A billion dollar boost for Africa’s richest man

Aliko Dangote is Africa’s richest man, and by quite some distance. Forbes estimates the Nigerian cement mogul’s net worth to be $13.8-billion. Nicky Oppenheimer, number two on the continental rich list, has about half that.

And he’s about to get richer. At the Annual General Meeting of the African Export Import Bank in Kigali, Dangote signed a deal with the bank to open up a $1-billion credit facility, which will see his business expand even further across Africa.

Congratulating him, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo joked: “I thought you should be giving money to the bank, not the other way around.”

Dangote said that key to his success has been his commitment to doing business in Africa. “You have to believe in Africa. If you don’t believe in Africa, you won’t be able to achieve anything at all.”

Although Dangote has obviously made plenty of money on the continent, it hasn’t always been plain sailing. He said that corruption, inconsistencies in government policy, and power were his main challenges.

“You can’t wait until corruption is totally eradicated. You have to be part of the system to change it by not giving when asked,” he said.

When it comes to power to keep his massive cement factories running, the billionaire businessman says he prefers to generate it himself, because in most countries the national grid is simply too expensive and unreliable. “Power is an issue everywhere in Africa. So we produce our own power. In Nigeria, if we bought power from the national grid it would have cost three times as much.” All but three of Dangote’s factories generate their own power, he said.

Dangote said that he intended to keep investing money on the African continent. “Wherever we have made money, in Nigeria and other countries, we don’t take it out, we put it back into the country.” To illustrate his point, he concluded: “I do not have any house outside Nigeria.”

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Simon Allison
Simon Allison, The Continent
Simon Allison is the Africa editor of the Mail & Guardian, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Continent. He is a 2021 Young Africa Leadership Initiative fellow.

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