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Family Businesses in Nigeria: Dangote Group

The Dangote Group looms large on Nigeria’s economic landscape. The vast business empire dominates cement and sugar production in the country and is a major player in the food and beverage industries. It also has a significant presence in the transportation and property management sectors and has recently forayed into the energy space.

The group’s founder, Aliko Dangote, is Africa’s richest man, estimated to be worth $8.8 billion as of October 2019. He hails from Kano and is a great-grandson of Alhaji Alhassan Dantata, who was the country’s wealthiest man at the time of his death.

While they remain tied to Mr. Aliko, Dangote Group companies are public. One of them, Dangote Cement, is the largest of the listed companies on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, with its total share value standing at almost $14 billion.

Starting Out

Aliko Dangote says he’s had an eye for business from his earliest days. He recalls buying cartons of sweets and reselling them to his classmates while he was a primary school pupil. There was a lot in his immediate setting to inspire him in this direction: his relatives, including members of the famous Dantata family, were entrepreneurs, known in Kano and across Nigeria for their shrewdness and successful business dealings.

He did have a headstart of some sort. Thanks to his family’s upper-class status, he was able to get some of the best education available at the time, including a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Administration from the prestigious Al-Azar University in Cairo, Egypt. But he wasn’t resting on the laurels of his forebears. Dangote wanted to make a mark for himself.

After finishing university, he took a loan of about $3,000 from his uncle, with which he began his own business. He imported a range of commodities, including rice and sugar, and sold them locally at a small margin of profit. The trade prospered. In three months, he was able to repay his uncle’s loan.

In 1977, Dangote moved to Lagos where he formally launched his company. It continued its growth there. By the late 1990s, he was looking to produce most of the products he imported locally. He gained a strong foothold in cement production, got funding from the International Finance Corporation for a large manufacturing facility, and began making flour, sugar, and pasta.

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Into the Present

Dangote Group businesses have expanded fairly rapidly in the past decade. Dangote Cement is now the dominant player in the Nigerian cement space; the Dangote Sugar Refinery in Apapa, Lagos, is one of the largest of its kind in the world; and Dansa Foods is a leading brand in the local fruit juice niche. There’s also a transportation arm, presiding over a large fleet of trucks that move the group’s products across the country.

Other segments of the group include MHF Properties, a luxury property management venture; Dancom Technologies, an IT infrastructure and services provider; and NASCON, which produces tomato paste, salt, vegetable oil, and food seasoning.

Dangote has recently moved to divest from its flour business. This could see its five flour and semolina mills pass into the hands of new investors.

Besides its operations in Nigeria, the group has also set up subsidiaries of its cement business in ten African countries, including Benin, Cameroun, Ghana, Ethiopia, Zambia, and South Africa.

Its latest large scale investment back home is the Dangote Refinery, located in Lagos. It’s expected to begin refining crude oil in the early 2020s and should have the largest capacity of any refinery in Africa when it becomes fully operational.

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Giving to Society

Dangote has made philanthropy one of his chief concerns. He’s taking it on with the Aliko Dangote Foundation, which currently works to reduce malnutrition and disease in impoverished communities. In 2014 he supported the foundation with $1 billion to enable it to expand its work.

In 2018, Dangote was named among the world’s top 100 most charitable persons by Richtopia, a UK-based online business and financial journal.

Featured image source: Pulse NG

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Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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