Avatar photo
BY Abu Mubarik, 1:00pm March 19, 2024,

‘Why the hell are we not investing in agric?’ – How Tanzania’s only billionaire intends to become Africa’s biggest farmer

Photo credit: Mohammed Dewji via LinkedIn

In Africa, agriculture is the mainstay of many economies, including Tanzania, where it accounts for one-third of its annual GDP (of $75 billion). The East African country primarily practices agriculture at the subsistence level.

As a result, food insecurity remains high and widespread. The U.S. Agency for International Development estimates that 13 million Tanzanians live in extreme poverty, while many others live just above the poverty line.

The country’s richest man wants to change the nature of agriculture in the country and Africa at large as well as grow his agribusiness empire. Mohammed “Mo” Dewji, who owns a chain of businesses, wants to invest $250 million to mechanize agriculture in his country of birth.

Dewji said the goal is to make Tanzania food sufficient, feed his factories, and also export the crops to others who need it. “I want to make Africa, long-term, a food basket for the world,” the 48-year-old billionaire told Forbes. “Why the hell are we not investing in agric?”

In the interview with Forbes, he noted that he wants to grow grains (wheat, rice, corn), edible oil crops (sunflowers, soybeans, palm), and plant proteins (pigeon peas, yellow gram) on the other 61,000 hectares of land he would like to acquire through his consumer goods conglomerate, MeTL Group.

MeTL includes textile manufacturing, edible oil refineries, and his Mo Cola carbonated beverage line. Also, MeTL already grows crops like tea, avocados, and sisal (a natural fiber used in rope), which are vertically integrated into his other businesses, as per Forbes.

Dewji said if his agribusiness model works in Tanzania, he would raise money from global investors to do the same in other African countries. According to Forbes, he plans to “invest over $1 billion across 400,000 hectares—about the size of Rhode Island, or 0.3% of Tanzania’s total landmass—across at least three countries, including Zambia and Mozambique.”

“I spoke to the Zambian president, I spoke to the Mozambique president,” Dewji said to Forbes. “But I said, ‘Guys, let me first work it out in my home country first because I understand the intricacies. Let me show a project for Africa.’”

Dewji has made a name for himself as one of Africa’s youngest billionaires, presiding over a business with 150 product lines and an estimated revenue of $2.5 billion.

The secret to his success began with his father giving him business lessons at the age of 11, as well as his exposure to the commerce industry at a very young age.

The result is the expansive network of stores and distribution outlets for essentials like rice, wheat, and maize that Dewji currently runs. In recent times, his company has diversified its investments into the construction of real estate, hotels, and leisure facilities. The current standing of METL is largely the outcome of the visionary and forward-looking strategies the young billionaire put in when he joined the family business.

Born in the town of Singida in central Tanzania, Dewji inherited his family’s entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. His grandmother operated a small shop, offering various daily necessities such as soap, matches, and paraffin in retail quantities that were affordable for the local community.

After completing his education at Georgetown University and gaining experience working on Wall Street in the United States during the 1970s, Dewji returned to Tanzania to join his father’s business and began acquiring government-owned textile and soap manufacturing entities that were being privatized. This strategic move enabled him to tap into the growing market for consumer goods in Tanzania.

Under his leadership, METL experienced significant growth, expanding its operations and diversifying its product portfolio. The company’s turnover today exceeds $1 billion, a testament to Dewji’s vision and business acumen. METL is now one of the largest trading houses in Tanzania, with a strong presence in various sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, and distribution, according to New Africa Magazine.

Dewji’s father, Gulamabbas Dewji, played a crucial role in laying the foundation for METL’s success. He established the company in the 1970s and, with time, expanded its reach and influence. He began importing and exporting a wide range of commodities, including sugar, wheat, soap, and toothpaste, as well as cashew nuts, maize, and other agricultural products. He also established a robust distribution network, which helped METL reach customers across Tanzania.

Over the years, Dewji has been instrumental in driving METL’s growth, transforming it into a prominent conglomerate. His business strategies and ability to identify profitable opportunities have propelled the company’s success. With a keen focus on innovation, quality, and customer satisfaction, METL has become a trusted brand in Tanzania.

Apart from his business endeavors, Dewji is also actively involved in philanthropy. He established the Mo Dewji Foundation, which aims to improve the quality of education and healthcare in Tanzania. Through his foundation, he has initiated various projects and initiatives that have had a positive impact on the lives of many Tanzanians.

Overall, Dewji’s journey from working on Wall Street to leading one of Tanzania’s largest trading houses is a testament to his entrepreneurial spirit and determination. His ability to seize opportunities, diversify business interests, and contribute to the development of his country has earned him recognition as one of Tanzania’s most influential business leaders.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: March 19, 2024


Must Read

Connect with us

Join our Mailing List to Receive Updates