By Eric Elezuo
Nigeria is a country blessed with entrepreneurs of high repute; men and women who can hold their own at any point in time, anywhere in the globe. However, there are entrepreneurs and there are entrepreneurs. Many fell by the wayside, many don’t live up to expectation and many others lose relevance in the cause of doing business.
Today, we serve you hot and fresh entrepreneurs that have inexplicable footprints in the sand of time.
Aliko Dangote is one Nigerian, who has the rare advantage of bagging the prestigious GCON honours, proudly reserved for vice presidents. He was born on April 10, 1957, and is the Chairman of the Dangote Group, which has interests in commodities. The company operates in Nigeria and other African countries, including Benin, Ethiopia, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Togo, Tanzania, and Zambia. As of June 2016, he had an estimated net worth of US$14.9 billion.
Dangote is ranked by Forbes magazine as the 67th richest person in the world and the richest in Africa; he peaked on the list as the 23rd richest person in the world in 2014. He surpassed Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi in 2013 by over $2.6 billion to become the world’s richest person of African descent.
The Dangote Group was established as a small trading firm in 1977. Today, it is a multi-trillion naira conglomerate with many of its operations in Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo. Dangote has expanded to cover food processing, cement manufacturing, and freight. The Dangote Group also dominates the sugar market in Nigeria and is a major supplier to the country’s soft drink companies, breweries, and confectioners. The Dangote Group has moved from being a trading company to being the largest industrial group in Nigeria including Dangote Sugar Refinery, Dangote Cement, and Dangote Flour.
In Nigeria today, Dangote Group with its dominance in the sugar market and refinery business is the main supplier (70% of the market) to the country’s soft drinks companies, breweries and confectioners. It is the largest refinery in Africa and the third largest in the world, producing 800,000 tons of sugar annually. Dangote Group owns salt factories and flour mills and is a major importer of rice, fish, pasta, cement and fertilizer. The company exports cotton, cashew nuts, cocoa, sesame seed and ginger to several countries. It also has major investments in real estate, banking, transport, textiles and oil and gas. The company employs over 11,000 people and is the largest industrial conglomerate in West Africa.
Dangote has diversified into telecommunications and has started building 14,000 kilometers of fibre optic cables to supply the whole of Nigeria. As a result, Dangote was honoured in January 2009 as the leading provider of employment in the Nigerian construction industry.
He said, “Let me tell you this and I want to really emphasize it…nothing is going to help Nigeria like Nigerians bringing back their money. If you give me $5 billion today, I will invest everything here in Nigeria. Let us put our heads together and work.” This explains why a refinery is being constructed in Epe area of Lagos to further provide Nigerians with employment, and for all these, Dangote remains a relevant entrepreneur.
A thoroughbred economist, Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu was born on March 22, 1963 in Jos, Nigeria. He is an also a visionary entrepreneur and a high grade philanthropist.
Tony, as he is popularly known, is the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa, Transcorp and founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation. He is a holder of the Commander of the Order of Nigeria (CON) and Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR).
In 2011, New African magazine listed him as one of the 100 most influential people in Africa and a year later, he was recognized as one of “Africa’s 20 Most Powerful People in 2012” by Forbes Magazine.
Elumelu is the originator of the term Africapitalism. According to him, Africapitalism is an economic philosophy that embodies the private sector’s commitment to the economic transformation of Africa through long-term investments that create both economic prosperity and social wealth.
Elumelu sees Africans taking charge of the value-adding sectors and ensuring that those value-added processes happen in Africa, not through nationalization or government policies, but because there is a generation of private sector entrepreneurs who have the vision, the tools and the opportunity to shape the destiny of the continent. He insists that Africapitalism is not capitalism with an African twist; it is a rallying cry for empowering the private sector to drive Africa’s economic and social growth.
With Africapitalism, he has been able to draw African entrepreneurs together towards investing in Africa, and giving back to Africans. In the same vein, he has used his Elumelu Foundation to make entrepreneurs out of regular Nigerians. Tony Elumelu is a force to reckon with today, and on the lips of many African entrepreneurs today is the name Tony Elumelu Foundation.
A visionary businessman, Jim Ovia, born on November 4, 1951 founded Zenith Bank in 1990 when most people think less of investment because of the constant inflow of money. After gaining degrees at both Southern University and University of Louisiana at Monroe, he attended Harvard Business School.
Ovia served as CEO of Zenith Bank until 2010, when he transferred into the chairman role and left the everyday running of the bank to younger blood. He is also a recipient of a Nigerian national honor.
As an accomplished banker with over three decades’ experience, he introduced a great deal of innovations into the Nigerian banking industry. He is credited with establishing the now merged Visafone Communications Limited. He is also the Chairman of the Nigerian Software Development Initiative (NSDI) and also Chairman, National Information Technology Advisory Council (NITAC). He is a member of the Honorary International Investor Council as well as the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI).
Jim Ovia is a member of the Governing Council of Lagos State University, Lagos and also a member of the Board of Trustees, Redeemer’s University For Nations, Lagos. He was a member of the Governing Council of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (1999 – 2007) and also served on the board of American International School, Lagos [2001 -2003].
Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Adenuga Jr. is a best definition of shrewd and accomplished businessman. He was born on April 29, 1953, and reputed as the second richest person in Nigeria. His company Globacom is Nigeria’s second-largest telecom operator, and also has a presence in Ghana and Benin. He also owns stakes in the former Equitorial Trust Bank and the oil exploration firm, Conoil (formerly Consolidated Oil Company). Forbes has estimated his net worth at $10 billion as of 2016, which makes him second wealthiest Nigerian behind Aliko Dangote, as well as the second richest person in Africa.
In May 2015, Adenuga made a takeover bid to purchase Ivorian mobile telecoms operator Comium Côte d’Ivoire for $600 million.
Reputed for his humble disposition, Femi Otedola, a businessman, philanthropist, and chairman of Forte Oil Plc, an importer of fuel products, was born in 1962 to a former Governor of Lagos State, Sir Michael Otedola.
He is also the founder of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, and the owner of a number of other businesses across shipping, real estate and finance. He is the second Nigerian after Aliko Dangote to be included on the Forbes list of dollar-denominated billionaires. He has recently invested in power generation as part of the liberalization of the sector in Nigeria. His business investments include Zenon Petroleum and Gas, African Petroleum that later became Forte Oil in late 2010. He is also the owner of Swift Insurance. This he has his hands in among many others both home and abroad.
His staff base is overwhelming, and that makes him a relevant entrepreneur in the Nigerian business world.