Aliko Dangote was born in Kano, Nigeria on April 10, 1957. His family was well off. His great-grandfather had established one of Nigeria’s most successful peanut farms, and the family made a sizable fortune exporting peanuts to the Europe in the early 1900s. Entrepreneurship was in Dangote’s blood, and he began selling candy, for a profit, while still in elementary school. Fast-forward to today, and everything the 56-year old businessman is doing, is in service of his relentless quest to grow his wealth and the fortunes of Nigeria. Initially, he focused on building his business presence. After graduating from Al-Azhar University in Egypt, with a degree in Business, he launched his first company, The Dangote Group, a trading company primarily dealing in cement. His family already had government connections, so he was able to secure the appropriate licenses quickly – a step that can often derail new ventures in Nigeria. Then he took his business elsewhere. He spent the next few decades working in South America, primarily Brazil. He made a major amount of money “cementing” Brazil, a country that was, and still is, on the rise. He bought multiple properties around the world, including homes in Atlanta. However, he ultimately decided to return to Nigeria, and to focus on bringing business to his home country.
In the late 90s, he returned to Nigeria, where he backed the People’s Democratic Party. After the PDP won the election, he used his clout to secure an agreement to build the biggest cement factory in the world — with the stipulation that the government would limit how much cement could pass through Nigeria’s ports. They agreed, and suddenly, Mr. Dangote had taken his internationally successful cement business, and turned it into the only game in town. He spent $1 billion building the mine and an airstrip to go with it. The company opened in 2008 and was an almost instant success. He currently has 25,000 employees in Nigeria, as well as operations in 14 other countries across Africa.
Cement was only one aspect of the plan, however. Dangote has been growing The Dangote Group bit by bit for the last decade. The seemingly unflappable businessman has made a concerted effort to secure control of any resource or food that could be produced internally, instead of imported. He now runs successful food processing, manufacturing, and freight arms, controlling the Dangote Sugar Refinery, Dangote Cement, Dangote Flour, and a salt mine.