Childhood & Early Life
Aliko Dangote was born in an affluent business family in Kano state, Nigeria on April 10, 1957. Born into a rich family, he was exposed to a wealthy lifestyle. His family business, then chaired by his grandfather, Sanusi Dantata, was at its profitable best during Aiko’s childhood. Sanusi made a fortune, dealing in rice, oats, and groundnuts. Aliko’s great-grandfather also happened to be a wealthy man, and at the time of his death in 1955, he was the richest man in Africa.
Aliko’s father passed away early, which was followed by his grandfather taking over as his guardian. Soon, Aliko developed a keen interest in business as a career. His first business venture was in primary school and involved purchasing boxes of sweets and selling them off at a little profit.
Aliko’s received his early education at the ‘Sheikh Ali Kumasi Madrasa,’ followed by the ‘Capital High School’ in his home state of Kano. He then headed to Cairo, Egypt, for higher education. Subsequently, he received his bachelor’s degree in business studies and administration from ‘Al-Azhar University.’ He returned to Nigeria in 1977 and started planning his first serious business venture.
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He borrowed a sum equivalent to US$ 2,500 from his grandfather and promised to repay the loan within three years. It was a huge amount at that time, and Aliko used the money to settle in Lagos. He started importing rice and sugar from Thailand and Brazil, respectively, in a deliberately planned business move. He then sold them in Nigeria at a huge profit. The demand for those eatables went through the roof, and Aliko began earning great profits within the very first year of establishing his business venture.
Within three months of starting his operations, Aliko was able to return the money he had borrowed from his grandfather. As his business grew further, he realized that manufacturing goods was a better option that relying on imports. He pushed all his competitors aside, and by the late 90s, he had established several manufacturing units by himself.
He started manufacturing sugar, pasta, and flour. Soon, he was starting to be recognized as one of the few billionaires of Nigeria. Somehow, the federal government trusted him enough to award him a cement plant. The ‘Dangote Group’ eventually became the biggest sugar supplier in the country with diverse clients, including soft-drink manufacturers, confectionaries, and breweries. His entry into the cement-manufacturing industry further increased his fortunes.
Dangote approached the ‘Nigerian Ports Authority’ in 2012 to seek permission to own an abandoned piece of land. Once his request was approved, Aliko built his own flour-manufacturing facilities.
The ‘Dangote Group’ controls about 70% of the current Nigerian sugar market and operates as the third-largest sugar refinery in the world and the largest in Africa. It is estimated that about 8,00,000 tonnes of sugar are manufactured annually by the ‘Dangote Group.’
Aliko has invested a fortune in the group’s ‘National Salt Company of Nigeria’ and has his own salt-manufacturing units in the country. He has also started a polypropylene bagging factory, which provides bags for efficient packaging of goods produced by the company. An intricate network of 600 trailers work religiously to distribute the company goods to different parts of the country and to the port, from where it is exported.
The ‘Dangote Group’ owns a vehicle-leasing company too. With more than a hundred AC-equipped buses under it, the company aims to grow further in stature.
The ‘Dangote Foundation’ was established to give shape to the philanthropic endeavors of the company. Millions of dollars are spent by the foundation, each year, for the betterment of the education and the healthcare system in the country. The foundation also works toward repairing roads and houses and indulges in providing scholarships to financially backward students.
The group has also stretched its reach to the import of cotton, cocoa, sesame seeds, and cashew nuts. The company also invests in real estate, oil, gas, and transport. It is also the largest business conglomerate in the entire western African region.
In the late 2000s, Dangote also started working in the telecommunications sector. The group has already started building a 14,000-kilometer fiber-optic cable network to cater to the entire country. Aliko’s efforts have been recognized by the local government, and he has been honored for being the biggest employment provider in the country.
He has openly stated that he would not let countries apart from Nigeria benefit from his earnings and that he would invest all his earnings in Nigeria.
Presently, the ‘Dangote Group’ employs about 12,000 people in Nigeria, and it is estimated that once all the on-going projects of the company are complete, it will reach the 22,000 mark. For his efforts toward the betterment of his country, he was awarded with the second-highest honor of Nigeria, the ‘Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger,’ by President Goodluck Jonathan.
In addition, he has also been honored by ‘Forbes’ magazine, with the title of the 2014 ‘Forbes Africa Person of the Year.’ In 2015, Aliko won the ‘Clinton Global Citizen Award.’
Aliko Dangote is a politically aware man. He is an avid supporter of Olusegun Obasanjo, the politician, and is said to have donated about US$ 1,000,000 for his re-election campaign in 2003. He further donated US$ 25,000 to the ‘National Mosque’ and contributed US$ 1,000,000 to the ‘Presidential Library.’ However, his large contributions to the ruling ‘PDP’ party have raised several questions about his political motivations from time to time.
In 2014, it was reported by the Nigerian government that Aliko had donated US$ 750,000 to halt the spread of the deadly ‘Ebola’ virus.
In 2015, it was reported that Aliko wanted to buy the ‘English Premier League’ team ‘Arsenal FC.’ On being asked, he said that he was strongly against the policies formulated by the manager, and that the first thing he would do after purchasing the team would be to fire the current manager.