There is overwhelming empirical evidence of the brilliance and excellence in business leadership and uncommon philanthropy demonstrated by Africa's richest man and president of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote who clocked 62 today, Wednesday, April 10, 2019.
From cradle to his looming presence and leadership in African entrepreneurship, Dangote has surpassed global imagination.
In fact, in Africa and the Black race, the Kano-born billionaire, who is affable and media-shy dwarfs all superlatives.
His faith in the brand Nigeria and indeed Africa, despite all odds and damning negative economic indicators, has perhaps motivated the business mogul to invest massively and establish industries producing essential items required by the low and mighty in the society. Little wonder then that brand Dangote rings a bell in virtually every nook and cranny, and won several accolades across Nigeria and beyond even though he has not held any public office, including that of President or Governor.
Deeply religious and one with a great passion for alleviating the plight of the most vulnerable members of society, Dangote before plunging into full business in 1981 in Lagos State, must have imbibed the American billionaire Warren Buffet's wise counsel that three virtues, namely intelligence, energy and integrity, are a must for any man to succeed in any chosen endeavour in life even though the third is the most important.
In other words though he has become a role and business model for many across the globe, the billionaire at a young age realised that there is dignity in labour which clearly has been one of his abiding principles in life journey. Therefore, it is not surprising that he has never been a guest of any of the nation's anti-graft bodies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC.
His flawless business record so far should serve as a big lesson to all, especially upcoming youths some of whom are currently very desperate to succeed in life by cutting corners and engaging in all manner of criminality. Reputed to be the second biggest employer of labour after the Federal Government and the leader in indirect employment through his numerous business chains churning out wide ranging products like sugar, flour, cement and services in Nigeria and across the continent, his latest foray into the petrochemical industry through Dangote Refinery which is expected to bring permanent relief to the nation's troubled petroleum sector when it comes on stream later this year, is outstanding.
Aliko Dangote, holder of Nigeria's second highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Niger, GCON, had an estimated net worth of US$10.6 billion as of March 2019. He is ranked by Forbes magazine as the 100th-richest person in the world and the richest in Africa. According to Wikipedia: "Aliko Dangote, an ethnic Hausa Muslim from Kano State, was born on April 10, 1957 into a wealthy Muslim family. He is the great-grandson of Alhaji Alhassan Dantata, the richest African at the time of his death in 1955".
Dangote was educated at the Sheikh Ali Kumasi Madrasa, and Capital High School, Kano. He has a bachelor's degree in business studies and administration from Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt. Speaking on his foray into the unpredictable world of business, he recalled: "I can remember when I was in primary school, I would go and buy cartons of sweets (candy) and would start selling them just to make money. I was so interested in business, even at that time."
However, like the mustard seed, Dangote Group which was planted as a small trading firm in 1977, the same year the upcoming entrepreneur relocated to Lagos, the company has blossomed to the consternation of many. It is also on record that his path to stardom didn't come easy as the young Aliko started his business with the N500,000 loan he took from his uncle, Sani Dangote, in 1977 after laying out his plan to establish a business outfit and his uncle's decision to grant his request to start the business. He proceeded to repay the loan within a three-month repayment deadline handed him.
His foray into business started with trading in commodities like sugar, rice, pasta, salt, cotton, millet, cocoa, textile and vegetable oil, importing some of these commodities into Nigeria before leaping to the world of manufacturing where he has recorded a major financial breakthrough in life and birthed the Dangote Group, an organisation that now controls over 13 companies. Today, it is a multi-trillion-naira conglomerate with many of its operations in Benin, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo and other countries. Dangote has further expanded to cover food processing, cement manufacturing, and freight services. The group also dominates the sugar market in Nigeria and is a major supplier to the country's soft drink companies, breweries, and confectioners. Consequently, the group has moved from being a mere trading company to becoming the largest industrial conglomerate in Nigeria and West Africa including Dangote Sugar Refinery, Dangote Cement, Dangote Flour and Dangote Refinery employing more than 11,000 people directly.
Defending his uncommon passion for fatherland, Dangote said: "Let me tell you this and I want to really emphasise it ... nothing is going to help Nigeria like Nigerians bringing back their money. If you give me $5 billion today, I will invest everything here in Nigeria. Let us put our heads together and work." Certainly, Dangote has built a vibrant and untainted reputation for his group, and he corroborated this during an interview that "to succeed in business, you must build a brand and never destroy it. One competitive advantage I had when I ventured into manufacturing was my brand (Dangote), which I diligently built in the course of my trading."
But unlike some of his peers who are cunning businessmen, Dangote is clearly an honest man, embracing transparent business ethics and playing by the rules and regulations governing the business environment. The group in its years of operations runs credit and tax records adjudged by experts as very tidy and he is also an apostle of integrity in business practices as stipulated by the extant laws and regulatory authorities.
Expectedly, ahead of his birthday, many Nigerians have been paying glowing tributes to the business icon considering his success record. National President, Constance Shareholders' Association of Nigeria, Shehu Mallam Mikail has described Dangote as a pillar of investment in Africa, and a man committed to excellence and the wellbeing of the people irrespective of race and creed.
This, he said must have motivated the richest African to invest massively in industries producing most essential products like cement, sugar, flour and services in Nigeria and across the continent in order to create job opportunities and make life more comfortable.
He noted: "If only we have more minds like Aliko Dangote in Nigeria, the country would have been a centre of the world businesses because we have all what it takes in both human and natural resources. But our leaders do not see the need to alleviate the problems in order to encourage the people who are ready to invest in the country to create more jobs. People who are creating jobs are those who are ready to take the bull by the horns with the mindset to build true future prospects for the people, and that is the kind of steps Aliko Dangote has taken by investing in the continent for Africa's better future."
Speaking in similar vein, a shareholder activist, Alhaji Gbadebo Olatokunbo described Alhaji Dangote as a Nigerian who believes in Nigeria and its economy and the need to develop the country. According to him, almost all the wealthy people around the globe have the interest of their country/citizens at heart which is why they come up with numerous initiatives to improve the society and provide the basic needs of the citizens through their investments.
Quoting the axiom that "Charity begins at home," Olatokunbo contended that Dangote through the establishment of industries and rice farms in the country and parts of Africa has become a household name and would never be forgotten in the annals of wealth creation across the world.
He said, "You've got to start with the known people, cultures and values and then expand your industries to the outside world. Your home nation should be your base of establishment. It gladdens my heart that his upcoming refinery in Lagos State is the first of its kind by any Nigerian in Nigeria. His investments in Nigeria today are second to none, because he is in every sector of the economy and Nigeria needs many more of Dangote who is focused on his people by creating more employment opportunities always. Many wealthy Nigerians couldn't compete with him, due to their sources of wealth. Maybe we should pardon the thieves among us, once they establish businesses with stolen wealth in Nigeria."
More than anything else, Nigerians in the next few months, expect Dangote to rescue them from the lingering debilitating and infamous fuel subsidy which had cost the country trillions of naira and for which the Federal Government has set aside a whopping $1billion (about N305bn) in the 2019 budget by delivering his private oil refinery, fertilizer and petrochemical complex in the Lekki Free Trade Zone, Lekki in Lagos State.
And in line with the late President John F. Kennedy of USA, admonition that "If a free society can't help the many who are poor, it cannot serve the few who are rich," Dangote had since 1993 through his pet Foundation intervened massively in strategic investment to provide succour to the most vulnerable members of society including the victims of natural disasters, the deadly Boko Haram insurgents and hundreds of widows to bring about social and economic change to them. This has reportedly gulped billions of naira.
Indeed, Dangote has revealed that he does not only want to be known as Africa's richest man but also as its biggest philanthropist. "I do not only want to be known as Africa's richest man, but the biggest philanthropist in Africa. I will continue to use my resources to help shape a better Nigeria and Africa as a whole", said the billionaire at a function on his aspiration for the future. The four major goals of the Foundation he stated are: health and nutrition, education, economic empowerment, and disaster relief.
But like all humans, the Nigerian multibillionaire though with tremendous admirers and one that has inspired many in the corporate world, also has his own critics some of whom either dislike his aggressive way of competing with business foes or his often perceived cordial relationship with some public office holders.
Again, his recent timely alarm on the potential time bomb posed by the high rate of poverty in the North, and the urgent need for northern governors to wake up to address the challenge had also been interpreted by many as borne out of his concern for humanity and the under-privileged.
Dangote targets foreign markets, feeds 30,000 IDPs
Significantly, Dangote is also expected to end the decades long national shame emanating from the fact that despite being the sixth largest producer of crude oil in the world Nigeria continues to import fuel. He would also terminate the subsidy payment regime and allow the government free additional resources for the nation's socio-econlomic development, when he completes the on-going refinery.
Rated as the world's largest single line refinery, petrochemical complex, and the world's second largest urea fertiliser plant, the refinery, according to Dangote, will have the "capacity to refine 650,000 barrels of crude oil per day while the petrochemical plant will produce 780 KTPA Polypropylene, 500 KTPA of Polyethylene, while the fertiliser project will produce 3.0 million metric tonnes per annum (mmtpa) of urea.
According to him, the projects would cost over $18 billion while the benefits would include "adding value to our economy and will be creating about 4,000 direct and 145,000 indirect jobs. We will also save over $7.5 billion for Nigeria annually, through import substitution and generate an additional $5.5 billion per annum through exports of the refined petroleum products, fertilizer and petrochemicals. The good news is that the Dangote refinery alone may be able to supply 95 per cent of local daily consumption".
Nigerians, therefore, would heave a sigh of relief once the multi-billion dollars petroleum complex comes on stream. Sixty two cheers to Aliko Dangote as he marks his birthday this Wednesday.
Imonikhe is former Editor, Daily Champion