By SONGA wa SONGA in Dar es Salaam | Tuesday, June 24 2014 at 12:26Being the richest man on the African continent, Mr Aliko Dangote could just take an indefinite sabbatical and let the money work for him for the rest of his life.
Yes, after years of hard work, aggressive saving, investment and re-investment, the 57-year-old could just take a well-deserved rest and demand a fat cheque every month from his $26 billion business empire—Dangote Group—which has interests in commodities and operates in several African countries including Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Togo, Ghana, South Africa, Zambia and now Tanzania.
In Tanzania, where the company has invested in cement manufacturing, the Dangote Industries (Tanzania) Ltd is expanding the capacity from 1,500 to 3,000 metric tonnes per year, making the plant the largest in one location in southern and eastern Africa.
In ordinary thinking, a rest is now well deserved considering the fact that the business magnet successfully turned the Dangote Group from a small trading firm established in 1977 worth a few thousand naira into a multi-billion conglomerate dealing in food processing, cement manufacturing, freight, sugar, breweries and confectioners, to mention just a few.
Alhaji Aliko Dangote is ranked by Forbes magazine, the bible of global business trends, as the 23rd richest person in the world and the richest man in Africa after surpassing Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi in 2013 by over $2.6 billion net - to become the world’s richest black man.
But the Nigerian business tycoon wakes up much earlier and works much harder than ordinary mortals who struggle to make ends meet each passing day. So what makes this “broda” work even harder instead of indulging in luxury after years of back-breaking toil?
Speaking to Citizen editors in Dar es Salaam yesterday, Mr Dangote revealed that he takes his inspiration from Asian tigers and Brazil, countries that were on more or less the same economic footing as Africa about 20 years ago, but which are now middle income and are on their way to First World status. “Since they are human beings like us and they have been able to make it, we will also be able to make it,” he said.
“The reason I wake up every day and work hard is to continue to face the challenges and strive to take the continent to the next level,” he added.
But what appears to be Mr Dangote’s biggest strength is the fact that he has not allowed the “Africa’s top moneyman” tag to get into his head. And he does not measure success by his own personal achievement but by the progress and prosperity of African people as a whole.
Said he: “If you are wealthy, you are okay, but you cannot continue to be okay when there are a lot of people who are out of a job. So you need to do your utmost to see that they find jobs and the skills.”
Mr Dangote contends that based on projections, the future of Africa is very bright, with the biggest assets being arable land almost all over the continent - and the population. He said annual GDP growth of 5.5 per cent for the past 11 years can be maintained and even surpassed.
With an entrepreneurial eye, Mr Dangote sees the key to unlocking African potential being electricity. Electric power, he argues, unleashes economic potentials in the small and medium scale industries which create most jobs.
If Africa improves power generation and makes it accessible to the majority of its people, the continent will perform economic miracles, he says. For, with enough power, people will be able to run their own small businesses and have disposable incomes, he says.
“By 2050, we will be able to match the size of the current American economy which is $19 trillion, from our current $1.8 trillion,” he said.
Another key is the population which is projected to reach 2 billion people by 2050. He, however, warned that this blessing can easily turn into a curse if it is not engaged in productive activities.
“If you look at the population of Africa, almost 55 to 60 per cent of the population is below the age of 25. It is a good thing but if we don’t manage it, it can be a bad thing,” he warned.