How I Navigated African Business Terrain

Alhaji Aliko Dangote (born 10 April 1957) is a Nigerian business mogul and philanthropist who is the founder and chairman of Dangote Group, an industrial conglomerate in Africa.

Aliko Dangote, an ethnic Hausa Muslim from Kano, Kano State, was born on 10 April 1957 into a wealthy Muslim family. He was interested in business, even at his infacy and started selling sweets (candy) during his primary school.

Dangote was educated at the Sheikh Ali Kumasi Madrasa, followed by Capital High School, 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, Cairo.

The Dangote Group was established as a small trading firm in 1977, the same year Dangote relocated to Lagos to expand the company.[6] Today, it is a multi trillion-naira conglomerate with many of its operations in Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia and Togo. Dangote has expanded to cover food processing, cement manufacturing, and freight. The Dangote Group also dominates the sugar market in Nigeria and is a major supplier to the country’s soft drink companies, breweries, and confectioners. The Dangote Group has moved from being a trading company to be the largest industrial group in Nigeria including Dangote Sugar Refinery, Dangote Cement, and Dangote Flour.

In Nigeria today, Dangote Group with its dominance in the sugar market and refinery business is the main supplier (70 percent of the market) to the country’s soft drinks companies, breweries and confectioners. It is the largest refinery in Africa and the third largest in the world, producing 800,000 tonnes of sugar annually. 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. It also has major investments in real estate, banking, transport, textiles, oil, and gas. The company employs more than 11,000 people and is the largest industrial conglomerate in West Africa.

Key Lessons For Entrepreneurs

  1. Entrepreneurial greatness can be achieved from small beginnings. Dangote started small with seed capital provided by his grandfather and built a world class conglomerate in less than 20 years. To build a successful business, you must start small and dream big.
  2. He took calculated risk to get the companies to where they are today. Many entrepreneurs remain small because they simply would not assume a bigger risk to get their business to where they want it to be. Business is about taking risks and local entrepreneurs that are not ready to take risk remain small.
  3. Have the ability to see opportunities and recognize trends in business. One quality every businessman or woman must possess is the ability to recognizing opportunity when he sees one. Dangote is an adept at recognizing opportunities and trends.
  4. He invests only in businesses where he has understanding and great competitive advantage. Don’t invest in a business you don’t understand and cannot explain.
  5. You must focus on the thing you know best and get in very deep. Dangote had his business model rooted in industrial manufacturing of cement, and similar basic products. He did not chase every type of business like a man trying to get into everything. Focus on what you are good at and don’t try to get into everything.

Aliko Dangote, Founder and Chairman of Dangote Group

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