The face of new Nigeria: Aliko Dangote

Heralded by some as the face of the new Nigeria, Aliko Dangote’s businesses cover everything from cement manufacturing, food processing to freight and oil. Africa’s richest man is an inspiration for other entrepreneurs who want to tap into the wealth that exists in the continent.

Africa is the new frontier for entrepreneurship based on new business models. There are many success stories emerging from the continent and many African entrepreneurs are now pioneering innovative solutions, creating new markets, solving persistent problems, and generating new wealth.


One of these success stories is Aliko Dangote’s. Forbes magazine estimates his wealth at $25 billion, making him the 23rd richest man in the world with a growing portfolio of investments across Africa.

The Nigerian business magnate began with a small trading firm in 1977. Today his businesses cover everything from cement manufacturing, food processing to freight. Dangote group now employs about 25,000 people in Nigeria. It is building cement factories in 16 African countries and buying mining licences from Kenya to Zambia.


Heralded by some as the face of the new Nigeria, Africa’s richest man is also looking beyond cement, sugar and flour -the three commodities that built his fortune- to the oil business. Recently he announced $9 billion in financing from a consortium of local and international lenders to construct a private oil refinery and fertilizer and petrochemical complex in the country. He also announced plans to invest $1 billion in commercial rice farming and modern rice mills. His publicly traded Dangote Cement is also grabbing new markets in Africa, with $750 million in new plants planned for Kenya and Niger. He made his first fortune more than three decades ago when he started trading commodities with a loan from his powerful uncle.


On being the poorest continent’s richest man for the fourth year in a row, Dangote says “It feels a little bit odd, yes it’s true, but then it gives you a lot of thinking and responsibility. You ask ‘what do I do to impact humanity?’ And that is why we do quite a lot [philanthropically] in terms of our [Dangote] foundation.” He adds: “We are giving back because we are creating quite a lot of jobs. We are not doing like other Africans, where most of the money is in the bank. We don’t keep any money in th,1302435762,3/stock-photo-a-d-illustration-of-an-empty-white-room-74941468.jpg e bank; whatever we have we fully invest and we keep on investing - and that’s what we do.”


Dangote’s is not a rags-to-riches story however. He comes from a wealthy Nigerian family. After losing his father at the age of eight, he was brought up by his uncle, who gave the businessman his first loan, which he then turned into the most successful business conglomerate in Africa. “I paid [the loan] back in three months because business was so good” Dangote says.


A continent full of possibilities

Dangote’s story shows what is possible in Africa. “Africa is full of opportunities and I think what we did was actually harness fully the opportunities that we met on the ground,” he says.


“We have done quite a lot in various areas. We started with trading. After we succeeded in training what we did was go into manufacturing, which is normally a very difficult area, especially in this part of the world because of lack of power. But we have been able to resolve those issues and we are able to succeed in most of what we are doing.”


The biggest problem facing the African society is poverty, which leads to a host of many other problems. On the other hand, Africa is a highly resourceful continent with great return on investments. With a population near 1 billion, it is a huge market. The good news is that many young Africans today are asking how to make money in Africa. This is good news because they are ready to diversify and find other opportunities to make a living. With the correct approach, it is possible to tap into the wealth that exists in the continent.


Smart business ideas in Africa

1. e-government or mobile government

2. Intellectual property and patents protection services

3. e-commerce services

4. Energy sector

5. Procurement and logistics

6. Field data collection services

7. Investments in housing

8. e-libraries and e-books study platforms for students

9. Investments in banking and financial services

10. Agricultural support platforms


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