For Aliko Dangote to have become the richest black man on earth, he had the support of his family who gave him the enabling environment to think and dream big, Faruk Ahmed writes
When 21-year-old Aliko Muhammad Dangote collected a loan of N500,000 from an uncle to start trading business in 1977, little did he knew that 30 years later he would become the richest black man on earth, employing more than 15,000 people in more than 17 countries of the world.
Even though born into a wealthy family, Dangote did not just sit back and wait for inheritance. He plunged into the risky world of business, and today he can gladly look back and pat himself on the back for a job well done.
Dangote started business importing and selling essential commodities like cement, rice, flour and salt. But after touring Brazil in 1997, he realised he will make more money by manufacturing these products, seeing that Nigeria has these raw materials in abundance. Hence, from 1999, the manufacturing of Dangote products kickstarted.
Aliko Dangote has been focused from day one because even as a child, he sold sweets in primary school. Instead of applying for white-collar jobs after graduation, he started his own business. And rather than waiting for inheritance, he secured a loan which he paid back within three months instead of the agreed three years.
A key lesson to take out of Aliko Dangote’s life is that even though most Nigerian businessmen prefer to remain as traders of imported goods so far they are making profits, Dangote saw beyond the ordinary to start manufacturing the products he imported. In the process, he created thousands of jobs, boosted the economies of the countries he invested in, and ultimately became super-rich.
According to Aliko Dangote, “I built a conglomerate and emerged the richest black man in the world in 2008; but it didn’t happen overnight. It took me 30 years to build.” He added that, “To build a successful business, you must start small and dream big. In the journey of entrepreneurship, tenacity of purpose is supreme.”
As there are no endeavours that go smoothly without hindrances, Dangote has reengineered himself throughout his business journey to overcome obstacles thrown his way, surviving more than ten regimes in the process.
And just like the proverbial Greek king with the Midas touch, Dangote has transformed every venture he entered into financial success. Right now, he is building a $9 billion refinery which will more than serve the petrochemical and fertliser needs of Nigerians and neighbouring West African countries.
All in all, Aliko Dangote started small not minding the stupendous wealth God placed at his feet and overcame the numerous hurdles life threw at him to create an empire that is putting food on the tables of many homes across the world, and making investors smile to the bank.
One can argue that he had the support from his wealthy family to get to where he is today. Quite plausible! But how many individuals who were born into wealth or inherited huge sums of fortune have been steadfast to attain what he has achieved?
It is noteworthy to state here that it is very possible to attain or even surpass Aliko Dangote’s height even if one is not born with the silver spoon. History abounds with such rags-to-riches stories. All it takes for one to be successful is the ability to see beyond the ordinary, desire to succeed, persistence and prayers.
Even though Aliko Dangote did not entirely rely on the riches of his family, their business acumen did rub off on him. He credited his grandfather, Alhaji Sanusi Alhassan Dantata, a lot for shaping his business mind.
Hence, from childhood, it is important for parents to create the right modeling and environment for their child to be able to think and dream big. If Aliko Dangote’s parents had told him to look for a white-collar job or continue in the family business, rather than start his own, the richest black man on earth today wouldn’t have come from Kano, Nigeria.
For this very reason, the company a child keeps and the orientation he/she gets from day one are key in shaping what he/she becomes in life.