Aliko Dangote is an Africapitalist who has been nominated for FORBES AFRICA’s Person of the Year every year since 2011 and now he has won. The $21.6-billion entrepreneur believes in Africa forging its own future in business and is leading the way.
Heralded by some as the face of the new Nigeria, Africa’s richest man is looking beyond cement, sugar and flour – the three commodities that built his fortune – to the oil business. In April, he announced $9 billion in financing from a consortium of local and international lenders to construct a private oil refinery and fertilizer and petrochemical complex in the country. In August, he announced plans to invest $1 billion in commercial rice farming and modern rice mills. His publicly traded Dangote Cement is also grabbing new markets in Africa, with $750 million in new plants planned for Kenya and Niger.
Dangote is also cementing his position as the continent’s most generous individual after donating $1.2 billion of his personal fortune to the Dangote Foundation.
In 2014, shares from his listed companies were transferred into the foundation, which he founded in 1994 to support initiatives in education, health and youth empowerment.
The Dangote Foundation runs a cash transfer program which complements the Nigerian government’s poverty alleviation programs. It disburses small grants to poor rural women and youths who want to start small businesses. The foundation also funds the construction of university libraries and hospitals across Nigeria.
This year, Dangote also led the way in funding the fight against Ebola in West Africa. He first gave $5 million to the Nigerian government’s containment efforts and then added a further $3 million to the African Union fund to help Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Dangote made his first fortune more than three decades ago when he started trading commodities with a loan from his powerful uncle. An aggressive industrialist, his company is one of the largest employers in Nigeria and has four of its 13 subsidiaries listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).
The flagship of the group, Dangote Cement, is the largest listed company in West Africa, accounting for around 30% of the NSE in terms of market capitalization. It is also the first Nigerian company to be on the Forbes Global 2000 companies list.
In 2012, Dangote Cement opened its newest cement plant, with an injection of $1 billion to boost Nigeria’s capacity by 10 million metric tons per annum (MMTPA). Strategically positioned at Nigeria’s largest economic hub in Ibese, near Lagos, the plant was expected to generate 7,000 jobs and transform the import-reliant sector into an export and revenue-generating industry.
As infrastructure has always been Nigeria’s weakness, Dangote announced in April that he was planning a $7-billion investment program for the next four years. It will focus on Nigeria’s power, petrochemical and mining sectors – a move set to position the company as an independent power producer that will supply 2GW of power to the national grid.
In 2013, the Dangote Group signed a $3.3-billion loan agreement with a consortium of banks. This was in line with plans to construct the continent’s biggest petroleum oil refinery and a petrochemical plant in Nigeria. With the refining capacity expected to reach 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day and producing a variety of fuel products from local crude resources, Nigeria would cut its volumes of imported fuel products by an astounding 50%.
In the same year, the Dangote Group launched the integrated mega sugar plantation and sugar refinery projects in seven Nigerian states.
“Our mission is to, through industrialization, reverse the historical trend of the export of foreign exchange and jobs and replace it with foreign exchange conservation and job creation,” said Dangote at the loan signing ceremony in Abuja.
FORBES AFRICA applauds his relentless drive, aggressive ambition and contribution to the continent’s economic trajectory.