Aliko Dangote graduated from Al-Azhar University, which is located in Egypt at the age of 21. The institution is among Islam’s prestigious universities. It was there that his interest in business developed the more.

It was after his graduation in 1977, that he managed to convince his uncle to lend him money to start a business. The funds from the loan allowed him to import some commodities at wholesale prices from international suppliers, which include rice from Thailand and sugar from Brazil. He then sold those items in small quantities to consumers in his village at a lucrative markup. The business quickly became successful and Dangote disclosed that sometimes, he was making a profit of $10,000 daily. That profitable income at that time gave him the opportunity to repay his uncle within three months.

By 1997, which is about 20 years after he stated his commodities business, he decided to stop acting as a middleman and built manufacturing plants to produce those things he had been importing and selling for the previous years, such as pasta, sugar, salt and flour. Around the same time, Dangote was awarded a state-owned cement company. He significantly expanded the operations of the company in 2005 by constructing a multimillion-dollar manufacturing plant. The construction was financed with $319 million of Dangote’s own money in addition to a $479 million loan from the International Finance Corporation, a sister organization of the World Bank.

Each of his manufacturing divisions has since been separated into publicly traded companies, among them are; Dangote Sugar Refinery PLC., National Salt Company of Nigeria PLC., Dangote Flour Mills PLC., and Dangote Cements PLC.

Dangote has always reinvested the majority of his profits back into his businesses, which is one reason the company has grown so much since inception. In an interview with Qatar based Al Jazeera TV, he said, “We [Dangote Group] are not doing like other Africans who keep most of their money in the bank. We do not keep money in bank. We fully invest whatever we have and we keep on investing’’

Dangote who has since diversified into oil and gas industry is building an oil refinery in Lagos. He hopes the refinery expected to produce 650,000 barrels a day, will significantly reduce Nigeria’s reliance on imported refined petroleum.

Speaking further about himself, Dangote said at a time in the past, for him to be sure that he is rich he withdrew $10 million from a bank just to look at it. According to him: “After a year or so, I realized that I had much more, and I said ok, fine, all these numbers are just written numbers. “One day I went to a bank, and at that time, there were no restrictions, and I wrote a cheque and cashed $10m from the bank and put it in the boot of my vehicle, and I went home and I opened it and I looked at $10m and I said ‘now I believe I have money”.

He also reiterated that Nigeria will be the largest exporter of cement in Africa by the end of this year and that the Dangote refinery at the end of the day will give 650,000 barrels of crude and 32 million tones of products.

The billionaire also revealed that he does not have a house in London, but he knows those who work for him that have houses in London. He equally made it clear that the two most promising sectors for Africa’s future were agriculture and new technologies. However, he advised young African entrepreneurs not to get carried away by the first flush of success. “Often in Africa we spend our projected incomes. There are ups and downs  in business”, he warned.

He is currently the Africa’s richest and also the richest black person in the world. According to the Forbes Top Billionaires 2019 list, Dangote of Nigeria remains the richest person in Africa, with an estimated $10.3-billion net worth.

AMBROSE NWAOPARA  the writer is an author and a renowned life coach  

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