Aliko Dangote made his fortune by gambling on Africa's future, repeatedly. For the Nigerian entrepreneur, that gamble has paid off spectacularly. He's now Africa's richest man, and the money just keeps rolling in. What's he doing right?
At age 57, Aliko Dangote is Africa's richest man, and by quite some margin. Forbes estimates his net worth to be $20.8 billion; the wealth of his nearest competitor, South Africa's Johann Rupert, is valued at $7.9 billion. Dangote is known as a softly spoken workaholic, with all the trappings of wealth, including the luxury yacht and the private plane.
But it is not the size of his fortune that matters. More important is how he made it--not through resource extraction or milking state coffers, but by gambling repeatedly on the future of both Nigeria and Africa. The risk has paid off, spectacularly, making Dangote a living embodiment of the "Africa rising" narrative, and his company one of the key drivers of Africa's economic development.
It all started in 1977, when 21-year-old Dangote--fresh from a business degree from Egypt's Al-Azhar University--begged his uncle for a 500,000 Nigerian naira loan (then worth about $325,000). Dangote's family were wealthy Muslims from northern...