His Name Is Aliko Dangote
A decade ago most people outside Nigeria would have said, “Aliko who?”
Not anymore. In 2008 he became the first Nigerian to make it onto Forbes‘ rich list. In 2011 the magazine disclosed: “The Nigerian businessman’s fortune surged 557 percent in the past year, making him the world’s biggest gainer in percentage terms and Africa’s richest individual for the first time.” (According to Forbes, as of March 2012 he was the second richest black man in the world, having recently been displaced by Saudi/Ethiopian Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi)
Now everyone else is paying attention.
Let’s start with the fascinating detail in this new biography (it is unclear how many others exist out there) by Chicago-based Nigerian journalist Moshood Fayemiwo and his American partner Margie Neal — the “stuff I bet you didn’t know about Aliko” bit.
Islam permits him to be polygamous, but he is a serial monogamist — by choice. He has been married to four women, and has sired fifteen children. His first wife, to whom he got married on May 27, 1977 — he was 20 years old — was “specially chosen for him by a consensus of his mother and other uncles.”
Around that same time he left Kano, where he was born, and where his maternal family is one of the richest and most prominent, for Lagos, then Nigeria’s Federal Capital, and seat of government.
He has been heartbroken. His attempt to marry a daughter of former President Yar’Adua failed — she turned him down, and then went on to marry a state Governor. Since 1983 he has experienced three “near-fatal” plane accidents. A younger brother died in the plane crash that killed the son of Nigeria’s Head of State, Sani Abacha, in 1996.
He is perhaps the only super-rich Nigerian alive today to come from a super-rich family — his maternal great-grandfather was the richest man in West Africa in the 1900s (the book quotes an editor of West Africa magazine as referring to Alhassan Dantata, in 1955, as “possibly the richest man of any race in the whole of West Africa, and was in himself, a living rebuttal of the allegation that Africans, as a race, have no commercial aptitude, an example to his fellow — countrymen of what a man can rise to even without education and a wealthy background”).
A decade later maternal grandfather Sanusi Dantata was listed, by Time magazine, amongst Nigeria’s richest persons. In a country where even the most lavish wealth typically will not outlast the creator-generation, the Dantata clan has proved remarkably odds-defying.
Yet from this biography it is clear that Aliko’s story is not really about patrimony. While there is no doubt that he started out from a significantly privileged position (a substantial start-up loan from grandfather Sanusi, which he says he paid back within months), it is also clear that success — his cement company alone accounts for a third of the value of the Nigerian stock market — is more about innate genius than familial privilege.
Because it is not an authorised biography, there is much that is missing. “We were in Nigeria and Africa for fourteen months working on the Aliko biography,” the authors write. “We reached out to some of his aides to get Aliko to sit down for an interview for this book but were unsuccessful.”
All the quotes used in the book come from “his interviews with local and world media.” A reader expecting to encounter compelling anecdotes — the sort of storytelling that illuminates the lives of characters like Aliko — will therefore come away disappointed. The authors do not seem interested in cultivating any direct sources, and so we get virtually no opinions about Dangote from schoolmates, childhood friends, ex-lovers or business partners.
There are also the puzzling bits that the authors fail to pursue. There’s no effort to account for or explain what the reader would perceive as Aliko’s precociousness — by 1977, according to the book, the 20-year-old Dangote had been to University in Egypt, earned his first degree, and completed his national service.
The strength of Dangote lies in its exploration of the forces, attitudes and circumstances that shaped and still shape Dangote’s life and business — everything from the influence of his maternal grandfather to his city of birth (Kano, commercial capital of Northern Nigeria) to his absolute devotion to Islam. These and more explain his remarkable business acumen, his much-criticised closeness to Nigeria’s successive governments, his unwavering belief in the economic potentials of Nigeria, and his philanthropic spirit.
From Dangote we see that Aliko’s life is a careful balancing game, in a country where ‘politics’ — by every definition of it — is more than everything. On the one hand is the family philosophy, established by forebear Sanusi Dantata. Aliko is quoted as saying, of his grandfather: “He always advises us that: no matter what you do, you must always respect the authority of the day. Do not fight government. You must be an obedient person. And that’s something I learnt and took seriously.”
This “obedience” exists in tension with an obsession with the quality of political leadership in the country — driven, no doubt, by an instinct for self-preservation: “… if bad and inexperienced politicians control power in Nigeria, my wealth may turn into poverty and I am not ready to become a poor man.”
Dangote is as much a biography of Aliko’s forebears as it is of Aliko himself. Readers unfamiliar with Nigeria will also learn a lot about the country’s turbulent political and economic history — clearly the story of the billionaire and his country are inextricably intertwined.
The authors make copious attempts — sometimes overdoing it — to draw parallels between Aliko and other wealthy and influential persons from around the world, especially America, as though to convince the fact that Nigeria finally has a mogul who can be written about alongside the best-known on the planet.
Chapter 14 — ‘What is next… ‘ — reminds us that it is morning still in the Dangote Universe, and that the billionaire’s mission is simple: to conquer Africa and the world with the Dangote brand.
Dangote is a commendable start. In a land lacking a culture of independent biography, this is a starting point, and Dangote — part unauthorised biography, part history book, and part success-manual — is a promising introduction to the fascinating and still largely unmapped universe of one of the world’s richest men.
Article Published at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tolu-ogunlesi/aliko-dangote_b_1642164.html
Aliko Dangote opens Nigeria’s biggest cement plan
The biggest cement factory in sub-Saharan Africa has been opened in Nigeria by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote.
The Obajana plant in the central Kogi State is expected to produce about 10 million tonnes of cement a year.
It is one of the country’s biggest investments outside the oil sector in recent years.
BBC Nigeria correspondent Will Ross says there is reason to be optimistic about Africa’s economic prospects.
Nigeria’s economy is expected to grow by about 6% this year.
However, analysts warn that the growth is not reaching all sectors of society and the gap between the rich and poor is growing ever wider.
Our correspondent says the ceremony was a glitzy affair, with plenty of personal wealth on display as Nigeria’s elite came together to celebrate industrial success.
He adds that Chinese workers in bright orange overalls were among the guests – a Chinese firm installed the latest line at the plant.
President Goodluck Jonathan called the plant a “quantum leap” for Nigeria’s cement sector.
The Dangote group has invested some $6.5bn (£4.2bn) in the sector in recent years.
There are also plans to expand the Obajana plant to make it the world’s biggest.
Article Published at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-18400028 on 11-Jun-2012
Forbes African rich list topped by Nigerian mogul
A Nigerian construction mogul has topped a list of Africa’s richest people.
Aliko Dangote, with a stake in Dangote Cement and interests in flour milling and sugar refining, has a fortune of $10.1bn (£6.4bn).
Forbes magazine’s inaugural list of the 40 richest people in Africa put South Africa’s Nicky Oppenheimer at number two with $6.5bn.
The total wealth of the list is $64.9bn.
By comparison, the wealthiest 40 people in Taiwan are worth $92.7bn.
The average age of those on the African list – which contains no women – is 61.
Mr Dangote and Mr Oppenheimer, of diamond miners De Beers, are two of 16 billionaires on the list.
De Beers recently agreed a $5.1bn deal to sell the Oppenheimer family’s 40% stake to Anglo American.
Egypt has the most billionaires, with seven coming from two families, the Sawiris and Mansours, according to Forbes.
Forbes said it had reached the values using stock prices for publicly-traded companies and estimates of revenues or profits for the many privately-held businesses.
The magazine ignored dispersed family fortunes, such as the Chandaria family of Kenya
Article Published at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15771364 on 17-Nov-2011
Nigerian Billionaire Leaves his Imprint in Cement
Aliko Dangote made his fortune by betting on African growth. Some call him ruthless, but many Nigerians feel he’s brought respect to a nation known more for email scams than manufacturing
LAGOS, Nigeria —The chaotic color of the megalopolis cascades past the window of his silver Mercedes SUV. A police escort with a flashing blue light clears the road ahead.
Restless and irritated, the billionaire is in his bubble. With a slim, elegant finger, he prods his cellphone screen to redial after the call drops.
“The day before yesterday you gave me a different excuse. Let’s see what excuse you will give me today.” His voice is calm, his brow furrowed ever so slightly.
“Go and get your act together, please,” he says. “This matter is a disaster.”
Aliko Dangote is the richest man in Africa. He dwarfs diamond kings, telecom giants and oil magnates, and his estimated $11.2-billion net worth is four times that of Oprah Winfrey’s. His only rival on Forbes’ global list of black billionaires is a Saudi of Yemeni-Ethiopian parentage who recently nudged Dangote from the top spot, thanks to a decline in Nigeria’s stock exchange.
Dangote’s fortune doesn’t come from diamonds or oil, but from the cement that is helping to fuel Africa’s astonishing growth.
With Europe in crisis and America’s recovery sluggish, Africa is an economic bright spot. Nigeria’s economy has grown about 7% a year in recent years, just behind Ethiopia, Angola and Ghana. Although many countries on the continent still struggle, a March 2011 World Bank report says that sub-Saharan Africa “could be on the brink of an economic takeoff, much like China was 30 years ago and India 20 years ago.”
A lot of the growth is driven by China’s need for commodities, oil and gas. But there’s another side to it: the cellphone.
Half a billion Africans own them now, enabling a host of day-to-day dealings between businesspeople small and large that a decade earlier would have been difficult or impossible — money transfers, for instance, or instant access to market prices for produce.
Dangote clicks off his phone. But not for long.
A two-mile line of trucks snakes along a red jungle road in western Nigeria’s Ogun state. At its end, Dangote’s newest cement plant looms above the shabby village of Ibese. The trucks wait for their loads as patiently as cattle.
Dangote, 55, built his fortune on Africa’s prodigious hunger for infrastructure — and cement — expanding rapidly since 2000 despite his country’s chronic bad governance. When the government drags its feet in laying a gas pipeline to service a factory, he builds it. When he needs a road, he does it. Faced with hopelessly unreliable state electricity, he constructs his own power plants for his factories.
He clambered to the top not by looting the country’s wealth, like many of Nigeria’s elected officials have, but by snapping up privatized state enterprises, then expanding and building his own cement factories and other plants, whose output includes such products as instant noodles and prayer mats.
In that sense, Dangote resemblesRussia’sbillionaire oligarch class, which got rich when the state sold off assets after the collapse of communist rule. His close links with Nigeria’s political elite gave him an inside line when state assets were privatized — a process that, like Russia’s, has been criticized as opaque and corrupt.
Unlike Nigerian businessmen who stripped state companies of their assets and let them collapse, Dangote turned them profitable, politician Junaid Mohammed said. “The question is whether he was entitled to the businesses at the price he got them and on the terms,” he said.
“Let us not be naive: A lot of everything that happens in life depends on connections. Your fortunes depend on who will be able to open the door for you.”
Dangote strides into his living room in the Lagos suburb of Ikeja at 7 a.m. on his way to a business conference in the city, after a meeting that kept him up to midnight.
He had traveled to the Republic of Congo the previous day, met the president, and donated half a million dollars in the aftermath of a munitions depot explosion that killed more than 200 people and flattened an entire neighborhood. (Dangote plans to build a cement plant in the country.)
He’s irritated that he has to attend the conference, where politicians will talk, talk, talk and egos will be on display and probably nothing will get done.
“There are too many conferences in Nigeria. There are just too many,” says Dangote. “If I allowed it, conferences would take up at least half of my time.”
Barreling along the A5 expressway, phone propped in the crook of his neck, he rifles through a 4-inch-thick file. “You can’t even concentrate on your work,” he complains.
Weekends, it’s the same problem: so many weddings and birthdays and other speech-filled celebrations, all demanding time, the one thing he doesn’t have enough of.
Article Published at http://articles.latimes.com/2012/apr/25/world/la-fg-nigeria-billionaire-20120426 on 25-Apr-2012
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