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BY Abu Mubarik, 3:45pm July 08, 2024,

Five 20th-century African millionaires you should know

K.K Siaw, the Ghanaian industrialist credited with the establishment of Guinness Ghana Breweries. Photo Credit: Ghana Museum

Despite facing slavery, colonialism and later on fighting for independence, Africans on the continent have shown resilience in all facets of life.

From sports, entertainment, and academia to business, they have braved the odds to remain competitive. In the business world today, there are some Africans ranked among the top millionaires and billionaires due to their success stories.

Some of these Africans built their business at the height of colonialism when Africans had little to no freedom to operate freely. Their success dates back to the 20th century and their businesses have been passed down to generations after them.

Below are five 20th-century millionaires you should know

Alhassan Dantata

Alhassan Dantata, the great-grandfather of Aliko Dangote, was a trader from Northern Nigeria who traded mainly in kola nuts and groundnuts. He was one of the wealthiest in British West Africa colonies. His distribution pool extended far into Europe and at the time of his death, he was the richest man in West Africa

“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 Dantata was one of the wealthiest men in the British West African colonies, he lived a simple life. He fed on the same foodstuffs as any other individual. He had many business connections both in Nigeria and in other West African countries, particularly the Gold Coast.

Dantata was born in Bebeji, Kano Emirate in 1877, as one of the several children of Abdullahi and his wife, Amarya. Dantata’s father was Abdullahi, a man from the village of Danshayi, near Kano. Both of his parents were wealthy Agalawa, a hereditary group of long-distance traders in the Hausa empire.

Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu

Get to know Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu; he is reportedly the first Nigerian billionaire and the founding president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange. He established his wealth during the colonial era. When he died in 1966, his wealth was $4 billion in today’s economic value, Forbes Africa reported in 2018.

Ojukwu made his money by importing dried fish for resale and diversifying into textiles, cement, and transportation. He established Ojukwu Transport, Ojukwu Stores, and Ojukwu Textiles.

Prior to entering the world of business, he worked in Nigeria’s agriculture department and later joined John Holt as a tire sales clerk before diversifying into the textile and transport sectors.

Later in his life, Queen Elizabeth II knighted him, earning him the title “Sir.” The honor came after he helped the British during World War II with his fleet of trucks. He also had the privilege of chauffeuring the Queen when she visited Nigeria, at the request of the colonial administration. At the time, he was the only person in Nigeria to own a Rolls-Royce.

Born Louis Philip Odumegwu Ojukwu in Nnewi in 1909, the entrepreneur was the only boy and second of four children. He went to the Government Primary School in Asaba and attended the Hope Waddell Training Institute, which he completed in 1928.

J.K Siaw

Joshua Kwabena Siaw, popularly known as J. K. Siaw, was a Ghanaian entrepreneur and industrialist in the 1960s. He established Tata Brewery Ltd, which was later known as Achimota Brewery Company (ABC) and now called Guinness Ghana Breweries.

After his journey in the teaching field, Siaw wanted to do something different. He saw an opportunity in the cocoa sector where he assisted his dad on the farm during his primary school days. Cocoa, has for decades, been Ghana’s largest foreign exchange earner.

Twice in 1964 and 1967, he applied to the Government to be granted permission to establish a brewery, the business for which he would receive acclaim. He was successful in his applications in 1969.

He launched Tata Trading Company in the Central Region of Ghana. The project was later relocated to Achimota, then a small town which has now grown in importance as a prime business and residential area in Ghana’s capital.

Tata Brewery secured exclusive export rights for the Maltex drink, a carbonated malt beverage brand that was under the ownership of the Danish company Albani. In the 1990s, Tata Brewery, which had become the Achimota Brewery Company (ABC), was privatized under a US$3.5 million loan facility from the International Finance Corporation under a US$1 million equity investment.

The company assumed the name Ghana Breweries Limited under its new ownership. Ghana Breweries then merged with Kumasi Brewery Limited, a brewing company established in May 1959.

Today, Guinness Ghana Breweries PLC is the leading total beverage business in Ghana. And Siaw’s ambition from a modest beginning cannot be discounted from this success.

Cletus Ibeto

Dr. Cletus Madubugwu Ibeto is a Nigerian entrepreneur and businessman behind the Ibeto Group, one of Nigeria’s most successful and highly diversified indigenous industrial conglomerates. Born in Nigeria’s Anambra State, he started his business career as an automobile spare parts dealer under the Igbo apprenticeship system, commonly called imu-ahia.

Today, Ibeto Group has subsidiaries, including Ibeto Cement Company Limited, Ibeto Industries Limited, Ibeto Petrochemical Industries Limited, Union Auto Parts Manufacturing Limited, Odoh Holdings Limited, Cottenwooden Gas Limited, Max Shipping Services Limited, CMI Communications Limited, and Ibeto Hotels Limited.

To acknowledge his contributions to the socio-economic development of the country and service to humanity, he was also honored several times by the Federal Government of Nigeria with Office of the Order of the Niger (OON) and Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).

Ade Tuyo

Ade Tuyo was born in 1902. He was described as Nigeria’s most prominent baker in the mid-1960s. He was featured in Time magazine’s list of millionaires in Nigeria in 1965.

According to the magazine, he managed a business that had “first priority in people’s spending.” “The firm’s unusual name – De Facto Works Ltd. – was shrewdly chosen by Tuyo to impress Nigerian bankers with the fact that he was seriously in business,” it said

He was first trained as a teacher but left the profession to work for 24 years in the Nigerian Railway Corporation, the British Bank of West Africa and the Ministry of Commerce. He retired in 1953.

The bakery was started by his wife. After his retirement, he took over the catering business. By 1969, his bakery service was the largest in the country.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: July 8, 2024

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