Aliko Dangote is one of the most successful industrialists not only in Africa but globally. Born into an upper-class family in 1957 in the Nigerian state of Kano, Dangote learned the ropes of entrepreneurship in his formative years from his grandfather, Sanusi Dantata, who raised him following the demise of his father. At the age of eight, Dangote would use his allowance as a startup.
“I would use it to buy sweets, and I would give them to some people to sell, and they would bring me the profit,” Dangote told Forbes. “When you are raised by an entrepreneurial parent or grandparent you pick that aspiration. It makes you be much more aggressive–to think anything is possible.”
To horn his entrepreneurial skills, he enrolled in Egpty’s Al-Azhar University where he obtained a business degree. Al-Azhar is regarded as one of the most prestigious Islamic universities in the world. After graduating from the prestigious Egyptian University, he followed the journey of his grandfather to deal in commodities.
After college in 1977, he started dealing in commodities such as rice, cement and sugar. He imported the sugar and rice from Brazil and Thailand using a $5,000 loan he took from his grandfather. The business was so successful that within three months, he repaid the loan he took.
According to Forbes, he made a daily profit of $10,000. “Things were quite good,” he said. “It allowed us to create an awful lot of cash.” In 1981, he founded the Dangote Group, a conglomerate that now has about 18 subsidiaries across a range of industries including Dangote Cement, Dangote Sugar and Dangote Flour.
By the close of 1999, Dangote ventured into the manufacturing space by building sugar refineries and a flour mill. He started Dangote Flour in 1999 producing pasta and noodles with a single mill and later expanded his production capacity to at least 1.5 million tons. According to Forbes, he tripled Dangote Flour revenue to $270 million.
Also, he started Dangote Sugar in 2000 and by the time the sugar debuted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 2007, sales had quadrupled to $450 million. His sugar factory is reportedly the largest in Africa and the second-largest globally while Dangote Cement remains the biggest producer of cement in Africa, with factories in at least 10 countries. Forbes estimates that the cement factory produces 44 million metric tons of cement every year.
The successful businessman is currently building an oil refinery in Nigeria at an estimated cost of $10 billion. The refinery is located at the Olokola Liquefied Natural Gas (OKLNG) Free Trade Zone in Lekki-Lagos in Nigeria’s southwest region. When completed, it will become Africa’s largest oil refinery and will have the capacity to process 600,000 barrels of crude oil a day.
Forbes and Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimate that Dangote is worth about $10 billion, making him the richest man in Africa and number 162 on Forbes 2020 billionaire list. He makes his money from cement, sugar, flour and takes in other businesses.
Dangote’s story is not one of the numerous rags-to-riches stories. However, he faced many obstacles throughout his journey. He told Forbes that overcoming these challenges requires one to dream big and be innovative. “You have to dream big to be able to be big and that’s what we’re doing,”
Dangote is not only known for his riches but for his humanitarian work. His Dangote Foundation gives millions of dollars by way of scholarships to needy students in Nigeria. His foundation also provides support to low-income women in Nigeria as well as relief support to Nigerians.