If the word Influence was human and Nigerian, it would be Aliko Dangote. The word is derived from an ancient astrological term describing the power of the stars to affect the destiny of human beings.
The definition has changed over many decades, but the word remains a mystical force and difficult to measure. But it’s quite easy to estimate when we think of Aliko Dangote and Nigeria. The business mogul has a knack for building close and beneficial relationships with governments yet staying away from frontline politics.
The uncanniness of these stirs heated debate in the country. Some see him as a ruthless monopolist and cold-blooded capitalist. Others see him as the best thing ever to happen to Nigeria’s economy. And it’s because of the latter, Aliko Dangote’s name came up in a statement President Goodluck Jonathan made in 2011.
“Aliko Dangote told me that by December 2012, we would export cement here. I am quoting him,” Jonathan said on national television.
“Aliko Dangote told me…” soon became a catchphrase among Nigerians on social networking sites.
And Aliko Dangote told me to do justice to his biography!
Who is Dangote?
Aliko Dangote was among the 194 babies crying worldwide the minute he was born in Kano State on April 10th, 1957. He was born into a wealthy Hausa Muslim family.
Dangote’s mother, Mariya Sanusi Dantata, was the daughter of entrepreneur Sanusi Dantata. Aliko Dangote’s father, Mohammed Dangote, was a business associate of Aliko’s mother’s father, Sanusi Dantata. Confusing? Well, let’s keep it simple: Dangote’s father married his friend’s daughter!
Through his mother, Aliko Dangote is the great-grandson of Alhassan Dantata, the richest man in West Africa until his death in 1955. He was the largest exporter of kola nut in the sub-region in 1913 and beyond.
The railway lines constructed by colonial masters that connected northern Nigeria to the south, specifically from Kano to Lagos, were a major boost to his business.
Aliko Dangote came from a certain amount of wealth. His father was a business owner and politician. He was a member of the Northern House of Assembly on the platform of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) of the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello. Mohammed Dangote died when his son was eight.
Sanusi Dantata, the maternal grandfather of Aliko Dangote, raised him. It was the tradition in their culture for grandparents to take the first grandchild and raise him or her. Aliko Dangote was, however, the first by circumstance: his older sister had died as a baby in a car accident.
Sanusi Dantata was a shrewd businessperson, and he transformed the family’s business, which his late father would have been proud of. When Sanusi Dantata died in 1997, he left Mariya, his eldest daughter and Aliko Dangote’s mother, and the other children had enough wealth to see them not work for the rest of their lives.
The love and care and informal education Aliko Dangote experienced while growing up gave him a lot of confidence which shaped his life. And it was all down to Sanusi Dantata.
“All my business acumen and instincts I inherited from my maternal grandfather,” he said.
“As his first grandson, he poured his business wizardry into me. I would not have been where I am today without him; a very great man, loving and caring.”
How old is Dangote?
Aliko Dangote is 65 years, nine months, three weeks, and five days old. Let’s keep out the hours, minutes, and seconds!
Aliko Dangote’s Siblings
Aliko Dangote has a brother with the same parents. Until his death, from colon cancer in 2021, Sani Dangote was the vice president of the Dangote Group. His mother became a widow in 1965 and is still alive and kicking.
She has an honorary degree from Bayero University, Kano (BUK). When his son bought a recreational boat, he named it Mariya after her.
Aliko Dangote: Education
He attended Kano Capital Elementary Primary School and whenever he returned from school, he goes to Sheikh Ali Kumasi Madrasa, an Arabic school to learn the Quran. It was a practice common with many Nigerian Muslims.
He went to Capital High School, Kano, for his secondary school education. However, he graduated from the Government College, Birnin Kudu, in 1978.
He later went to the School of Economics & Business, Al Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt. There, he bagged a degree in business studies and administration.
How did Dangote get rich?
Aliko Dangote returned to Nigeria after completing his studies in Egypt. And in 1977, started his own trading business funded by a $3,300 loan from his uncle. The tenor of the loan was three years, but he paid it off in six months.
Later that year, he moved from Kano to Lagos and expanded into manufacturing the goods he traded in. When he left for Lagos as a 20-year-old, Nigeria enjoyed the oil boom.
There were vast construction projects from Yakubu Gowon’s regime down to Murtala Mohammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, Shehu Shagari, Muhammadu Buhari, and Ibrahim Babangida going on. Estates, federal universities, bridges and dams, and the like required cement.
It’s a no-brainer that Aliko Dangote would decide to venture into the cement business. He now owns three major cement factories in Nigeria, including the largest in Nigeria – the Obajana cement factory in Kogi State.
“I started with the business of cement, which was giving us a lot of money because Nigeria was making so much money and we were doing a lot of constructions,” he said.
“On a vehicle which I normally get from my uncle, I was making about N1,350 to N1,400 per day, and I had an allocation of about 3-4 trucks, including Saturdays and Sundays. Later, I realized I was making a lot of money, though then I had little idea about what to do.
“It was only cement business that I knew and I was stuck to it up till 1980, when I started knowing Lagos, becoming a Lagosian, understanding where to go and finding people to buy import licenses from. Within three months, I paid my grandfather back because I had no further need of his money.”
In 1981, the foundation of Aliko Dangote’s conglomerate was established with the incorporation of two businesses that later became the Dangote Group.
In the 1980s and 1990s, he diversified his operation to include trading sugar, flour, fish, rice, milk, and iron.
After a business trip to Brazil in 1996, Aliko Dangote shifted the company’s focus from trading to manufacturing. He saw it as an opportunity to create a local operation that would bridge the gap between demand and supply, considering Nigeria’s growing population.
In 1999, he started building salt and sugar refineries, flour mills, and a pasta factory. A year later, he bought the Benue Cement Company from the Nigerian government. The Obajana Cement Plant was soon commissioned.
Today, Aliko Dangote is the Founder, President, and Chief Executive of the Dangote Group, the largest conglomerate in West Africa. The group has subsidiaries that cut across cement production, sugar refining, and flour milling. It has a presence in 17 other countries in Africa.
He has delved into other sectors, including agriculture and energy. At present, he’s building the largest refinery, petrochemical and fertiliser complexes in Africa.
Dangote Cement, one of the group’s subsidiaries, is the largest listed company in West Africa. It was the first Nigerian company to join the Forbes Global 2000 Companies list. Dangote Group is the second largest employer of labour in Nigeria outside the federal government.
From someone who started off with a loan to building the most successful locally-owned business conglomerate in Africa, the turning point was when he moved up the food chain.
“I started with cement, and then moved into textiles, and banking,” he said.
“When I was trading sugar, I added salt and flour so that then we could do pasta. And then I thought, why not make the bag for it too? So, we started making packaging.”
Many people have imbibed the same entrepreneurial culture but not his kind of success. Doing things differently distanced him from the pack.
“We had a lot of capital, and we could build our own power grid,” he said.
“The number one thing that kills businesses in Africa is power or the lack of power. We wanted to have our businesses completely independent, with our own grid. So, we built it. It took $1.2 billion.
“That’s a lesson I took from the financial crisis. It’s so important to have capital. At that point, we had about $2 billion in debt from expanding so quickly, so we had to scale back.
“It’s all about integrating what we have. From the sugarcane we use, we can make ethanol. People say, ‘why get into agriculture?’ but there is huge vertical integration between food and fuel, and Africa has both.”
Aliko Dangote’s Net worth
He became Nigeria’s first billionaire in 2007. Six years later, he reportedly added $9.2 billion to his personal wealth, making him the 13th richest person in the world. As of June 2022, Aliko Dangote is the wealthiest person in Africa, with an estimated net worth of US$20 billion.
RELATED READ: Top Ten Richest Men in Nigeria
Aliko Dangote’s Houses and Cars
He owns six residential and commercial properties in Lagos. The properties are valued using the capitalization method, the rental income, and capitalization rates from the reputable firm, CBRE Broll Nigeria.
Whenever he is in Abuja, he stays in the house of friends like Senator Gbenga Ogunniya, in Apo legislators’ quarters, or Femi Otedola’s house on Aso Drive. In other cities, Aliko Dangote stays in hotels. According to him, it helps avoid the need for personal security, domestic staff, and maintenance.
In 1978, he bought his first car – a Mercedes 200 – for N5,100. He hasn’t started making money then, so it’s no surprise that the car had no power steering! Now, Aliko Dangote can afford any car of his choice. Yet, he has no fancy car. Just a reliable Toyota Land cruiser.
Aliko Dangote’s Lifestyle
Aliko Dangote is known for his simple and austere lifestyle. His unassuming personality is not Nigerian for a man with such humongous wealth. A Nigerian billionaire with a shy smile, trimmed beard, dressed in a suit and in a national dress? No fancy designer shoes or diamond wristwatches are a rarity.
With modest luxury and almost no ostentation, Aliko Dangote cuts the image of one who is immune to the lure of worldly possessions. He has no sprawling mansion in New York, London, or Johannesburg. Not even in his city, Kano, or Abuja, the federal capital territory.
He is said to have one cell phone and has maintained one phone number since the birth of GSM technology in Nigeria.
Even Boy Alinco is more glamorous than the man Aliko!
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It’s a closely held conglomerate controlled by Aliko Dangote. The Lagos-based company owns sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest cement producer, Dangote Cement. In 2021, the company had a revenue of $3.4 billion.
The group has interests in sugar, salt, oil, fertilizer, and packaged food. But most of Aliko Dangote’s fortune is from his 86 percent stake in publicly traded Dangote Cement. He holds shares in the company through his conglomerate, Dangote Industries.
He also has stakes in the publicly traded assets of Dangote Sugar, United Bank for Africa, and Nascon Allied Industries. A over $29 billion oil refinery that is being built in Lagos does not form part of his valuation, as it’s not yet operational.
Aliko Dangote’s cash holdings are based on an analysis of dividends, insider transactions, taxes, and other expenditures.
Top 10 Richest Men in Africa
Aliko Dangote topped the 2022 list of Africa’s richest persons for the 11th consecutive year, according to Forbes magazine. His wealth jumped from $12.1 billion the previous year to an estimated figure between $13.9 and $20 billion. The growth is attributed to a 30 percent rise in the stock price of Dangote Cement, his most valuable asset.
Abdulsamad Rabiu and Mike Adenuga – ranked 6th and 7th – with estimated values of $7 billion and $6.7 billion, respectively, were the other Nigerians on the list.
Luxury goods magnate, Johann Rupert of South Africa, jumped to number two from number four in 2021. Fellow countryman, Nicky Oppenheimer, who formerly ran a diamond mining firm, ranked number three.
Others on the list are Nassef Sawiris of Egypt, Issad Rebrab of Algeria, Naguib Sawiris of Egypt, Patrice Motsepe of South Africa, and Koos Bekker, also of South Africa.
Richest Black Men in the World
Black billionaires are individuals who are primarily of African descent, with a net worth of at least US$1 billion. According to Forbes’ ranking, Aliko Dangote is the world’s richest black man.
Other billionaires of African ancestry on the list are Mike Adenuga, American investor Robert Smith, American business owner David Steward, American media mogul Oprah Winfrey, South African gold magnate Patrice Motsepe, Byaruhanga Kimberly Junior Southern African mining magnate, golfer Tiger Woods, Barbadian musician Rihanna, American sports executive Michael Jordan, Jamaican-Canadian investor Michael Lee-Chin, Abdulsamad Rabiu of Nigeria, American rapper Jay-Z, Nigerian businesswoman Folorunsho Alakija, Mo Ibrahim of the United Kingdom, and American media mogul Tyler Perry.
In July 2009, the Dangote Group unveiled a new logo that gave its entire business a refreshing look. The logo, however, does not deviate from the original symbol of an Eagle mounting a red blaze which represents the strength, focus, elegance, clear vision, and dynamism of the brand.
The logo kept the red blaze and a half-moon-like horizon, which adds brightness to the blue eagle and the name Dangote. The major difference is that the Dangote inscribed in blue, coming under the red blaze, is bolder. This symbolises credibility, humanism, and care and represents loyalty.
“We are proud to launch a new logo, which is aimed at giving us a new and refreshing outlook,” Aliko Dangote said.
“We are proud of our achievements over the past 30 years, and we are set for greater challenges in the years to come. The group is determined to be a leading employer of labour not only in Nigeria but in sub–Saharan Africa.”
Aliko Dangote’s Personal life
Aliko Dangote is a serial monogamist, like Doyin Okupe. But unlike the former campaign manager of Peter Obi’s Labour Party, Aliko Dangote was never engaged in polygamy at any point. He took one wife at a time.
He has 15 children, though three (Halima, Fatima, and Sadia) are officially listed. Some others are Zaynab, Salma, and Aisha.
The business mogul lives in Lagos, Nigeria.
Aliko Dangote and Politics
He has largely stayed above the melee and distractions of partisan politics. Some of his close friends who unsuccessfully tried to lure him into running for the biggest office in Nigeria call him Mr President. He’s quick to reply with: “of Dangote Group.”
But for someone with his clout, a total detachment from politics is difficult.
In 2003, he gave over US$2 million to President Olusegun Obasanjo’s re-election campaign coffers. While also contributing US$500,000 to the National Mosque under the umbrella of “Friends of Obasanjo and Atiku.” Not forgetting the N200 million he contributed to the Presidential Library.
In 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Aliko Dangote to serve as a member of his economic management team. And he later served on a special advisory committee for Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election campaign.
You wouldn’t be far from the truth if you call Aliko Dangote AGIP – All Government In Power!
Let’s use a tribute on Aliko Dangote by Abdulsamad Rabiu, chairperson and founder of BUA Group, to wrap up.
“Aliko is one of the best friends you can ever have – simple, humble, polite, down-to-earth and fun to be with – provided you don’t venture into his kind of business.”
And that’s when you’ll know how influential he is.