Aliko Dangote (1957- )

Aliko Dangote at 2011 World Economic Forum in Cape Town, South Africa, May 6, 2011
Courtesy World Economic Forum (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Aliko Dangote is the first billionaire from Nigeria and is considered the richest black man in the world and the fifty-first richest person overall according to Forbes in 2016. He amassed his fortune by founding the Dangote Group, the multinational company that operates throughout West Africa and is Africa’s largest cement manufacturer. The Dangote Group is also involved in other enterprises such as flour milling, salt processing, textiles, real estate, transport, and oil and gas. Finally, the company has control of the Nigerian sugar market that supplies sugar to various companies. Dangote is married and has three children.

Dangote was born on April 10, 1957, in Kano, Nigeria, to a family of prosperous merchants. He became interested in business from a young age. While he was in primary school, he bought cartons of sugar boxes and sold them for profit. Dangote graduated from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, with a business degree in 1977.

One year later, at the age of 21, Dangote used a loan of approximately $3,000 from his uncle, Sanusi Abdulkadir Dantata, to begin a trading enterprise in food staples such as rice and vegetable oil. In May 1981, he established the Dangote Group. With this group, he extended his business ventures into buying trucks, importing cement, and transport. He later became involved with fish, flour, salt, and sugar distribution throughout Northern Nigeria.

Business was difficult, however, during the 1980s and 1990s for Dangote due to a streak of dictators and military coups that had a sturdy grasp on the country’s economy. This changed when Olusegun Obasanjo was elected as president in 1999. Dangote seized this opportunity develop into an industrialist and focus not on importing goods but rather on manufacturing products for the Nigerian economy. He and the Dangote Group plunged into a construction program that was originally focused on flour mills, a pasta factory, and a sugar refinery. The group acquired the Benue Cement Company PLC from the Nigerian government in 2000.

In 2003 the Obajana Cement Plant was commissioned as the largest cement plant in sub-Saharan Africa. The company now employs over twenty-six thousand people in Nigeria alone and is the largest industrial conglomerate in all of West Africa.

Aliko Dangote is also a philanthropist. He created the Dangote Foundation in 1994 which serves as the corporate social responsibility arm of the Dangote Group. The foundation is involved with education, social and political empowerment, and health. Over $100 million has been donated to several causes in Nigeria and other parts of Africa for humanitarian aid to victims of natural disasters. In 2014 Dangote declared plans to endow the foundation with $1.25 billion, making it the largest in Africa.