Aliko Dangote

Aliko Dangote, Nigerian businessman, entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist, CEO of Dangote Group, was born April 10th, 1957, Kano where he was brought up by his grandparents after his father died when Dangote was eight. After studying business at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, he moved to Lagos to strike out on his own. He too became a trader, but unlike the other businessmen whose fortunes were built on import licences available to the friends of politicians, Dangote had a hankering to make things.

Aliko, Africa’s richest man, founded and chairs Dangote Cement, the continent’s largest cement producer. He owns nearly 85% of publicly-traded Dangote Cement through a holding company. Dangote Cement produces 45.6 million metric tons annually and has operations in 10 countries across Africa. Dangote also owns stakes in publicly-traded salt, sugar and flour manufacturing companies. Dangote Refinery has been under construction for three years and is expected to be one of the world’s largest oil refineries once complete.

The amazing thing is that Dangote built his business empire from the scratch, starting out as a small scale trader to eventually build an emergent global conglomerate, becoming, in the process, one of the world’s richest men.

Nigerians assume that Dangote is tougher than the next guy. While to many he is a hero who builds factories, employs thousands and reinvests his money at home, to others he is a villain: a ruthless monopolist who squeezes favours from the government of the day and crushes competition like limestone in a cement mixer. Some accuse him of avoiding taxes by invoking an investment incentive known as “pioneer status”. Others say he is more of a rentier than an entrepreneur, gouging the country with high prices and raking in ludicrous profits. “People throw a lot of mud at you and you have to see how you can clean it up,” he says of his detractors.

“What Nigeria needs is to produce locally what we can produce locally,” Dangote says, nibbling at a skewered satay, and defending the thinking that has made him rich. “Nigeria still imports vegetable oil, which makes no sense. Nigeria still imports 4.9m tonnes of wheat, which does not make sense. Nigeria still imports 97 or 98 per cent of the milk that we consume.” Of the latter (astonishing, considering the country’s roughly 20m cows), he says, “The government needs to bring out a draconian policy to stop people importing milk, just like they did with cement.”

In person, he is charm itself, a soft-spoken man with a pleasantly round face, close-cropped hair and a greying moustache so delicately trimmed that it is almost not there. He projects integrity and humility, even piety. I’ve met mere millionaires with more swagger than him. Yet Dangote is a billionaire 14 times over and the 100th richest person in the world, according to Forbes.

He is a networker extraordinaire. To watch him work a room is to witness a kind of genius. He irradiates a Dickensian bonhomie as he glides from table to table, picking up goodwill — and intelligence — with each pressing of the flesh. If there are competing obligations — the wedding reception of the daughter of a Big Man, a dinner for the vice-president, a foreign investors’ post-conference gala — he manages to be at all three events at once, an apparition moving unhurriedly through the room as though he has all the time in the world. Like Bill Clinton, he remembers your name; like Al Capone, he’s got your number.

Even Dangote’s yacht — named Mariya, after his mother — manages to be understated, if such a thing is possible in a 108-foot vessel with a price tag, according to Lagos’s gossipy tabloids, of $43m. It was styled after a boat owned by fellow Nigerian billionaire, Femi Otedola, though intriguingly Dangote had his built a few feet shorter.

He makes no secret of how he got his big break, one that transformed him from a wealthy man — and by all accounts a bit of a dilettante — into a business colossus whose interests straddle the continent. It happened one day not long after the election in 1999 of Olusegun Obasanjo, the former military leader who had embraced the country’s lurch to democracy by running for the presidency. Dangote contributed both to that campaign and to his subsequent re-election in 2003.

“Obasanjo called me very early in the morning and said, ‘Can we meet today?’?” says Dangote, recalling the presidential summons. He wanted to know why Nigeria couldn’t produce cement, instead importing it by the boatload. Dangote told him it was more profitable to trade than to produce. Only if imports were restricted would it be worthwhile. Obasanjo agreed. Dangote has never looked back.

History and Strategy
Dangote Group is a diversified and fully integrated conglomerate with an annual group turnover in excess of US$3 billion (2016) with vibrant operations in Nigeria and Africa across a wide range of sectors including cement, sugar, salt, condiments, flour, packaging, energy, port operations, fertilizer and petrochemicals. Our 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. We are focused on building local manufacturing capacity to generate employment, reduce capital flight and increase local value addition.

The Dangote Group corporate strategy has evolved as its businesses have grown, matured, and diversified into new sectors and regions over the last four decades. Starting out as a bulk commodity trading concern in the 1970’s encouraged by the liberalized commodity import regime of the then Government of Nigeria, by the late 1990’s our strategy had transformed to a focus on manufacturing for import substitution. The early 2000’s saw the Group’s approach further adjust to strategic asset acquisition in line with the then Government’s privatization policies. This set the stage for the next phase in our strategic plan for the next decade; expansion and backward integration.

The rapid growth generated by adopting this strategy saw our revenues exceed the US$1 billion mark by the mid-2000’s and led to further diversification, expansion and consolidation in the 2010’s.

With the status the Group has now attained, our strategy has further evolved. Currently, Dangote Group, is primarily a first mover in highly capital-intensive industries with import and quality substitution opportunity in Africa. We are now able to build superior quality, highly efficient plants, quickly and cost effectively. This increases our competitive advantage, by enabling the Group produce superior products at a more attractive price, compared to what is currently available in the market. The Group invests aggressively in its logistics and procurement, where our size and financial strength enables us assemble strong distribution capabilities unattainable by competitors. We have built strong foundations and networks, which give us a stronghold to leverage situations to our benefit, some of which include :

  • The Vision and Courage to pursue ambitious investments that serve as a market leader;
  • The Group’s ability to raise sufficient, competitively priced capital, which is essential for large cap-ex investments;
  • Our understanding and appreciation of the local market and people;
  • The ‘Dangote’ brand identity; which is loved and respected throughout Africa;
  • The ability of Dangote Group to attract the best talents on offer
  • Our superior cap-ex delivery and excellent procurement on large cap-ex

Our strategy moving forward will be, to continue on this path, being opportunistic and open to new ideas while building on tried and tested partnerships, processes and ideas.

Aliko Dangote Foundation
The Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF) is the Philanthropic endeavor of Aliko Dangote. The main objective of the Foundation is to reduce the number of lives lost to malnutrition and disease. Combating Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in children, is at the core of our programming. Improving the outcome of children’s lives, forms the basis for the work the Foundation is engaged in, using our investments in health, education, and economic empowerment to help lift people out of poverty.

Net Worth
$9.1B (as of 10/2/19)

The Future
His ambitions are changing. He is talking about pulling back from the business, concentrating on strategy and letting others run things day-to-day. “I’m trying to step back from some of the boards.” He will float the cement business in London, perhaps by the end of this year, and has already appointed independent directors — including Blair’s wife Cherie — to help satisfy London’s pesky governance requirements.

He remains Nigeria’s strongest advocate, though he consistently denies political ambition. If he ran for president, you wouldn’t bet against him. “Nigeria has always had a lack of visionary leadership,” is the closest he’ll come to declaring political intent. “There’s no country in Africa that has the energy of here. Nowhere, I’m telling you.”

Aliko Dangote is a muslim who is devoted to both his religion and family.

When he’s not dealing with crises, he’s fending off friends and relatives, who are often seeking help of a pecuniary nature. “People call me in the middle of the night to tell me about their problems,” he smiles wryly.

Aliko Dangote Biography and Profile (FT)