The incredible story of Aliko Dangote’s rise to affluence and becoming wealthiest black man

– Alhaji Aliko Dangote is the richest man in Africa with $12.8billion net worth in 2017

– His main source of wealth is cement, sugar, flour but he’s planning investing into oil and gas

– Aliko Dangote started from a very low business but rose steadily to the point of becoming the richest in Africa

In Nigeria as well as so many other African countries, Aliko Dangote is not just the name of another black man, but a brand to be reckoned with. The brand Dangote would qualify as the most popular African brand, especially with the diverse areas of interests in business, but even then it is not just another brand name.

It is the brand name for the founder and chairman of Dangote Group which is the largest producer of most commodities in Africa, Aliko Mohammad Dangote, who has also been named richest man in the continent. Born on April 10, 1957 to the rich family of Mariya Sanusi Dantata and Mohammed Dangote, the young Aliko showed a flair for business early in life, when he made it a habit to buy packets of sweets which he took to school and sold to his fellow pupils, in order to make some profit for himself.

Not only that, he also gave some packets to some pupils to sell for him and split the profits with them. One could rightly call him a business-minded child. If he had been born somewhere in the Eastern Nigeria, it would have been attributed to that, as easterners are mostly tagged to be more business-minded.

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Aliko retained this trait even as he outgrew most other childhood characters. After losing his father at age eight, he was raised by his maternal grandfather, Sanusi Alhassan Dantata, who was very fond of him. Speaking recently, he confessed that he got most of his business acumen and instincts from Dantata, who ensured he lacked nothing while growing up.

This same grandfather of his also gave him a loan when he was just 20 years old, with which he embarked on his first business of cement importation for some of the Festac buildings. The loan of N500,000 was no small figure in 1977. In that year, the said amount could purchase a good number of Mercedez Benz cars as they were sold at N5000 while a Volkswagen Beetle was sold for N900 to N1000.

He displayed a great sense of responsibility when he paid off the loan that had a two year life span within a space of three months. Realizing that he was making sufficient money in the business, he paid the money stating that he had no further need of it.

He pointed that within those first three months that he was making at least N1,350 to N1,400 from his daily allocation of four trucks. For most young men in their 20s with grandfathers as rich as Sanusi Dantata, the temptation to cling on to the money as his due right, especially since he was not partaking of the family business, would probably have overshadowed them but not the prudent Aliko.

Having so much money at his disposal did not send him on a spending spree or investment adventure, and he decidedly stuck to the cement business which was the only business he knew about until 1980 as he emphasized that he never embarked on businesses which he knew nothing about.

He also struck out alone in all of his ventures, carefully avoiding partnerships and the entanglements that come with them. According to him, partnerships could be highly limiting as one always has to consider the partner’s opinion before taking any decision, and the said decision might just be time-bound. Also, spending is done very cautiously, even on personal needs, in order to avoid fuelling suspicions.

Understanding the significance of a good business relationship with the powers that be to his success, Aliko Dangote has always striven to be in the good books of those in the corridors of power. “Even though I have no personal interest in politics, I know that those in power have the means to frustrate my efforts.

All it takes is just a signature,” he once stated. Instructively, it has not just been about lobbying them to get his way but actually doing things that put him in the right track to attract their attention and goodwill. This was what led former President Olusegun Obasanjo to state: “If after 50 years of our cement business in Nigeria we could not get it right and under four years Dangote has gotten it, we have to support him.”

Consequently, he placed a ban on the importation of bagged cement and even closed down a newly opened cement bagging plant, stating that only those who had invested in the production of the cement would be allowed to bag it in the country. This contributed in no small way to the immense success of the cement business, not to talk of the boost it gave to the local economy.

When the Shehu Shagari government decided to focus on major constructions in Abuja, and vast housing projects in the new Federal Capital Territory, it was Dangote cement to the rescue. Even when General Muhammadu Buhari clamped down on all importations, he did not join the bandwagon of businessmen who were complaining of the autocratic decision, but proceeded to form the Dangote general textile products enterprises, diverting his attention to the exportation of local products like gum arabic, cotton, millet, cocoa, leather products and cashew nuts which was what the government of the day wanted. learnt that his decision to go into manufacturing of various products was later to be, after being inspired by a visit to Brazil where he saw what the vibrant manufacturing industry was doing for their economy both in terms of employment creation and reducing the country’s debt profile by increasing her GDP. He confessed that after visiting a company called Arisco where 503 different items were being produced and over 4,000 people employed, he was particularly challenged as the only manufacturing company Nigeria had then was textile.

He not only decided there and then, but he proceeded to gradually replicate what he had seen there when he got back home to Nigeria. From Dangote Sugar, cement, salt, spaghetti, noodles, juice (Dansa fruit juice), all relating to the basic need of food and shelter, he has succeeded in no small measure. Initially, making money had not been his target, but a simple drive to create useful products and make them readily available to Nigerians. When he met these needs, the cash came flowing in.

Like every other human, he has also had a couple near-death experiences. Once in 1983, he narrowly escaped death when his first aircraft went down in flames, even though his pilot was not as fortunate. Another was in 2008 when he left South Africa after an executive meeting and was about to enter Angola when the aircraft started having serious engine problems. “It started about 138 miles from Luanda, capital of Angola as we were crossing over the Angolan airspace to Nigeria, the plane was vibrating but we all acted calm,” he recalls saying that all he did at that point was pray to his Creator.

The situation was brought under control as the pilot was finally able to manage an emergency landing at the Antonio Agostinho Neto International Airport, Pointe Noire, at Congo just a couple of minute before the engine stopped functioning completely. Aware of the fact that many youths aspire to become like him, Dangote is quick to point out that it has taken him three decades and not three days to amass his wealth in billions of dollars, and so there is no need for young people to seek short cuts.

For him, his success has been a result of faith and belief in God as well as persistence and focus which he said most youths are lacking today as they are quick to jump from one thing to the other when they do not see massive results in months. He also hinted that his foresight may have been instrumental to his success.

Even when Kano state, his home state was a commercial hub and also housed the family business, he understood even then in 1977 that in years to come, Lagos would become the financial centre of the country, and he proceeded to act on that belief. He also did not let his background get into his head, but chose to map out his own path to greatness even when his siblings and relatives were content to relax in the comfort of the family wealth.

He recalled that despite his background, he only inherited a couple of buildings from his father and three Benz 911 (10 tonner) trucks from his grandfather. Also the grandfather had given him a loan of N500,000 to be paid up in two years without interest (according to the Islamic non-interest banking), and he had paid the loan off in 3 months. As expected, Dangote is a consummate risk taker, being well aware of the fact that the world of business is a battle field, where some are lost and some are won, and this has not stopped him from striking out alone, ready to win it all or lose it all.

He once opened a bank – liberty bank but had to close it down since it is against his religious beliefs against the conventional interest banking. This explains why he has come as far as 43rd richest man in the world, worth $12.8 billion US dollars, and expects to be worth about 80 billion US dollars by 2019 when he clocks 62, an age where most civil servants are warming up for retirement or just newly retired.

Despite his being dispossessed of the moribund petroleum refineries in Kano and Port-Harcourt, which he bought from the Obasanjo administration, the Yar’Adua administration which held that vital national assets cannot be sold to a few individuals who can hold the entire nation to ransom, he still has intentions of entering the lucrative oil and gas sector.

He is already constructing his own private refinery targeted at being the largest in the world, at the cost of 9 billion US dollars. No doubt, he is that man who is not afraid to eat a pregnant frog when he chooses to eat a frog at all. On the home front, he has been a serial monogamist, as he has never been married to more than one woman at a time, even though he has had four wives. Unexpectedly, he has fifteen daughters and no son, a situation which would have caused no small worries if he had hailed from another part of the country where the birth of male children is emphasized.

However, only the four children from his last wife are officially listed. He married his first wife in 1977 when he was just 20. She had been chosen for him by his parents and he later divorced her after which he married Mariya A. D. Muhammad Rufai, a senator’s daughter and former Bauchi state commissioner for women affairs. After divorcing her as well, he has also had two other marriages, one at a time. He had wanted to take Nafisat Yar A’dua, daughter of the late President Umar Musa Yar A’dua as his fourth wife in 2009 but she had declined as she was close friends with Halima Dangote, his daughter.

On the religious front, he is a devout Sunni Muslim and makes out time from his tight schedules to say his prayers and embark on holy pilgrimages repeatedly. His firm religious beliefs is the reason why he gives out personal loans without interests, and supports religious based institutions by regularly sponsoring individuals on pilgrimages. Additionally, cows are killed in his residences during the Sallah celebrations and shared for people to consume, and foods are supplied from his company to those fasting throughout the month of Ramadan.

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