepreneurs in Africa and the world at large shows the potential of African youth to become successful in the field of entrepreneurship and any endeavor, given the necessary enabling environment which is often lacking.