On Wednesday, April 10, 1957, there was joy in Koki, Kano, about the arrival of a bouncing baby boy to a middle-aged Alhaji Mohammad Dangote and a very young Hajiya Mariya Sanusi-Dantata. The boy was born in a famous stately house belonging to his mother’s people, the very wealthy and shrewd Dantata family in Koki Quarters. This choice of place was because the boy’s maternal grandfather, Alhaji Sanusi Dantata, wanted his beloved daughter, Mariya, to live in Kano, rather than in Lagos or Kaduna, where her husband, Malam Mohammad Dangote, was shuttling between. Alhaji Sanusi Dantata knew that the boy’s father, who was also his business associate and friend, was a peripatetic politician, a member of the Northern House of Assembly in Kaduna, and so, may not have the time to closely monitor his children. Therefore, the wise and wealthy Dantata was ready to mentor the baby boy, who was his first grandson, right from birth. Seven days after the boy was born, he was taken to the Dantata Mosque for his sunna or naming ceremony. Alhaji Dantata declared that he had sensed great destiny in the little boy, so he named him, “Aliko” which means, “The protector of mankind”. Aliko’s biological father also named him Mohammad after himself. Thus, the new born baby became Aliko Mohammad Dangote….

That day, outside in the windy wild, Kano city lay luxuriantly with wavy savannah grass which was the dusty brown-green carpet upon which ancient walls and gates stood. In the city’s urban zones, people were still talking about the visit of the queen of England, Elizabeth II a year before Aliko Dangote was born. She had come chauffeured in a glittering Rolls Royce amidst loud cheers from nobles and peasants alike. Her coming was a fitting forerunner of the arrival of baby Aliko Dangote. It was as if she came knowingly to see the birthplace of the future richest black person in the world. And just as the queen had a long bloodline of inherited monarchy, Aliko Dangote also had a bloodline of wealthy ancestors who consciously inculcated and mentored their offspring in the skill of acquiring money. Yes, the spirit of making money was transferred into the boy right from the day he was named, Aliko.  But who really are these meticulous Dantatas who influenced Aliko so much and what are their business secrets to success? 

Here goes….

An ancestor, Baba Talatin, migrated from Katsina to Kano in the 18th century. In Danshayi, near Kano, one of the ancestor’s grandsons was born. He was named Mallam Madugu Abdullahi. This grandson, Abdullahi, grew up to become a kola nut merchant who married a business woman, Amarya Fatima. She bore him twin sons in 1877. One died and the other survived. He was named Alhassan Abdullahi. Sometime later, Mallam Madugu Abdullahi died in about 1885, in Bebeji where they lived. Amarya Fatima remarried and moved with her new husband to Accra in Ghana where she had a business. Before she left, she handed over her little son, Alhassan, from her previous marriage to a servant woman to take care of him. This woman’s name was Tata. 

Alhassan grew under Tata’s care and he came to adore her so much that when he became an adult, he decided to be referred to as the son of Tata or Dantata. It was Tata that mentored Alhassan and instilled in him the skill of saving money. She insisted that he must save some money every blessed day. This was the first secret of the Dantata success: Save money. In fact, Alhassan’s first asusu or money box or pottery vessel which Tata bought for him, still exists in the walls of the Dantata ancient home. Thus Hajiya Tata was the secret behind the Dantata discipline. 

At a time, there was a crisis in kano in which two claimants to the throne, the late emir Muhammad Bello’s son, Tukur, and a relative, Yusufu, were embroiled in supremacy struggle. Yusufu succeeded to the throne. Because Dantata’s family of the Agalawa supported Tukur, in their characteristic posture of supporting the government of the day, they were punished by Yusufu by having their wealth and lands confiscated. Dantata and others were enslaved but after a time, they bought their freedom. After this dark period of life, Dantata began life as a nobody. He was only able to see his real mother for the first time when he was fourteen. His father’s wealth had been dissipated. His mother took him to a Quaranic school and he became an almajiri to gain religious knowledge and while away his time. He would beg for food, clothing and money for himself and his mallam and read the Quran seriously. With sheer determination, the young Dantata practiced Tata’s instruction of secret one which was to save money every day. He became a shrewd merchant of gold and other goods. He prospered gradually over the years and became the biggest exporter of kolanut from kano to where his biological mother lived, Accra. When the British built a rail line from Kano to southern Nigeria, Alhassan Dantata utilized the opportunity to become the first merchant to transport his kola nuts from Kano to Lagos. He also used the Lagos and Port Harcourt seaports. Therein lies the second secret to be learnt from the Dantatas: have the ability to utilize new and faster ways of doing and spreading business. Just as the railway was the means of spreading businesses quickly in the early 1900s, shipping through water or transporting through camels were the means of spreading them in the 1800s. Today, the Internet is the greatest means of spreading businesses. We are sure Alhaji Dangote, in whose veins, the blood from his maternal great grandfather, Alhassan Dantata, flowed, is busy even now utilizing the benefits of the Internet. 

When the kolanut business in the north generally began to lose its popularity, Alhassan Dantata shifted his business interest to a new business that was becoming very popular: groundnuts. Those were the days of the groundnut pyramids in Kano. Therein lies secret three: Deal in foodstuffs mainly and shift from a commodity that is becoming unpopular to a commodity that is becoming popular.  Why foodstuffs? Every mouth must eat, whether there was money to eat or not. The force in that “must” action keeps bringing wealth to anyone dealing in foodstuffs.  

Alhassan Dantata’s biological mother died in 1908. He began to think about settling down, so he married his first wife, Umma Zaria in 1915. That same year, the woman bore him a son, Sanusi Dantata (Who later became Aliko Dangote’s maternal grandfather). Alhaji Alhassan Dantata was then a very wealthy man dealing in groundnuts. Because he was well-to-do and very experienced in groundnut business, he was appointed an agent for the British Royal Niger Company (BRNC), whose business interest was to spread their groundnut business tentacles all over northern Nigeria. This partnership with the stable British company brought millions of pounds to Alhaji Alhassan Dantata. The BRNC changed its name to United African Company (UAC), and Alhaji Alhassan Dantata advised the UAC to establish the first bank in Kano. The UAC agreed and established the British Bank of West Africa in 1929. Alhaji Alhassan Dantata became the largest shareholder. He placed twenty camel-loads of silver coins in the bank! And therein lies secret four: Partner with a giant business company or government.  By the early 1930s, Alhaji Alhassan Dantata was the richest man in Kano. On his deathbed, he pointed at 60 mighty groundnut pyramids in kano and said, “All these are mine”. By this time his company, Alhassan Dantata and Sons, was a mighty spinner of money. When he died on August 17, 1955, he was the richest person in West Africa, with enterprising sons, Sanusi, Ahmadu, Mahmuda, Aminu, Abdullahi, Almu, Safiyan, Nura, Mudi and many others. He made the Dantata boys make a covenant that they would not divide the family wealth. They did. Therein lies the fifth secret: Centralize and concentrate your wealth.  

His first son, Alhaji Sanusi Dantata continued in his father’s footsteps and mentorship to grow the Dantata wealth much more. Every other member of the family enjoyed the wealth together with him, as he grew it. Like his father, he shunned participating in politics, knowing that politics had more ways of decimating wealth than steadily growing it. That was the sixth secret: Shun politics. What he did rather was establish political connections within the Nigerian polity, using secret five (partner with a giant business company or government). Alhaji Sanusi Dantata combined the six secrets to success he had learnt from his father, Alhaji Alhassan Dantata. Soon enough, the Dantata family grew more wealth and the name, “Dantata” became a well-known one in business circles all over West Africa. Before their patriarch, Alhaji Alhassan Dantata, died, he left a note for retaining and growing wealth, which he handed over to his children. There are five strategies in the note. They are more or less reflections of the five secrets we have listed. They are: 

Live a frugal life and shun politics, but support any government in power. 

Sponsor as many muslims as possible who want to embark on the hajj.

Be a very religious person, pray five times daily, fast in the holy month of Ramadan, give to the needy and go for the hajj or holy pilgrimage at Mecca.

Be united as a Dantata. 

Do not discriminate against fellow Muslims who come to partner with the Dantatas. 

By imbibing these five principles, Aliko Dangote’s grandfather, Alhaji Sanusi Dantata, was recorded as the richest multi-millionaire in Nigeria at the age of 46 in 1965 making so much money from his company, Sanusi Dantata and Sons.  His style of work was not to manage behind a desk but to get himself involved with his workers just like his father before him did. He also imbibed frugality and financial prudence and all the business strategies and business secrets from his father. He was also very generous to his friends, the poor and his chidren and in-laws. By 1963, he was spending 40, 000 Pounds a year. All the secrets he had learnt from his father, he taught them to his sons and his grandson, Aliko Dangote. It is germane to note here that Alhaji Sanusi Dantata’s eldest son, Alhaji Abdulkadir Sanusi Dantata co-founded Dantata and Sawoe and Asada Farms. 

Thus, from 1955 when he was born, Aliko Dangote was trained to key into the powerful entrepreneurial generational secrets of his wealthy maternal family, the Dantatas. He was lucky to have been brought up under close monitoring in the Dantata ancient family house built by his maternal great grandfather, Alhaji Alhassan Dantata. 

Aliko Dangote’s biological father, Malam Mohammad Dangote, was not born in Kano. His parents were from Kura. Unfortunately, Malam Mohammad Dangote died in 1965 when his son, Aliko Dangote was eight years old. By the time he died, he was already a member of the Federal House of Assembly in Lagos, a position he assumed upon Nigeria’s independence in 1960 when Aliko Dangote was three years old. He had served meritoriously as a member of the Northern House of Assembly in Kaduna under the ticket of the Northern People’s Congress led by Alhaji Ahmadu Bello (the Sardauna or War Leader of Sokoto) in the years leading to independence. The young Aliko Dangote was not very close to his father as he was with his maternal grandfather because of the elder Dangote’s peripatetic political life. Malam Mohammad Dangote had left behind many children including Aliko, Sani, Bello and others. By this time, Alhaji Sanusi Dantata children were Abdulkadir, Mahmud, Usman Amaka, Mariya (Aliko Dangote’s mother), Nasiru and many others. 

Aliko Dangote grew up in Koki Quarters where every Dantata child and adult, including their servants, lived in the Dantata expansive compound as if in a commune. They shared everything and ate from any plate. Anyone could go to any room and sleep. All the adults and parents were seen as the same and could admonish or mentor or provide for any child in the Dantata home, utilizing their patriarch’s advice to always be united. Aliko Dangote learnt the fear of God, respect for his seniors, fair justice to the talakawas or peasants, respect for government and humility from Alhaji Sanusi Dantata. The psychological hollowness of growing up without his father from age eight was cushioned by the ever-abiding presence of Alhaji Sanusi Dantata. As he grew, the young Aliko Dangote vowed never to become a politician because of the manner his father died and the treacherous investment uncertainty and many fatal risks of politics on an individual, especially when one was not a prince with blue blood.

Under the influence of his mentor and maternal grandfather, Aliko Dangote gained admission for fundamental education at the prestigious primary school, Kano Capital Elementary School in 1964.  In the evenings, he also attended a Quaranic school, the Madrasa School, run by Sheikh Ali Kumasi in the Dantata Mosque at Koki Quarters. He grew up watching how business was conducted and how money was made in the Dantata family. By the time he was in primary four, Aliko Dangote was already so interested in business that he would go and buy cartons of sweets (candies) and start selling them to his fellow schoolmates just to make money! He announced to his classmates that each sweet went for one penny. They thronged to him for the sweets every day during break periods. He did this on a part-time basis. He would buy these sweets and give them to some people (including the Dantata servants) to start selling for him while he studied his books in school. Whenever he closed from school, he would collect his profit and give them commissions out of it. This continued for quite a while. Of course, Aliko Dangote was also already utilizing secret one from the Dantata ancestral surrogate mother, Hajiya Tata which was “Save money”.

Aliko Dangote attended the Capital High School, Kano. On May 2, 1977, a young Aliko Dangote left Kano for Lagos and worked in the family company, Dantata Organization under the guidance of his uncle, Alhaji Usman Amaka Dantata. Aliko Dangote gained practical day-to-day business experiences from his uncle. His uncle was the son of Alhaji Sanusi Dantata and younger brother to Aliko Dangote’s mother, Hajiya Mariya Sanusi-Dantata-Dangote. Alhaji Sanusi Dantata had advised Usman to leave Kano for the Lagos business environment back in 1972. So for the five years he was there before the arrival of Aliko Dangote, he acquired peculiar experiences needed to survive and come tops in the Lagos business environment. 

Aliko Dangote was nurtured by three influences by this time. His patriarch’s gene and secret codes, his mentor’s words of guidance and discipline and the practical application of what he had learnt and on-the-spot relearning through the supervision of  Usman Dantata. Usman also taught him leadership discipline in business and in the control of workers. Thus, the shadows of the three giants of business, Alhaji Alhassan Abdullahi Dantata and Alhaji Sanusi Alhassan Dantata and Alhaji Usman Amaka Dantata, were all on him. He was just 20 years old then in 1977. At this time, he was living with his uncle at 29A Probyne Street, Lagos. Aliko began to build up social influence in Lagos by belonging to the circle of top business shots. He learnt to speak Yoruba. Usman Dantata was close to Mr. Yusuf Gobir, a then Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Transport. He and other important people helped to boost the business empire of Usman Dantata. These contacts helped the young Aliko Dangote over time.          

In 1977, there were a lot of contracts going on in preparation for the second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) such as the building of multiple flats in a place referred now to as FESTAC town. These flats were prepared to hold the thousands of people that arrived Lagos from all over the world for the event which later held from January 15, 1977 to February 12, 1977. The festival would have held in 1975 during the military administration of General Yakubu Gowon, save for political instability. So it later held in 1977 during the military administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo. The event was meant to revive black and African culture especially because many African nations had gained independence from colonial rule at the time.

The young Aliko Dangote saw a huge opportunity in the novel FESTAC event. He saw that he could supply huge amounts of cement to contractors building the FESTAC town. These building contracts had continued after the event. He quickly approached his mentor, Alhaji Sanusi Dantata and his uncle, Alhaji Abdulkadir Dantata, for a loan to enable him purchase cement. This was the seed money that began the Dangote Group, known then as Alco Company (a general trading company) in 1977. He also went into importing other bulk commodities such as sugar and rice. In 1978, he got an additional loan of 500, 000 Naira, made huge profits and paid it back to his mentor within six months!   

At a time, he gained admission into the Al-Azhar University, in Cairo. The University had five faculties: the school of medicine, the school of agriculture, the college of pharmacy, the school of economics and the school of business. Aliko Dangote must have been an external student in the University and he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business studies and administration. 

The Alco Company began to grow exponentially. Aliko Dangote suddenly realized that there were three basic needs that humanity always angled for. They are food, clothing and shelter. Therefore, he quickly utilized the third secret code of his family which is “Deal in foodstuffs mainly and shift from a commodity that is becoming unpopular to a commodity that is becoming popular”. He decided to diversify his business interests from only cement. At a time also, he went back to the deep family consciousness of spreading business tentacles beyond the confines of Nigeria to cover West Africa. This he began to do with his young company.  

Before the end of the 1970s, he began to utilize secret four which is Partner with a giant business company or government. He also realized that it was necessary to influence the political reality of his times using money so that his business can grow in leaps and bounds within his created environment. Although quite young, he had already familiarized himself with many politicians and technocrats through their interactions with his uncle. Some of them gradually became aware of his business capabilities. 

A great opportunity came during the tenure of Alhaji Shehu Shagari as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when in 1979, the government, basking in the newfound oil boom, opened the borders to the importation of “essential commodities”. Aliko Dangote’s company entered into the jumbo business of importing these “essential commodities”. He imported foreign rice, vegetable oil, flour, sugar, tires, motor spare parts, batiks, aluminum sheets and frozen fish. Shagari also began housing estates in the country. This gave Aliko Dangote the opportunity to import more and more cement bags. 

In 1981, Aliko Dangote and Dandawaki began a joint venture known as Dandawaki Ventures and Aliko Dangote Business Ventures. They aligned to be able to meet the enormous demands for cement for building estates by the federal government and the state governments. When the Shagari government began to award contracts for the development of the then future capital of Nigeria, Abuja, Aliko Dangote was able to supply cement and other products for this massive development. This further grew his business.

The Muhammadu Buhari era came in late 1983. He revised all the policies that favoured the big businesses in the country, giving the reason that they were all branches of corruption. Many politicians were detained. A great sanitization of the economy began. Many business men became unhappy. Aliko Dangote sat down and understudied the new regime. As he thought hard about the new environment, he visited Brazil and saw that despite the bad economy of that country at the time, the textile manufacturing companies were making money. It then dawned on him that Nigeria has many mineral resources and raw materials, but rather than manufacture products with these raw materials, importation was the main preoccupation of businesses in the country. Aliko Dangote asked himself, “Why was the country importing sugar when it could be manufacturing sugar? Why was Nigeria importing costly cement when it had large lime deposits underneath it?”. Utilizing secret two of the Dantata’s which was the ability to utilize new and faster ways of doing and spreading business, Aliko Dangote decided to go into salt and textile manufacturing in Nigeria. Thus, he adjusted from importing commodities to manufacturing them. He manufactured salt, textiles, flour, sugar and cement. Cement became the great rewarding commodity for the Dangote Group. Mr Dangote’s philosophy, after careful meditation about manufacturing became known as “backward integration”. 

Backward integration happens when a products company gets its own raw materials for the manufacturing of its own products. This means the company would no longer rely on the importation of these products. When incorporated as a national policy, this philosophy encourages the rapid economic development of a nation and solves the problem of unemployment and lack of steady investment. 

In 1989, Aliko Dangote established the Dangote Textile Products. In 1990, he established the Liberty Merchant Bank in Victoria Island, Lagos. He then appointed his brother, Bello Dangote as the Bank’s top executive. In 1991, the bank made a profit of 18 million Naira with a share capital of 30 million Naira. The Dangote Group which evolved from Alco Company was already in rice importation right from Aliko Dangote’s days of apprenticeship under his uncle, Usman Dantata. By 1993, the Dangote Group was into transportation, banking, textile, fishing, haulage, farming, real estate amongst others. Aliko Dangote brought another brother, Sani Dangote into his business ventures.

On January 17, 1996, during the Sani Abacha regime as Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Aliko Dangote’s younger brother, Bello Dangote, was involved in a plane crash. He was flying from Lagos to Kano along with General Sani Abacha’s first son, Ibrahim Abacha, and fourteen other people for a party and family engagement. This loss of his brother was a deep blow to Aliko Dangote. He was the closest person to Aliko before his death. Aliko valued his brother’s great thinking and visionary capabilities and his contributions to the growth of the Dangote business empire.

At a time in the 1990s, Aliko Dangote approached the Central Bank of Nigeria with the idea that it would be cheaper for the bank to allow his transport company to manage their fleet of staff buses, a proposal that was also approved. This boosted his progress in the transportation sector.

In 1999, Nigeria got ready for the return of democracy or the fourth republic. Aliko Dangote was one of those that sponsored the political campaign of his friend, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in his aspiration for the post of the president of Nigeria as the flag bearer for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Fortunately, Chief Obasanjo was elected as President and sworn into the office on May 29, 1999.  Aliko Dangote was also a close friend of the then Nigeria’s Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar right from 1988 when Atiku was the Deputy Director of the Nigerian Customs. Being a regular importer, Aliko Dangote had reasons to always see Atiku in his office in those days. Thus, Aliko Dangote began a great partnership and friendship with the federal government under the Obasanjo administration. 

The Obasanjo administration created the Bureau of Public Enterprise. This body was charged with the responsibility of supervising the privatization and commercialization of government companies or public enterprises that were in bad economic shape and which were draining the Nigerian economy for their upkeep and workers’ remunerations. The government made an advert calling on industrialists to buy over these companies. Alhaji Aliko Dangote through the Dangote Group quickly made systematic moves and bought over some of them and turned them around. This period of privatization of government companies was a very favourable wind that exploded the Dangote wealth and business empire from African standards to very noticeable international prominence. This was the real break for Aliko Dangote. 

President Obasanjo also introduced restrictions on imported cement in 2001, among other items in the import prohibition lists. Some of these were items in which Dangote has major interests as a manufacturer. This helped Dangote’s business. Furthermore, cement, sugar and rice received protection from external competition—and the Dangote business had significant interests in both. This unparallel government support boosted the Dangote Group.

As a friend of government, he contributed N50 million Naira to the National Mosque under the aegis of “Friends of Obasanjo and Atiku”. He also contributed N200 million to the Presidential Library. There are countless other donations to friends, corporations and nations. At a time, Dangote was counted among President Obasanjo’s inner circle of business advisors. 

Within ten years from Dangote’s buy-over of government companies, he appeared in FORBES magazine for the first time as the richest black person in the world, with a fortune estimated at 3.3 billion Dollars.   

Aliko Dangote also supported the electoral campaign and eventual emergence of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2007. That same year, Aliko Dangote commissioned his Africa’s largest cement factory worth one-billion dollars in Obajana, Nigeria. This action gradually placed Nigeria as a major world producer of cement, kissing goodbye to the importation of cements. Today, Dangote Cement has 26, 000 workers in Nigeria. It is now valued at 20.5 billion Dollars in market capitalization, rippling enough to account for more than one-quarter of the total market capitalization of the Nigerian Stock Exchange. 

Dangote diversified into telecommunications and has started building 14,000 kilometres 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 became the force behind the scene during the President Goodluck Jonathan administration of Nigeria from 2010 to 2015. 

In July 2012, Dangote approached the Nigerian Ports Authorities to lease an abandoned piece of land at the Apapa Port, which was approved. He later built facilities for his flour company in that piece of land.     

While giving him the 2013 Man of the Year Award, Nigeria’s Daily Independent newspapers noted in January 2013 that Mr Dangote is “one Nigerian who makes his money in Nigeria and also spends it in Nigeria for the benefit of the country’s economy; unlike several other Nigerians who spend their wealth buying houses and other choice properties abroad, or stacking them into foreign banks to the detriment of the growth of their own country’s economy, Dangote is always at home with his business.”

Dangote reportedly added $9.2 billion to his personal wealth in 2013, according to the Bloomberg Index, making him the 30th richest person in the world at the time, in addition to being the richest person in Africa and the richest black person in the world. He surpassed Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi by over $2.6 billion to become the world’s richest person of African descent. That same year, Dangote and six other prominent Nigerians were conferred honorary citizenship of Arkansas State by Governor Mike Beebe who also proclaimed 30 May of every year as Nigeria Day in the US. The other prominent Nigerians are: Chief Ms. Temitope Ajayi, the President and CEO of Nigerian-American Agricultural Empowerment Programme; Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State; Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development; Prof. Tajudeen Gbadamosi, a former lecturer of University of Lagos; Prof. Ade Adefuye, the Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States; Prof. Julius Okojie, the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission. 

In 2014, Dangote was named as the Forbes Africa Person of the Year.  He was ranked by the magazine as the 23rd richest person in the world. That same year, the Nigerian government reported that Dangote had donated 150 million Naira (US$750,000) to halt the spread of ebola. Because of Alhaji Dangote’s success in the cement sector, backward integration has become official government policy, included as a policy of President Goodluck Jonathan’s Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP), which was introduced in February 2014 alongside the National Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP).that year, 2014, the Dangote Group announced that its annual turnover was in excess of $3 billion, or about 30% of the Nigerian stock exchange. This clearly shows that it is comfortably Nigeria’s biggest company.

In May 2015, Dangote expressed interest in purchasing the English football team, Arsenal. That same year, he won the global Clinton award. Forbes estimates his net worth to be $20.8 billion; the wealth of his nearest competitor at the time, South Africa’s Johann Rupert, was valued at 7.9 billion dollars. 

Today, his empire, the Dangote Group, is a multi-trillion naira conglomerate with many of its operations in Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo. The Dangote Group has moved from being a trading company to being the largest industrial group in Nigeria. Dangote has expanded to cover food processing, cement manufacturing (Dangote Cement), and freight. The Dangote Group (through the Dangote Sugar Refinery which is the largest in the world), also dominates the sugar market in Nigeria. It is the largest refinery in Africa and the third largest in the world, producing 800,000 tonnes of sugar annually. Dangote Group is a major supplier, about 70 percent of the market, to the country’s soft drink companies, breweries, and other products such as salt, rice, pasta, flour (Dangote Flour), and fruit juices. It also supplies steel and packaging; it buys and sells property, and holds a 3G telecommunications licence; it manages ports; it operates a 5,000-truck-strong haulage fleet. In fact, the Dangote Group has substantial shares in just about every major sector of the Nigerian economy.  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. Thousands of workers are in the employ of the company, making it the largest industrial conglomerate in West Africa with interests in commodities covering the following African countries: Nigeria, Benin, Ethiopia, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Togo, Tanzania, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Zambia. Dangote Sugar, meanwhile, has started exporting to Liberia, Mauritania and Senegal. Five new cement plants are already processing cement from lime deposits in Gabon, Republic of Congo, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia. In South Africa, the Dangote Group acquired 64% of a local company called Sephaku Cement. This is reported to be the largest single foreign direct investment in South Africa by an African company. More establishment of cement factories are planned in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Dangote Cement is undoubtedly the biggest part of Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s business empire. Beyond Africa, Dangote cement factories are planned for Myanmar, Iraq, Indonesia, Nepal and South America. Today, Dangote Cement (worth over 24.5 billion Dollars capitalization) is the second largest cement company in the world, second only to Holcim. It would have been the first, save that Holcim, based in Switzerland is also into other building materials products. If Alhaji Dangote is able to capture all of Africa’s cement market, Dangote Cement will become one of the world’s biggest companies. The Dangote Cement plans to dredge the Niger River so that cement distribution will be easier and cheaper in eastern, central and northern parts of Nigeria. As of February 2017, The Dangote Group had an estimated net worth of US$12.5 billion. 

Sometime ago, Aliko Dangote looked deeply at Nigeria and its fuel crisis. It dawned on him that it was an anomaly that the country which is a major oil producer does not have enough distributed refined petroleum to turn its fortunes around. He noted that the missing link was inadequate refineries sufficient for the nation. If there was surplus refined oil, demand will fall and price will fall. This will boost the Nigerian economy. He began to build his biggest project, a refinery and petrochemical plant which is the largest in Africa. It is worth $9 billion and it is being built in the Olokola Free Trade Zone, located 45km east of Lagos. The plant will have the potential to satisfy Nigeria’s daily requirement of 445, 000 to 550, 000 barrels of fuel, with spare capacity to export. If this project is successful, Nigeria may become an exporter of gasoline and other petroleum products. Currently, Nigeria has four state-owned refineries operating at 5 percent capacity amidst years of lack of maintenance and wanton misappropriations. It is an uncomfortable truth that Nigeria produces between 2.2 million and 2.5 million barrels of crude per day, yet it is not able to process more than 100, 000 barrels per day! It is unbelievable that Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of oil, but it imports oil! Dangote oil refinery is being built to solve this problem. It is due to come online or begin processing oil by late 2018. Aliko Dangote is also building Africa’s largest fertilizer plant and a polypropylene plant. This will utilize the chemical by-products of the refining procedure. Mr Dangote is also planning to invest in a natural gas power plant to boost the country’s power supply. 

Presidents of nations jostle to sit and talk with Alhaji Aliko Dangote, aware that his ideas affect the fortune of nations. It is hoped that Alhaji Aliko Dangote develops stronger ways of handling his fast advancing companies. Like his forbears, he is a business man who gets involved in his company’s work, not one that sits all day behind the desk. Thus, this makes him want to make input in every problem. This is a major challenge. One man cannot oversea an ocean, especially a once icy one that is thawing into swift moving water!

Alhaji Aliko Dangote believes in investing his money in Nigeria. He once 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.”

Here is a list of Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s companies

The Dangote Group Nigeria includes the following subsidiaries, among others:

1. ALCO International Limited

2. Dangote Nigeria Limited

3. Dangote Transport Limited

4. Dangote Cement Plc. – Listed on Nigeria Stock Exchange and accounts for over 60% of Dangote Group revenue.

5. National Salt Company of Nigeria Plc. – Listed on Nigeria Stock Exchange

6. Dangote Flour Mills Plc. – Listed on Nigeria Stock Exchange

7. Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc. – Listed on Nigeria Stock Exchange

8. Dangote Oil & Gas Industries International

9. Dangote Textiles Limited

10. Dangote Holdings Limited

11. Blue Star Limited

12. Dansa Foods Limited

13. Dansa Food Processing Limited

14. Dancom Technologies

15. GreenView International Company Limited – invested US$28+ million in cement factory in Ghana.

16. Sephaku Cement Limited – Dangote Group has 64% shareholding in this South African cement company.

17. Alheri Engineering Limited

18. Kura Holdings Limited

In Philanthropy and educational improvement, Alhaji Aliko Dangote has done wonderfully well. He is reputed to be one of the greatest philanthropists in Nigeria. He built the Dangote Leadership Academy worth about N1 billion ($6 million), which teaches entrepreneurship to African youths as a way of supplementing their college education. Alhaji Dangote was made the Chancellor of the Kano State University of Science and Technology and through this avenue, he has contributed to education in the University. The school was renamed after his great grandfather, Alhassan Dantata University of Science and Technology, Wudil. Dangote began to build a 400 million Naira student hostel and provided scholarship funds and automatic employment to the best graduating student every academic session. Alhaji Dangote has also helped many authors to publish their books. He has also donated millions to the Nollywood industry, the Nigerian sporting sector, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), hospital patients etc. Within the last two years, Alhaji Aliko Dangote spent N30 billion (185 million Dollars) within the last two years. This is the largest expense on philanthropy either by an African individual or company. The Dangote Group has so far spent One billion Naira for the renovation of some Nigerian universities. Alhaji Dangote donated N2.5 billion to cushion the effect of flooding in Nigeria in 2015. He donated 50 million Naira to alleviate the suffering of flood victims in Jigawa State. He also gave N430 million ($2.8 million) to flood victims, unemployed youths and women in Kogi State. The Dangote Group provided electricity in Benue State, Nigeria, to fifteen villages at the cost of N115 million. It also donated N100million to victims of Lagos flooding, another N100million to those in Sokoto and N60million to victims of flooding in Oyo State, two years ago. The Dangote group also donated N540 million ($3.3 million) to vulnerable women as a result of insurgency in the North East of Nigeria. the group donated 12 trailer-load of relief items worth N40 million ($246,502) to support the government in providing for victims of communal clash. Alhaji Dangote donated two million Dollars for flood victims in Pakistan. He also donated 500,000 Dollars to victims of explosion in the Republic of Congo and 740,500 Dollars to provide food against famine in Niger Republic.

The Dangote Foundation is the private philanthropic foundation of Aliko Dangote, established with a mission to enhance opportunities for social change through strategic investments that improve health and well being, promote quality education, and broaden economic empowerment opportunities. Dangote Foundation was incorporated in 1993 as a charity in Lagos, Nigeria. The Foundation has now become the largest private foundation in sub Saharan Africa, with the largest endowment by a single African donor. The Foundation has contributed over 250 million Dollars in charitable funds to several causes in Nigeria and Africa over the past four years. The activities of the Foundation revolve around the four pillars of health, economic empowerment, education and disaster relief. 

The Dangote Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation partnered to eradicate polio in Nigeria by strengthening primary health care and making provisions for routine immunization across Northern Nigeria. The initial project commenced in Kano and Bauchi states. In January 2016, Sokoto, Yobe, Kaduna and Borno States were added to the partnership.

The Dangote Foundation announced the launch of a community-based nutrition program in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2016. Using proven interventions linked to behavior change, fortification of staple foods with essential micro nutrients, the community management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) as well as local production of ready to use therapeutic foods (RUTF) and nutrition foods.

The Dangote Foundation has constructed 11 Primary Healthcare Centres across 11 Local Government Areas of Kano State. Nigeria. In recognition of the central role the Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital, Kano plays in the delivery of health care services in Kano state and Northern Nigeria, Dangote Foundation is intervening to improve the overall level of care and service delivery at the hospital through a combination of new buildings and renovated facilities and infrastructure. The Murtala Muhammed Specialist Hospital serves over 1.5 million patients a year, many of whom are from the lowest income levels from across not only Northern Nigeria, but also neighboring countries such as Cameroon, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Dangote Foundation’s interventions include, the construction of a new maternity department building, surgical and diagnostic units, accident and emergency centre, and the design and installation of improved water supply, drainage, and electricity systems.

In February 2017, the Dangote Foundation delivered a new blood bank and laboratory as well as completely renovated 6 wards in the maternity department of the Murtala Muhammed Specialist Hospital as part of an emergency intervention to assist maternal and child health services in Nigeria, the largest in the country by patient count.

In Partnership with the National Malaria Elimination Program of the Federal Ministry of Health, Dangote Foundation has developed a strategy on engaging the private sector to eliminate Malaria in Nigeria. Aliko Dangote is leading the private sector component in his capacity as United Nations Malaria Ambassador for Nigeria.

Since 2015, Dangote Foundation has constructed more than 171 boreholes in 171 rural communities in Northern Nigeria in support of its polio work.

The Dangote Foundation has provided Infrastructure improvement to a number of Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria including;

Construction of the Aliko Dangote Business School, Bayero University Kano, Kano state

Construction of Dormitories in Ahmadu Bello University, Kaduna state

Construction of Dormitories in Kano University of Science and Technology, Kano State

Construction of Dormitories in Crescent University, Abeokuta, Ogun State

Alhaji Aliko Dangote is indeed the undisputable greatest philanthropist in Africa. 

His awards include:

Nigeria’s second highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) by President Goodluck Jonathan, in November 2011. 

Nigerian Centenary Award, 2010

Zik’s Prize for Leadership in Business Management (1998)

Sir Ahmadu Bello International Award by Arewa Research and Publication, Kano, for outstanding contributions to economic development.

Best Entrepreneur and Philanthropist of the Year, 2002 (by Governor Donald Duke of Cross River State)

Fellowship Award by Lagos State Polytechnic, 2002 (for his role in the economic development of Lagos State).

Doctor of Science in Business Management, UniCal

This Day Newspaper ofNigeria Business Man of the Year Award

The Sun newspapers of Nigeria Business Man of the Year Award

 African Business Man of the Year Award by African Business Magazine, London, summer 2011.

Award for Corporate Governance in African Business

Investor of the Year Award (by NIPC and CBC, Abuja), fall, 2010.

Green Award of the Year

Amongst tens of other awards.

In private life, Alhaji Dangote is a gentle workaholic. Some of his half-brothers and sisters also work for the Dangote Group today. Of course, he has a luxury yacht and a private plane. He dresses in business suits or kaftan and spends his time between Lagos, Nigeria and London, with voyages to other countries from time to time. Dangote has about fifteen children from his marriages. He lives in a mansion in Lagos’s Victoria Island, which he shares with the younger of his 15 children from his four different marriages. His children include Zainab Aliko Dangote; Halima Aliko Dangote; and Salma Aliko Dangote. They are all females.

Aliko Dangote is a giant puller of money into the African continent. The greater money he pulls into it, the greater fulcrum for role modeling and motivations is spread into the excited minds of once-disillusioned African investors. Aliko Dangote believes that Africa shall be great, and that the Dangote Group shall be a part of that story. Do you believe?

© Jeff Unaegbu, Excerpts from an upcoming biography, “DANGOTE: The Story of The Richest Black Man in The World”.

Agajahub publishers

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