Aliko Dangote, often referred to as Africa’s richest man, is a Nigerian business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. He is renowned globally for his entrepreneurship skills, strategic business initiatives, and profound commitment to the development of Africa.
Aliko Dangote was born on April 10, 1957, into a prosperous Hausa Muslim family in Kano, a region that was a part of British Nigeria at that time. His mother, Mariya Sanusi Dantata, descended from the lineage of the business magnate Sanusi Dantata. His father, Mohammed Dangote, was a commercial ally of Dantata.
Inheriting the legacy of his great-grandfather Alhassan Dantata, who held the title of the wealthiest individual in West Africa until his passing in 1955, Dangote continued the family tradition of entrepreneurship. His sibling, Sani, who lived between 1959/60–2021, was also a businessman.
Dangote’s educational journey started at Sheikh Ali Kumasi Madrasa, followed by his attendance at Capital High School in Kano. After graduating from Government College, Birnin Kudu, in 1978, he furthered his studies at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business studies and administration.
In 1977, Aliko Dangote established the Dangote Group, initially a small-scale trading company. That same year, he moved to Lagos to explore broader business opportunities. His uncle lent him a sum of ₦500,000, which he invested into trading a variety of commodities, such as bagged cement, rice, and sugar.
During the 1990s, Dangote presented a proposal to the Central Bank of Nigeria, suggesting it would be more cost-effective for the bank to delegate the management of their employee transportation fleet to his transport company. This proposition was favorably received and implemented.
Today, the Dangote Group stands as one of Africa’s largest conglomerates, with business extensions across multiple African countries, including Benin, Ghana, Zambia, and Togo. Having evolved from a trading firm into Nigeria’s biggest industrial group, the Dangote Group now includes sub-divisions like Dangote Sugar Refinery, Dangote Cement, and Dangote Flour.
The group has a commanding presence in Nigeria’s sugar market and its refinery division supplies approximately 70 percent of the raw materials used by the country’s soft drink manufacturers, breweries, and confectioneries. It has also significantly contributed to job creation in West Africa, employing over 11,000 individuals.
In the early 1990s, the Nigerian government embarked on a policy of privatization of certain government-owned corporations. Dangote seized this opportunity to expand his ventures into various industries such as textiles, banking, and most notably, cement production. In 2000, Dangote Group started operations in the cement sector with the establishment of the Dangote Cement factory.
Over the years, Dangote Group has evolved into a leading brand in Africa, with a strong presence in several countries. The company is involved in multiple sectors, including food processing, cement manufacturing, freight, and real estate. Dangote’s strategic leadership has been instrumental in driving the group’s diversification and growth strategy.
In July 2012, Aliko Dangote sought permission from the Nigerian Ports Authority to lease a derelict parcel of land at the Apapa Port. Once granted, he established his sugar refining facilities there. This refinery stands as Africa’s largest and the world’s third largest, boasting a production capacity of 800,000 metric tons of sugar per annum.
The Dangote Group operates salt and flour mills and imports a range of products including rice, fish, pasta, cement, and fertilizer. It also exports commodities such as cotton, cashew nuts, cocoa, sesame seeds, and ginger to various countries. Additionally, the company holds significant investments in industries such as real estate, banking, transport, textiles, oil, and gas.
In February 2022, Dangote announced the inauguration of the Peugeot assembly plant in Nigeria. This development came to fruition following a partnership with the Stellantis Group (Peugeot’s parent company), and the governments of Kano and Kaduna states. The newly established Dangote Peugeot Automobiles Nigeria Limited (DPAN) factory, located in Kaduna, kick-started its operations with the production of Peugeot 301, 508, 3008, 5008, and Landtrek models.
On May 22, 2023, Dangote inaugurated the Dangote Refinery in Lekki, Nigeria. The facility aims to convert Africa’s largest oil-producing nation into a significant export hub for petroleum products, and according to Dangote, it also plans to export diesel. The refinery, financed by Dangote himself, is situated within the 6,180-acre (2,500 hectares) Lekki Free Trade Zone in Lagos State. It receives its crude oil supply via the world’s largest sub-sea pipeline infrastructure, which stretches over 1,100 kilometers (680 miles). Once fully operational, the refinery is expected to create 135,000 permanent jobs in the region.
He is also involved in several social causes and uses his wealth to address systemic issues affecting the continent, such as poverty, hunger, and lack of education. His foundation, the Aliko Dangote Foundation, has committed more than $1.25 billion to enhance the livelihood of the less privileged in Nigeria and across Africa.
As of 2023, Aliko Dangote’s net worth is estimated to be $11.5 billion, making him the richest person in Africa, according to Forbes. Much of his wealth is attributed to his ownership of Dangote Group, particularly Dangote Cement, which operates in several African countries and is the largest cement producer on the continent.
Dangote’s extraordinary entrepreneurial success has earned him several accolades both locally and internationally. Highlights include: