An African Giant That Sets the Pace

Meet a #Nigerian billionaire, Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa who is building capacity in the business world. Opening a vehicle assembly plant in Kano and Kaduna with the capacity to turn out about 120 vehicles per day while inaugurating a refinery today in Lekki, Nigeria to begin full operation.


Aliko Dangote, GCON is a Nigerian businessman and industrialist. He is best known as the founder, chairman, and CEO of the Dangote Group, the largest industrial conglomerate in West Africa. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimated his net worth at $20.5 billion in April 2023, making him the richest person in Africa, the world’s richest black person, and the world’s 83rd richest person overall.

Dangote was born into a wealthy Hausa Muslim family on April 10, 1957, in Kano, which was then part of British Nigeria. His mother, Mariya Sanusi Dantata, was the daughter of businessman Sanusi Dantata. His father, Mohammed Dangote, was a business associate of Dantata. Through his mother, he is the great-grandson of Alhassan Dantata, the richest person in West Africa at the time of his death in 1955. Dangote’s brother, Sani (died 2021), was also a businessman. Dangote was educated at the Sheikh Ali Kumasi Madrasa, followed by Capital High School in Kano. In 1978, he graduated from the Government College, Birnin Kudu. He received a bachelor’s degree in business studies and administration from Al-Azhar University in Cairo.

The Dangote Group was established as a small trading firm in 1977, the same year Dangote relocated to Lagos to expand the company. Dangote received a ₦500,000 loan from his uncle to begin trading in commodities, including bagged cement as well as agricultural goods like rice and sugar. In the 1990s, he approached the Central Bank of Nigeria with the idea that it would be less expensive for the bank to allow his transport company to manage their fleet of staff buses, a proposal that was also approved.

Today, the Dangote Group is one of the largest conglomerates in Africa, with international operations in Benin, Ghana, Zambia, and Togo. The Dangote Group has moved from being a trading company to being the largest industrial group in Nigeria, encompassing divisions like Dangote Sugar Refinery, Dangote Cement, and Dangote Flour. Dangote Group dominates the sugar market in Nigeria, and its refinery business is the main supplier (70 per cent of the market) to the country’s soft drink companies, breweries, and confectioners. The company employs more than 11,000 people in West Africa.

In July 2012, Dangote approached the Nigerian Ports Authority to lease an abandoned piece of land at the Apapa Port, which was approved. He later built facilities for his sugar company there. It is the largest refinery in Africa and the third largest in the world, producing 800,000 metric tons of sugar annually. The Dangote Group owns salt factories and flour mills and is a major importer of rice, fish, pasta, cement, and fertilizer. The company exports cotton, cashew nuts, cocoa, sesame seeds, and ginger to several countries. Additionally, it has major investments in real estate, banking, transport, textiles, oil, and gas.

In February 2022, Dangote announced the completion of the Peugeot assembling facility in Nigeria following his partnership with Stellantis Group, the parent company of Peugeot, and the Kano and Kaduna state governments. The new automobile company, Dangote Peugeot Automobiles Nigeria Limited (DPAN) factory, which is based in Kaduna, commenced operations with the roll-out of the Peugeot 301, Peugeot 5008, 3008, 508, and Land Trek.

Dangote became Nigeria’s first billionaire in 2007. Dangote reportedly added $9.2 billion to his personal wealth in 2013, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making him the thirtieth-richest person in the world at the time, and the richest person in Africa. In 2015, the HSBC leaks revealed that Dangote was an HSBC client and that he had assets in a tax haven in the British Virgin Islands.

As of June 2022, Dangote is the wealthiest person in Africa, with an estimated net worth of US$20 billion.

Dangote had a prominent role in the financing of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s re-election bid in 2003, to which he gave over N200 million (US$2 million). He contributed N50 million (US$500 thousand) to the National Mosque under the aegis of “Friends of Obasanjo and Atiku”. Dangote also contributed N200 million to the Presidential Library. These highly controversial gifts to members of the ruling PDP party have generated significant concerns despite highly publicized anti-corruption drives during Obasanjo’s second term.

In 2011, Dangote was appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan to serve as a member of his economic management team. In 2017, rumors circulated that Dangote was considering a run for President of Nigeria in the 2019 election. Dangote declined to run and asserted that he does not intend to run for elected office. Instead, Dangote went on to serve on a special advisory committee for Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection campaign.

Dangote has worked alongside the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on public health issues. In August 2014, he donated ₦150 million ($750,000) to assist the Nigerian government’s efforts to stop the spread of Ebola. In May 2016, he pledged $10 million to support Nigerians affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. In March 2020, he donated ₦200 million ($500,000) towards the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.

In 2019, Dangote and Femi Otedola promised to give the Nigerian national football team $75,000 for every goal scored in the Africans Cup of Nations (AFCON). He is also an avid fan of the English football team Arsenal FC and has shown interest in buying the club. In 2020, he donated money to Nigeria’s sports ministry to renovate Abuja, the country’s national sports stadium.

Dangote lives in Lagos. Although he owns two private jets, he is otherwise known for living a relatively simple lifestyle for a billionaire, during which he reportedly works 12 hours every day from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. and runs 10 miles on a treadmill almost every day.

Dangote married Zainab Dangote in 1977, but they divorced at an unknown date. He was later married to Mariya Muhammad Rufai until their divorce, though the dates of the wedding and divorce are unknown. He has three daughters named Halima, Mariya, and Fatimah, and an adopted son named Abdulrahman.  Halima followed him into the business world and is currently his company’s executive director of commercial operations.

Dangote was awarded Nigeria’s second-highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) by the former president, Goodluck Jonathan.

Dangote was named the Forbes Africa Person of the Year in 2014.

For six consecutive years, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Forbes listed him as the “Most Powerful Man in Africa”.

In 2014, he was listed CNBC’s “Top 25 Businessmen in the World” who changed and shaped the century.

In April 2014, Time magazine listed him among its 100 most influential people in the world.

In October 2015, Dangote was listed among the “50 Most Influential Individuals in the World” by Bloomberg Markets. The same year, he was listed on the Nigerian Books of Record circle of eminence along with President Buhari and his Vice Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

He won “The Guardian Man of the Year 2015”. He won the “2016 African Business Leader Award”, organized by the Africa-America Institute (AAI). Dangote was cited as one of the top 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Dangote sits on the board of the Corporate Council on Africa and is a member of the steering committee of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, the Clinton Global Initiative and the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum. He was named co-chair of the US-Africa Business Center, in September 2016, by the US Chamber of Commerce. In April 2017, he joined the board of directors of the Clinton Health Access Initiative. He is also on the board of One Campaign.

Dangote was appointed the founding Chairman of the Nigeria End Malaria Council by President Buhari in August 2022. He is also a member of the Global End Malaria Council, a long with other leaders including Bill Gates, Ray Chambers, and former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

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