ALIKO DANGOTE 1
“Entrepreneurship is not a job title. It is a state of mind of people who want to alter the future.” – Guy Kawasaki
One thing I have observed in my country, Nigeria, is that we celebrate our entertainers much more than our Entrepreneurs. If our economy is going to become better, this will have to change.
There is this myth about entrepreneurship that says that for you to be an entrepreneur, you must have amassed a certain level of wealth and substantial years of experience. This is not always the case. The major ingredients every successful entrepreneur has, and that all upcoming entrepreneurs must have is passion for their business idea, and perseverance.
This is because every business path is filled with obstacles and distractions. No matter how much money you have, or how many years of experience you have amassed, it will only take strong passion for your business and perseverance for you to be able to climb any mountains, and weather all storms; and I assure you, the entrepreneurial path is filled with lots of storms and mountains. This is evidenced in the stories of the successful African Entrepreneurs featured in this book.
The book, African Entrepreneurs and their success stories, is the result of an internet research work carried out by Quemchy Angels Investments. There was no one-on-one interview carried out with the entrepreneurs. The stories contained in this book were compiled from write-ups about the entrepreneurs on the internet. We do not take credit for the stories, we only take credit for the compilation.
The list of successful entrepreneurs in Africa cannot be exhausted. However, we decided to limit our research and compilation in this book to just 17 successful entrepreneurs, based on certain factors we were faced with in the course of this research work. This does not imply that they are the most successful, or that they are accorded any special preference over other successful entrepreneurs not featured in this book.
The purpose of this book is to inspire and encourage young and upcoming entrepreneurs. To that end, we featured in this book the background stories of these entrepreneurs, how they started their businesses, a brief summary of what their business is all about, the challenges they encountered, and a summary of where they are now (including their achievements and recognitions). Also included in this book are words of advice and encouragement from these successful entrepreneurs to young and upcoming entrepreneurs.
We have been inspired so much by the stories of these entrepreneurs and it is our sincere hope that you are so inspired, and even more as you journey down similar paths.
There is Hope for Africa yet.
Founder – Quemchy Angels Investments
Aliko Dangote was born on 10 April, 1957. He is the great grandson of Alhaji Alhassan Dantata. He is a Hausa Muslim from Kano state, Nigeria. His parents are Hajia Mariya Sanusi Dantata (Mother) and Mohammed Dangote (Father).
He was born into a very renowned business family in Nigeria; suffice to say he is a man with business in his blood. This is evident in his words:
“I can remember when I was in primary school, I would go and buy cartons of sweets (sugar boxes) and I would start selling them just to make money. I was so interested in business, even at that time.”
He studied Business Studies at Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt.
In 1977, at the young age of 21 years, Aliko Dangote took his first plunge into the business world. He is known to have gotten the startup capital from his grandfather, Alhaji Sanusi Dantata. He used this capital to start trading in local commodities and building materials. He also got an additional loan of N500,000 from his grandfather which he likewise invested into the business.
The business soon began to experience huge success and within six months, he repaid the loan. In his words:
“For me, I started small as a trader in cement. Then I left cement around 1978 because there was this armada and cement was difficult to get at that time. I had my own money which my grandfather gave me free, but then he gave me also an additional loan of N500,000 (about $300) which was big money in those days. The money was quite a substantial amount then. The loan was supposed to be paid back whenever I was okay – maybe after three to four years. But I paid the loan back within six months.”
As the business grew and became more successful, he went further to incorporate two companies in 1981. Eventually, more companies were added to make up Dangote Group.
The business which started as a cement trading company in 1977 is now the largest industrial group in Nigeria. It has expanded into food processing, cement manufacturing and freight transportation. It has also expanded beyond his home country, Nigeria, and now has operations in neighboring countries such as Ghana, Benin, Togo, South Africa, Ethiopia, Senegal, Zambia, and Cameroon.
Some of the major subsidiaries of Dangote Group are Dangote Sugar refinery, Dangote rice, Dangote flour, among others.
Dangote sugar refinery is the largest refinery in Africa and the third largest in the world, producing 800,000 tonnes of sugar annually.
Dangote Group also exports cashew nuts, cocoa, cotton, and ginge`r to neighboring countries.
The company has grown massively and is a major employer of labour, employing over 11,000 people. It is currently known as the largest industrial conglomerate in West Africa.
It has not all been a rosy, hitch-free ride. One of the major challenge faced by Aliko Dangote in his entrepreneur journey happened in 2003. According to him, this was what happened and how they overcame:
“We were importing cement and we had an import terminal in Lagos and Port Harcourt. The government gave incentives to people who would make Nigeria self-sufficient in cement and so we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and build a cement plant. At the time, the entire production of Nigeria was less than two million tons but we decided that we were going to go ahead and build a plant with five million tons capacity. So we brought in a contractor and we asked them to do the soil test and also the foundation test. Then they gave us the wrong soil test. Normally, the Northern part of Nigeria has very hard ground. But they came back and said we just needed a shallow foundation with a maximum of two-meters. So the drawing and everything was done based on a two-meter foundation. As soon as we were three-months into the job we realized it was more than this.
This marked the beginning of a long battle to salvage the multi-million dollar project. The group had hedged everything on the cement factory. In order to stay ahead of the competition, we decided not to do a proper feasibility study so as to avoid attention to the new project. That decision came at a high cost.
So now we had to go and do piling. We had to stop and change all the drawings and all of a sudden we were faced with 1000 piles to be built and there were not enough rigs in Nigeria. So we had to order new rigs and even buy rigs for some of the contractors.
We needed to raise $480million but the problem was 90 percent of the banks at the time had a market capital of only $20million. In addition, there were no long-term loans, only short-term loans for about 90 days, so you could tell the challenge we faced. The project stopped, we had to change the drawings and we could not borrow too much money in the system. Borrowing short-term and investing in a long term business was so difficult.
We realized that we had to build a pipeline because the government who promised to build the pipeline in 1978 had actually not done anything so we had to construct 92 kilometres of a gas pipeline. The water table was very bad in the area so we had to build a dam and over 100 houses because there was nothing there, so the challenges were coming one by one.
[* In my office, I had the project drawings on my wall but I knew that once this project fails, the group is gone and that is what really kept me going. It was a major project for us. Eventually, there was light at the end of the tunnel. The group received a much-needed lifeline in the form of a $479million loan from a consortium of banks, led by the International Finance Corporation (IFC). But the storm had not yet abated.*]
The most challenging was when we had the cost overrun. Now we had finished the cement factory and the factory was not working. That was really when I went from black to red. I knew we were really in trouble. But we were very adamant and we persevered. We had challenges for over a year or so and the factory was working on and off.
It was a challenging experience and that is why I have the plaque on the table saying ‘Nothing is impossible’. You need tenacity and focus in business. I have learnt a lot and since that time, I don’t really get scared of anything.”
Today, Aliko Dangote is ranked by Forbes Magazine as the 67th richest person in the world and the richest in Africa. His estimated networth as at February 2017 is US$12.5 billion.
He is currently the chairman and CEO of Dangote Group.
In 2014, Aliko Dangote was awarded the Forbes Africa Person of the Year.
Strive Masiyiwa was born on 29 January, 1961 in Southern Rhodesia. He attended high school in Scotland. He later obtained a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Wales.
He returned to Zimbabwe in 1984 where he took a job with the state-owned telephone company. Overtime, however, he became frustrated with the bureaucracy and formed his owned engineering company.
He then applied for the country’s first mobile phone license. He had to fight all the way to the Supreme Court before he could connect his first subscribers in 1998.
Strive Masiyiwa quit his job with the state-owned telephone company to set up his own company with the equivalent of US$75. This money he used in building a large electrical engineering business, and in five years, he had emerged as one of the country’s leading industrialists. The emergence of mobile cellular telephony led him to diversify into telecoms.
However, a huge challenge set in when the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe refused to give him license to operate his Econet Wireless business. After a five-year legal battle, the Zimbabwean court ruled in his favour. This battle took him to the brink of bankruptcy.
The company’s first cellphone subscribers were connected to the new network in 1998. In July 1998, Strive Masiyiwa listed Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe on the local stock exchange as a gesture of thanks to reward the thousands of people who supported him during his long legal battles against the Zimbabwean government.
Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has gone on to become a major business that dominates the Zimbabwe economy. It is currently the second largest company in Zimbabwe by market capitalization.
In March 2000, Strive Masiyiwa left Zimbabwe and moved to South-Africa where he founded The Econet Group, a completely separate organization from Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe.
Over the years, some of the key businesses he has established with partners include Econet Wireless International, Econet Wireless Global, Mascom Wireless Botswana, Econet Wireless Nigeria (now Airtel Nigeria), Econet Satellite services, Lesotho Telecom, Econet Wireless Burundi, Rwanda Telecom, Econet Wireless South Africa, among others.
The company he created is known to have operations and investments in more than 20 countries, including the United Kingdom, United States, Latin America, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, and China.
Strive Masiyiwa has come to relish obstacles and challenges; he sees them as opportunities in disguise. This can be traced to what might be referred to as the major obstacle he faced when he newly founded Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe. It is said that when he first got the idea, he offered to develop a cell phone network in tandem with the state telecom company. However, the Zimbabwean government rejected his offer. Strive Masiyiwa wrote about this refusal as one that “must surely rank amongst the greatest follies in the world of business. They (the Zimbabwean government) could have owned the Econet Wireless Group, but instead, they declared war on me!”
As if the refusal was not enough, the state telecom refused to grant Strive Masiyiwa a license to cell frequencies claiming it had a monopoly. At this juncture, Strive Masiyiwa took legal action and sued them in 1994. The case went on for five years, and at one point early on, Zimbabwe’s supreme court ruled against Econet leaving no chance of appeal.
Not long after this defeat, on a fateful Sunday, Strive Masiyiwa dropped his wife off at church. Having resisted over and over his wife’s urgings to go to church for years, he drove around aimlessly for a while and then decided to return to church. Not long after, Strive Masiyiwa became born again and his faith in God helped to strengthen his resolve. It also helped that he had high-powered lawyers on his side.
His determination soon paid off as some years later, he won the case. Econet Wireless Zimbabwe now has a majority share of users in Zimbabwe with operations in more than 15 countries.
Just like most other African businessmen, Strive Masiyiwa believes that “Ultimately, Africa’s development challenges are also its business opportunities”.
According to him, Africa has a business climate like any other – defined by challenges and opportunities, and one that rewards innovation, determination and homework. According to Strive Masiyiwa “It was time you heard that Africa was open for business.”
Strive Masiyiwa’s personal wealth is currently estimated at US$600million by Forbes Magazine. However, Ventures Africa’s recent estimate puts his net worth at over US$1.4billlion. He has received various awards over the years such as The Zimbabwean Businessman of the Year (1990) and has been recognized on Forbes Magazine’s list of 10 most powerful men in Africa for 2015, Fortune Magazine’s list of 50 most influential leaders in the world in 2014 and recently received Africa’s Digital Revolution Leadership Medal of Honor in 2016.
Today, he is referred to as the richest person to emerge from Zimbabwe.
The book, African Entrepreneurs and their success stories, is the result of an internet research work carried out by Quemchy Angels Investments.There was no one-on-one interview carried out with the entrepreneurs. The stories contained in this book were compiled from write-ups about the entrepreneurs on the internet. We do not take credit for the stories, we only take credit for the compilation. The list of successful entrepreneurs in Africa cannot be exhausted. However, we decided to limit our research and compilation in this book to just 17 successful entrepreneurs, based on certain factors we were faced with in the course of this research work. This does not imply that they are the most successful, or that they are accorded any special preference over other successful entrepreneurs not featured in this book. The purpose of this book is to inspire and encourage young and upcoming entrepreneurs. To that end, we featured in this book the background stories of these entrepreneurs, how they started their businesses, a brief summary of what their business is all about, the challenges they encountered, and a summary of where they are now (including their achievements and recognitions). Also included in this book are words of advice and encouragement from these successful entrepreneurs to young and upcoming entrepreneurs. We have been inspired so much by the stories of these entrepreneurs and it is our sincere hope that you are so inspired, and even more as you journey down similar paths. There is Hope for Africa yet. Thank you! ChineyeOchem Founder – Quemchy Angels Investments