When Niccolo Machiaveli the popular Italian Historian, Diplomat and Writer stated that “Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity, and are able to turn both to their advantage”. He, in fact, was describing billionaire businessman, Alhaji Aliko Dangote.
Listed by Forbes Magazine as Africa’s Richest Man, many who have met him have wondered how one can be so financially endowed and yet so down-to-earth humble. In the last two decades there are few Nigerian businessmen that have consistently captured so much attention on the world stage; young and old, faithful and cynical have all come to know his last name, Dangote. Co-incidentally, Dangote Group is also the name of his company and the brand’s powerful logo has now become synonymous with quality products, excellence and the Can Do African spirit.
He is a member of a new crop of African businessmen who prefer to be called Afriprenuers or Africapitalists, these savvy men, all hold the believe that it is only through consistent investment by Africans that the continent can drag itself out of poverty.
In deed, Dangote has placed himself at the very centre of the central conversations of our time: about wealth and poverty, importation and exportation, regional integration, local investors and foreign investors, privatization and government ownership-and he always makes his point without any qualms.
Through his adventure in business, Dangote has trumped long held assumptions, cultural archetypes and stereotypes, to become a respected businessman, power broker and philanthropist in Nigeria, Africa and indeed the world.
At a time when the limits of leadership are being tested in so many places especially in Africa, and technology is turning virtue viral, Dangote and his company had stood the test of time, operating within the highest ethical standards and have remained scandal free, making him a worthy and exemplary role model for aspiring businessmen. How did this serial investor actually begin? His own is not your typical rags to riches, grass to grace story but yet, it is still worth telling because it brings to fore the merits of mentorship, tenacity, back-breaking hard work as well as the power of vision and innovation.
Stories abound that after a few years of mentorship and learning under the wings of his uncle, in 1977, he got a loan of N50,000, some swear it is N500,000. That seed money has grown to the behemoth that Dangote Group has become today. With that money, he delved into trading in essential commodities principally rice, sugar, cement and vegetable oil.
In almost all the sectors that he operated, Dangote was the leader, dictating the tempo in terms of marketing, packaging and nationwide spread.
After years of operating as a Trader and Importer, he wanted bigger challenges, and felt he would get more fulfilment by changing direction. Alhaji Dangote then took the advice of an African Proverb that says “When the music changes, so does the dancer”. He decided to restructure his business from trading in imported goods to manufacturing.
Though sceptics would say it was a decision based on his knowledge that there would be a change in government policy, it is important to note that Dangote was not the only businessman who was close to government, how come, he only had the foresight of looking inwards-and taking advantage of whatever incentives that were available?
In no time, Dangote became like King Midas, anything he touched turned to gold and today the proudly Nigerian Dangote Group is a diversified and fully integrated conglomerate with an annual group turnover in excess of N450 billion (US$3 billion). The Group’s core business focus is to provide local, value-added products and services that meet the ‘basic needs’ of the populace. Through the construction and operation of large scale manufacturing facilities in Nigeria and across Africa, the Group is focused on building local manufacturing capacity to generate employment, prevent capital flight and provide locally produced goods for the people.
Talking about the metamorphosis in his business, Dangote in an interview said “to succeed in business, you must build a brand and never destroy it. One competitive advantage I have when I ventured into manufacturing was my brand (Dangote), which I diligently built in the course of my trading.”
Dangote knew specifically what he wanted and how to go about it, and his growth has been slow but steady. With the cry of #BuyNaijaGrowNaira gaining momentum by the day, there is no doubt that Dangote is the pioneer of the concept of thinking global, but acting local, which invariably means delivering products and services of international standard to the local market.About his unconditional love for Nigeria, he was quoted as saying “If you give me $5bn, I will not invest any abroad, I will invest everything here in Nigeria. Let us put heads together and work.”
The Dangote Group is involved in such areas as Real Estate, Telecommunications, Steel, Oil & Gas, Poly Products, Ports Operations, Food & Beverages, Cement, Haulage and packaging. Its brands include: Dangote Sugar, Dangote rice, Dangote Cement, Dangote flour, Dangote Spagetti, Dangote Noodles, Dangote Salt, Dangote Macaroni, Dangote sacks, Mowa Water, Ziza, Petit Tomato Paste, Danvita, Dangote Flour & Dansa Juice.
Not contented with being a local Nigerian Champion, he has spread his business tentacles to other African countries especially in Cement. His Dangote Cement Company is the continent’s largest indigenous cement producer. In 2015, he launched new plants in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania and presently has investments in 18 countries spread across the continent. The company produces more than 30 million metric tonnes annually, and plans to double capacity by 2018. On April 10th, to mark his 59th birthday, he flew family and friends to Okpella, Edo State to break the ground of another ambitious Cement Project.
Alhaji Dangote owns a huge chunk of the publicly-traded Dangote Cement through a holding company; this percentage exceeds the 80% ownership ceiling set by the Nigerian Stock Exchange. A spokesman for Dangote told Forbes that the company has until October 2016 to lower Aliko Dangote’s stake and plans to do so by then.
In terms of his impact on the Nigerian economy, Dangote is one of the leading employers of labour in Nigeria. His cement plant in Obajana – located half-way between the economic capital Lagos and the political capital Abuja, is poised to become the largest in the world, capable of filling up a 30-tonne truck every 30 seconds.
It is reported that within the next few years, Dangote Group could provide almost 10% of Nigeria’s GDP and employ up to 22,000, on completion of ongoing projects.
In the light of the current fuel crises in Nigeria, the forward-thinking Dangote is already into refinery projects with an investment of $11billion and a completion date of 2017 for the construction of the biggest Petroleum Oil Refinery & Petrochemical/ Fertilizer Plants in Nigeria.
As testimony of its time-tested integrity and an expression of the confidence the world has in the brand, in 2013, Dangote Industries Limited signed a loan agreement with a consortium of both local and international banks to the tune of $3.3 billion for this project.
In June 2014, it secured another $300 million facility from African Development Bank (AFDB) to finance this crude oil refinery and Greenfield fertilizer manufacturing plant. According to the AFDB, the loan is designed to help boost fuel supply and fertilizer production in Nigeria. The AFDB said, “Both projects, On Tuesday in Beijing China, Dangote got another $2billion facility from industrial Commercial Bank of China for the Okpella Plant and another cement in Ogun State will help the country in becoming self-sufficient in its local natural resources and improve refining capacity in an attempt to transform into a major exporter in the oil and gas industry. It noted that,“The projects are expected to create over 30,000 temporary jobs during construction and 2,900 direct jobs during operations”. In addition, Dangote Industriles Limited also received an unprecedented $997.4 million in training grant from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) for the Refinery located in Lekki, Lagos. “USTDA is pleased to support the Dangote Oil Refining Company’s efforts to increase Nigeria’s domestic refining capacity,” said USTDA Deputy Director, Enoh Titilayo Ebong, who signed the grant agreement along with Aliko Dangote, Chairman and CEO, Dangote Group.
“This programme builds upon USTDA’s long history of support for vital infrastructure development in Nigeria.” The grant will fund a multi-year program to train more than 100 staff of the Company on refinery fundamentals”.
In his book Screw Business As Usual, Virgin Founder, Sir Richard Branson advocates that modern entrepreneurs should be ready to do more to affect society through charitable causes.
According to Sir Richard, himself a Forbes Billionaire like Dangote, “Those of us who have been fortunate enough to acquire wealth must play a role in looking at how we use these means to make the world a far better place..making sure that that our investments have the best possible social and environmental return. I also feel strongly that it not about money-in fact often, money is the least important bit. It’s about people using their skills and figuring ways to use the assets of their businesses to drive not only profits but a better world”
It is obvious that Dangote like Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, Sir Richard Branson, takes the issue of Philanthropy and impacting society serious. His Dangote Foundation which began with an endowment of $1.25 billion intervenes in the areas of health, education and empowerment.
The Foundation is also involved in providing humanitarian aid to victims of natural disasters. In recent years, it donated $2m through the World Food Programme to Pakistan’s flood victims, gave $2.6m to flood victims and women in Kogi State, N100million to Sokoto State, N50million Jos flood victims as well as partnering with the Gates Foundation for the End Polio Campaign. If you call Alhaji Dangote a detribalised Nigerian, you will be very correct. Those who are close to him reveal that he cherishes competence and expertise so much that tribal sentiments make no meaning to him. He has also shown himself to be non partisan-and that has also helped him avoid any open clashes with government.
Born in the ancient city of Kano on April 10, 1957. Alhaji Dangote can be referred to as a “Lagos Boy” because he moved to the commercial capital as soon as he began his business in 1977-and has never looked back
His outstanding contribution to Nigeria and world economy has not gone unnoticed. On 14 November, 2011, Dangote was awarded Nigeria’s second highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) by the then President, Goodluck Jonathan. In 2013, Alhaji Dangote and six other prominent Nigerians were conferred Honorary Citizenship of Arkansas State by Governor Mike Beebe who also proclaimed May 30 of every year as Nigeria Day in the U. In 2014, Dangote was named as the Forbes Africa Person of the Year 2 and has consistently made the magazine’s Billionares/ Rich List!
No doubt, in 2016 Nigeria, there are very few names that ring a bell in all corners of Nigeria like that of Alhaji Aliko Dangote and that is why we have chosen him as our Boss Of The Week