For two decades on the bounce, billionaire businessman, Aliko Dangote has unarguably been the single biggest player in the Nigerian economy. But he raised the game in the outgoing decade with his $12 billion refinery project in Lekki, Lagos. The refinery complex, which will house the largest single train refinery in the world, is sitting on 2,600 hectares which also includes a fertilizer and petrochemicals plant, and a pipeline system running 550km from the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Recent reports have it that Dangote, Africa’s richest man, became $4.3 billion richer in the year 2019 alone as his fortune continued to grow on the back of investments in cement, flour and sugar. The 62-year-old Africa’s most prominent industrialist ended the decade with a net worth of almost $15 billion, making him the 96th wealthiest man in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The business empire Dangote began to build more than three decades ago is one of the largest private-sector employers in Nigeria as well as the most valuable conglomerate in West Africa. His business interests encompass many industries, including oil and gas, consumer goods and manufacturing. About 80 per cent of his conglomerate’s revenue comes from Dangote Cement. According to Forbes, the subsidiary produces 44 million metric tons of cement every year and plans to increase output by 33 per cent by 2020. Dangote also owns the world’s third-largest sugar refinery, and together all of his publicly traded companies make up a quarter of the market capitalization of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
Born into a wealthy Muslim family of traders in the north, Dangote incorporated his own business selling cement at 21. He shifted to manufacturing the building material in the 1990s, helped by government policies that encouraged ways to reduce the need for imports.
His critics still accuse him of taking advantage of his closeness to the government to gain an unfair market advantage, a claim he has repeatedly dismissed. Of course, Dangote’s journey to fortune is not a rags-to-riches story. He came from a wealthy family that was able to provide financial assistance to start his business. Unlike many wealthy Nigerians who made their fortune in oil, Dangote initially chose to go down a different path, but he has since entered the oil and gas industry. The year 2020 could be a significant one for the Kano-born billionaire, who is close to completing the refinery complex that has the capacity to meet more than Nigeria’s entire fuel consumption and could trans- form an economy that currently imports all its refined product needs.
As he’s now one of the World’s 100 wealthiest men, Dangote is already mulling the idea of giving out half of his wealth to humanitarian work especially in the health sector. Dangote, who is the chairman of the Aliko Dangote Foundation—the outfit he started since 1994—said he was looking forward to when he would be giving half of his wealth to charity like Bill and Melinda Gates. He confessed that he was unaware of the magnitude of humanitarian assistance needed in the country until he met with Microsoft founder, Gates. Through his Foundation, which has an endowment of a reported $1.25 billion, Dangote has given more than $100 million over the last five years to causes in educa- tion, arts, and humanitarian relief.